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The ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series, by bestselling YA author CASSANDRA CLARE, has inspired many stories set in the world of the Shadowhunters, a race of humans who veins run with angel blood. They hunt demons and broker the peace between Downworlder races – vampires, werewolves and warlocks. ‘The Mortal Instruments’ has been adapted into a movie and a Netflix television show. The books, and their spin-offs, remain bestsellers. Cassandra’s Shadowhunter world explores many different eras and places – ‘The Infernal Devices’ is set in Victorian England, ‘The Mortal Instruments’ in contemporary New York, and Lady Midnight is set in present-day LA. As Cassandra’s new book, Lord of Shadows, is released, EMILY MEREDITH asked her recently about how she creates her worlds.
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Archive Discoveries

  • Church attendance has been plummeting for decades, yet enrolments for church-based schools are soaring. Nearly all non-churchgoers say that they like having a church in their suburb – although they never go inside it. Leading social researcher HUGH MACKAY takes a look at our contradictory attitudes to religion in his new book, Beyond Belief. In this article, Hugh recounts a part of his own spiritual journey and how he came to write the book. Read on >
  • The nose is a wonderful thing. A new study has found that the human nose can distinguish between at least one trillion different smells. I love nothing more than sticking my nose inside a blooming rose as I walk Baxter along the street. But I also have a passionate hatred of the choking diesel fumes disgorged from nearby cruise ships. So even though I may be able to detect over a trillion odours, there are many of them I don’t want to smell! Kate Grenville’s new book, The Case against Fragrance, has had me pondering the aromas, the scents and odours that enter my nose – whether I want them to or not. In 2015 Kate started to get frequent headaches and other signs of ill health and, strangely, they seemed to get worse when she was on tour to promote her latest book.After some effort to isolate the cause, she discovered that it was perfumes or other fragrances that were the culprits. She felt debilitated. She loved to meet her readers but was bombarded with fragrances in crowded rooms. She was compelled to find out what it was about perfumes that could be causing her these health problems. She opened a can of worms. Read on >
  • GEORGIA BLAIN is a novelist and journalist who lives in Sydney. Her first novel, Closed for Winter, was adapted into movie in 2009. LEONIE DYER asked Georgia about her latest novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog. Read on >
  • A Melbourne woman proud of her 7000-year-old Persian heritage shines a light on family violence in a memoir covering three generations. SOHILA ZANJANI, author of Scattered Pearls, speaks with JENNIFER SOMERVILLE. Read on >
  • In the early 1900s, the luminescent properties of radium – a highly radioactive metal – had just been discovered, and entrepreneurs were quick to identify its marketing potential. They flooded supermarket shelves with radium-based products, and thousands of young women in North America were hired to paint clock dials with radium. The girls would go home with their hands aglow, oblivious to the bone-destroying radiation they had been exposed to. We spoke with London-based author KATE MOORE about these workers’ stories, which appear in her new book, The Radium Girls. Read on >
  • ABC journalist and science writer IAN TOWNSEND cut his teeth as a novelist in 2007 with Affection, which told the story of a plague outbreak in 1900. His next novel, The Devil’s Eye, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2009. Now with Line of Fire, he turns his pen to narrative non-fiction to tell the story of Richard Manson, an 11-year-old boy who was accused of espionage and shot by the Japanese during World War II in New Guinea. Read on >
  • While researching for a non-fiction book about the botanical history of some of the world’s most popular alcoholic drinks, US author AMY STEWART stumbled across a gin smuggler’s altercation with an officious woman named Constance Kopp. This discovery catalysed her historical crime-fiction series, set in New Jersey in 1915, based on Constance and her two sisters. As the second instalment in the series, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, is released, ANGUS DALTON finds out more. Read on >
  • After reading a few thrillers lately I got to thinking about writers in the crime and thriller genres and the research they need to do to make their books seem real. Research can be an exciting part of writing any book. Determining how a killer might think and how their victim could become entrapped is one thing, but I can’t imagine looking at dead people or reading detailed reports of the methods that serial killers use to stalk and murder their prey.That’s the sort of awful stuff police deal with and psychologically struggle with for the rest of their lives. But could even researching this sort of thing affect a writer?  Read on >
  • Following on from her two-million-selling historical novel Orphan Train, CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE has delved into the backstory of a famous painting by Andrew Wyeth to write her new novel, A Piece of the World. ANGUS DALTON talks with the author.  Read on >
  • Sydney-based novelist LAUREN SAMS, author of She’s Having Her Baby, has worked for magazines such as Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan. Her new book, Crazy Busy Guilty, reprises the heroine Georgie Henderson, who tries frantically to juggle work and family. We spoke recently with Lauren, who talked about the US election, writer’s block and wacky parenting strategies.  Read on >
  • Heart surgeon PROFESSOR STEPHEN WESTABY has worked for 35 years to save ailing hearts and, in many cases, give his patients a second chance at life. In his new memoir, Fragile Lives, Westaby recounts remarkable and poignant cases, such as the baby who had suffered multiple heart attacks before reaching six months of age. We asked him to tell us a bit about his life as a surgeon. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • I was hooked from the arresting first page, swept along by the shimmering language and visceral images, and I found myself thinking anew about this ancient tragedy long after I finished the book. Bright Air Black is a powerful and rewarding read. Read on >

  • A quiet afternoon and a box of tissues are essential for this read. Read on >

  • From the late 1930s to the 1950s, an adoption organisation in Memphis, Tennessee, coerced parents into giving up their children. If that strategy failed, they kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country, often to order. This crime was ignored and even supported by the local authorities, all in the interests of providing these children with a better future. Read on >

  • This quick read touches on many key issues in the news – racism, the PTSD suffered by our returning soldiers, and our political masters’ endless desire to terrorise their own population in order to get votes and accrue even more powers that circumvent basic freedoms. Read on >

  • To call In the Name of the Family a superior bodice ripper would be somewhat facetious because this is a very literary and brilliantly realised work of historical fiction. But Sarah Dunant does have a background in crime novels and a keen interest in fashion, and in this novel some very superior bodices do in fact get ripped – mainly in a metaphorical sense. Read on >

  • This story takes place in the recently invaded Ukraine in 1941. The stories of Yankel, Otto and Yasia at first seem very different from each other, but they gradually intersect in a powerful and moving tale of anticipation, heartache and survival. Read on >

  • This gentle story blends the lives of two families with that of a house in a Brisbane suburb, peeling back layers to reveal the characters’ thoughts and hopes. Read on >

  • This haunting yet ultimately hopeful tale of one family’s attempts to rise from the ashes of tragedy will resonate with anyone familiar with the destructive power of fire and all who are inspired by the spirit of those able to regenerate after desolation. Read on >

  • Down’s prose is sharp and intimate, the characters flawed and achingly familiar. For a book about mourning, it’s not overly sentimental or indulgent. Instead, the characters’ grief is ugly and bewildering. Our Magic Hour is a compelling, authentic portrayal of loss, dislocation and the unsteadiness of young adult life. Read on >

  • Down the Hume is a noir thriller, but the increasing suspense and the plot twist isn’t what kept the pages turning. It’s the thrill of reading something so charged and fast that interrogates our national identity through a character with such a distinctive voice. This contemporary story is far more relevant and noteworthy than the nostalgic bush narratives that are considered the epitome of Australian storytelling. Read on >

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