Staff picks – September 2017

September 2017


The Choke by Sofie Laguna – $32.99 (Allen & Unwin)


*Winner of the Miles Franklin 2015 for Eye of the Sheep*
This is my number 1 book so far this year! I am totally in love with The Choke by Sofie Laguna, the new one from the author of  Miles Franklin winning The Eye of the Sheep.  It crackles with tension, brims with childhood innocence and is chock full of whippercrack moments of male power, violence and something omnious in the wings. Laguna’s sublime writing totally took me wholly on the journey of motherless 10yo Justine and her harsh yet beautiful life in the early 1970s. She is looked after by her caring but ineffectual PTSD effected, alcoholic Pop and his obsession with chickens, occasionally visited by her dangerous elusive father, suffering nightmares about the loss of her mother, grappling with two half brothers, Steve and Kirk and trying to figure out why her lesbian auntie doesn’t visit more often. She struggles in school with dyslexia and a victim of child neglect that pushes her to the fringe of female friendships she so desperately craves – but from this negative rises a new friendship with Michael, an intelligent boy outcast because of his disability. The scenes between these two were so incredibly moving and evocatively charming and amongst my favourite depictions in the book – utterly beautiful and heartbreaking. And all the while as Justine tries to navigate the world around her, puberty hits, and her ache for female guidance or connection with anyone caring grows stronger and puts her in the most precarious of situations. The twist of Part 2 made me actually cry out in despair and it only got darker hereon. But amongst the brutality and violence there lay hope. The ending caused me to ponder the life of Justine in a way that stayed with me for a long while and I often think about since. It is such an addictive fab read which I strongly recommend.

Natasha’s extra pick:

City of Crows by Chris Womersley was a welcome change from some of my contemporary set reads this year and is a change of direction for this Aussie author whose previous novel Bereft was a big favourite in store and with customers.
We are hurtled back to France 1673 where Charlotte’s husband Michel has just succumbed to the plague, leaving her with a young son and limited options. After her son Nicholas is kidnapped by bandits keen on selling him as a slave or worse in Paris – Charlotte risks everything to get him back. This results in visiting a witch in a forest and taking over an important book of speels / dark arts without her having much understanding of the power of what she has undertaken. Parallel to this story is prisoner Adam Coeuret who is granted freedom and on his journey to Paris to find treasure under a new alias Lesage. His path soon crosses Charlotte’s in a mutual case of mistaken identity and they are adopted by a travelling band of performing gyspies on the road to Paris. I really loved Womersley’s flip narration structure, evocative descriptions, creation of misunderstandings, and the honest brutal of the world of Paris of the 17th century with its dashes of folklore and dark magic. Charlotte’s maternal anguish juxtaposed beautifully with Lesage’s crafty mechanications. Perfect for fans of Kent’s Good People or Brooks’ Year of Wonders.


DC Icons- Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo –  $18.99 (Penguin)

Young Adult

When it comes to comics (and superheroes in general) I choose DC. If you were to ask me who my favourite superhero is, the answer may surprise you: because it’s Wonder Woman. Diana Prince, Princess of Themyscira. She fights for equality and peace, truth and justice. She’s compassionate and kind, yet a fierce warrior too. These traits are reason enough for why the character has lasted for almost 80 years. Now as a young adult in the first of the DC Icons YA novels, these qualities are further heightened.

The Wonder Woman film showed a teenage Diana very briefly, so you could say this novel expands on those years. Desperate to prove her worthiness as an Amazon, Diana enters a race and happens upon a mortal in danger, Alia. In rescuing Alia, who is a warbringer, Diana brings peril to the island and the mortal world. Who else but Diana to maker her wrongs a right?

I’ve had Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (when it was first titled The Gathering Dark) on my shelf for a while but I’ve never gotten around to it. Like Sarah J. Maas (who is writing the Catwoman novel, by the way), Leigh Bardugo has a relatively large following behind her fantasy series. Bardugo surprised me and cleverly presented a new take on the Amazonian princess’s formative years as a teenager, weaving Greek mythology and the character’s roots wonderfully together with the addition of new elements and a fantastic display of diversity. The action scenes had a cinematic quality to them, and although they were sparse I respected Bardugo’s choice to develop the characters than rely on action spectacle, because, well, “superhero”.

Fans of the Wonder Woman film and Rick Riordan will have a field trip with this mythological action adventure. I look forward to reading the other books in the DC Icons series (Batman comes out in January by Marie Lu, followed by Superman and Catwoman by Matt de la Pena and Sarah J Mass respectively in 2018).



Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn (Pan Macmillan) $16.99rrp

Young Adult

Quinn is not having an easy summer. Between her beloved grandma’s worsening condition and her Dad’s gambling addiction, all she wants to do is work her shifts at Tudor Tymes, so she can save enough money for the big school trip.

Then, in comes Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner. Q is determined to get her revenge, but will she end up falling for him instead?

I really enjoyed this book, it was something a bit lighter that I could escape to whenever I had free time. Despite Quinn’s feelings in the beginning, Wesley was definitely one of my favourite characters. At times, I became frustrated with the way she held a grudge. In fact, all the characters in this book are exceptional, some that we like and some that we don’t like. I didn’t see that twist coming in the end, but it just made me love the book even more.

If you’re looking for a little guilty pleasure reading, especially in summer, then this book is for you. I ended up finishing it pretty quickly, because I couldn’t put it down!


Generation One by Pittacus Lore (Penguin) $22.99rrp

Young Adult

Following the end of the Lorien Legacy Series, I was sad to let the world go; it was a favourite place of mine to visit. The battle of Lorien and Mogadorians, set on modern earth brings a whole new take on alien invasion. But after the last battle, I wanted more.
Pittacus Lore has answered and delivered this whole new series that explores the aftermath of the initial invasion. Now human teenagers are exposed to Lorien legacies, gaining their own abilities and powers. The United Nations intervene and now the diverse cast of characters are almost-imprisoned in a school where they can enhance their new abilities.
Every character was well developed with their own issues that will be further explored in the following books. I really enjoyed seeing the glimpses of everyones’ lives before their abilities kicked in. Now they are teenagers forced into boarding school, we can see them gain friendships and work together. Favourites from the previous series also make an appearance and the reader can see the traumatic impact the previous invasion and battle has on these characters.
This book offers promise for an incredible series. The powers manifested in this series are unlike the ones found in the last book, and its intriguing to see how each legacy interacts and develops according to the characters own personality and experiences. It is impossible to pick a favourite character, and its difficult to guess what happens next; a read that is almost impossible to put down and completely leaves you wanting more.
With new villains, new adventures, and a whole new cast. This series can be both the start of your Lorien exploration, or a continence from your previous journey with four and the other numbers. For fans of Michael Grant and Robert Muchamore.

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