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Most of us grew up with fairytales in which male characters got to do most – if not all – of the swashbuckling, princess-saving and other acts of derring-do. But as KATE FORSYTH explains, there have always been empowered female characters in folklore, and her new collection of retold tales, Vasilisa the Wise, brings these kick-ass female figures to the fore. We asked Kate to tell us about the book.

Articles in this issue

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Archive Discoveries

  • Writer MIKE LUCAS and illustrator JENNIFER HARRISON tell gr about Olivia’s Voice, a new picture book about a deaf girl. Read on >
  • 'Books, and lovers or friends, mark and change us. And we, in turn, mark and change them.' Melbourne novelist CATH CROWLEY writes about her longtime love of secondhand bookshops, and how the histories she found and imagined there led her to write Words in Deep Blue. Read on >
  • Biographies have long fascinated readers, serving as guides for how to live our own lives or often just giving us an intriguing peek into the world of extraordinary people. In this round-up we look at a comedian with a disability, a magician with a learning disorder, the real man behind Walter White of Breaking Bad and more. But we’re bending the biography rules a bit by also including a book by a philosopher that will prompt you to think about living a better life, a book about Aussies at war and an account of Queensland police leading lives of corruption. Read on >
  • Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has inspired all kinds of fan fiction and adaptations, such as the 1966 prequel Wide Sargasso Sea. But in this new novel by Sydney resident JENNIFER LIVETT, the lives of Jane Eyre characters become entwined with those of real 19th-century Tasmanians, including doomed Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Here Jennifer tells us how she came up with the idea for Wild Island. Read on >
  • For some women, bad men cast an irresistibly magnetic spell. Melbourne-based author LAURA ELIZABETH WOOLLETT examines this often fatal attraction in  The Love of a Bad Man, a collection of 12 stories based on the lives of real women who sought the love of criminals. In this extract from ‘Eva’, the author imagines the post-coital thoughts of Eva Braun, who met Adolf Hitler when she was 17. Read on >
  • The jazz era of the 1920s in America was
 filled with exuberant music, fast cars and young men and women determined to have a good time. But at the same time in working-class Far North Queensland, life wasn’t lived at quite the same level of opulence.
In a new novel, Treading Air, Queensland author ARIELLA VAN LUYN uses fiction to investigate the life of a real young woman from Townsville named Lizzie O’Dea, who shot another woman in 1924. Read on >
  • RITU MENON loves to travel and she loves to sample the local fare of the places her journeys take her to.Her new book, Loitering with Intent: Diary of a happy traveller, is derived from over a decade of travel journal writing. Here she recounts how she came to write the book and recalls a couple of fabulous Italian feasts. Read on >
  • The rugged beauty of England’s Lake District looms large in the latest psychological thriller by Perth-based author SARA FOSTER. She shares her passion for the natural world and her concerns about the potential impacts of electronic media with MAUREEN EPPEN. Read on >
  • Kit, only 19 years old, works for Shen Corporation
as a phenomenaut – a person who projects their consciousness into the bodies of animals bred for research purposes. This is the strange and intriguing premise of The Many Selves of Katherine North. ANGUS DALTON puts some questions to EMMA GEEN, author of this new novel. Read on >
  • 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 >
  • Find out about the inspiration behind the bestselling brilliance of Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, his new novel The Best of Adam Sharp, and how he made a name for himself by dressing as a duck. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • Fresh Complaint is sheer joy to read. These stories may be short, but they are so perfectly sequenced and homogenous in style and content that they leave the impression of a beautifully crafted novel. Read on >

  • Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, emphasised drought; this time the action is concentrated in a rainforest. It’s an area where four young female hikers went missing some years ago. Three bodies have been found and Martin Kovac, a serial killer, was arrested. One bushwalker, Sarah Sondenberg, is still missing. Her parents have accepted that she’s unlikely to be alive but they would like her body to be found. They want to give her a proper burial. Read on >

  • This is a story of love, friendship and the bonds between women, all of whom are extraordinary in their own way. It’s also a reminder that not all lives are as they appear; passions, fears and complexities lie behind every facade. Read on >

  • If you relish Gothic mystery then this novel is for you. Set in London and a country house known as The Bridge in the 1600s and the 1800s, the story centres on the Bainbridge family. Elsie Bainbridge lives in a late 19th-century mental asylum. Mute and described as a murderess, she has a new doctor who encourages her to write her story. Read on >

  • This absorbing novel reads unsettlingly like the story of the colonial conquest of this land hundreds of years ago, with deep and bitter truths and parallels throughout. Read on >

  • While some events are predictable, there are enough shocks to keep the interest high. The creative ending is unpredictable. A partial redemption comes in a shocking way – but it was a long time coming. A great read if you enjoy psychological thrillers. Read on >

  • It’s easy to see why Now Let’s Dance has critics atwitter. First published in the original French last year, it’s already become a bestseller overseas and has been compared to The Little Paris Bookshop and The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Whether you’re a Francophile or just looking for an escapist story, Now Let’s Dance may be the tonic you need for life’s ups and downs. Read on >

  • The story of teenage girls Debbie Vickers and Sue Knight – as first outlined in the bestselling 1979 novel Puberty Blues – has captivated millions. With brutal honesty, it shined a light on how teenage Australian girls grew up in the 1970s. Puberty Blues became an Australian cult classic that has been adapted for film and TV, and many fans have wanted to know what happened to the girls beyond the story. Kathy Lette now gives the answer in After the Blues. This is a good novel. It’s a combination of Lette’s original and current writing styles, and fans of her previous work will no doubt devour it. Read on >

  • This novel is equally intriguing and confusing. But if you like your historical fiction quirky and mysterious, full of ideology, theology, political unrest and intrigue, you will find this book a delight. While based on real events, I recommend you suspend any notions of reality. Read on >

  • Comedian Tony Martin has written a very funny satirical novel inspired by actual letters to an editor of a suburban newspaper. The misunderstandings, unforgettable characters and cynical media figures generate a host of laugh-out-loud moments. Read on >

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