Staff Picks – August 2016

August 2016

Natasha

The Windy Season by Sam Carmody $29.99rrp
AUSSIE FICTION DEBUT

Set in the northern part of WA this Aussie debut takes us into the heart of male Aussie culture with a mystery of a brother’s disappearance and the impact on a family and town. 17yo no-hoper Elliot ventures to the place of his brother’s last known sighting, the aptly named town Stark to work on a fishing trawler and maybe find his brother. There are wonderful descriptions of the land, the unforgiving sea, Elliot throwing up and his awkward dalliances with women. There are bonding moments with his fishing buddies both good and bad, as well as brutal moments with older dangerous drug men. There is a touch of romance mixed with regret and immature revelations. I loved the females in this patriarchal world – the cop and the hotel publican and waitress. I loved the awkwardness of Elliot and the despair of the whole place which seemed to suck people in to never leave. There are secrets revealed about Elliot’s parents and his brother’s girlfriend. and you realise that ultimately, it is a coming of age book that has deception at its core and nothing is as it seems. My only minor gripe was that I wasn’t a massive fan of the intercutting fable like conversations between but could see how by the end it all connected with the story. This is wild Australia, a place not often revealed to us in fiction and whilst they are not perhaps known to us here in safe urban Melbourne it is worth knowing this other side of our nation’s inhabitants.


 Mark

The English Spy by Daniel Silva $19.99rrp (March release)
ADULT THRILLER

I read Silva a while ago and I am glad to revisit his writing with the same Gabriel Allon character who is an assassin and spy for hire. When a terrorist bomb kills someone prominent, Allon is called into assist. With links to the IRA and Russian political revenge payback there is stalking, investigation, chases and secrets exposed as Allon tries to get the bomber for hire before another catastrophe. And for those who follow this writer closely there is a link to those responsible for the death of Allon’s wife and child (which was in a previous book but you can still read this without ever having read Silva before and it still make sense). With lots of suspenseful action, the writing kept me on the edge and intrigued. The only hiccup perhaps was the overplayed ending, it seemed to drag longer than it should.


Braiden

Paladero: The Knights of the Thunder Realm by Steven Lochran $18.99rrp 10-14yo
KIDS SERIES

Josiah Sarif (Joss for short) is a Paladero in training, a paladin-cowboy that guards the Thunder Realm and protects it’s people from outside threats. After becoming victorious in the Paladero Tournament, Joss lands a position on the Way, a rite of passage that tests the confidence and bravery of him and his fellow prentices. If successful in retrieving the sought after Quetzalcoatlus egg, they will join the order as a Paladero, the one common dream he and the others share. This places them in situations along the journey that put them at odds with one another. making them question each other’s identities and loyalties to the order and the protection of the realm.

Lochran has created a fun, coming-of-age quest adventure that places him alongside Australian children’s fantasy greats John Flanagan and Emily Rodda. Fans of Ranger’s Apprentice and Deltora Quest will find new characters to cheer for and a new exciting world to be absorbed in. It was the characters that truly won me over, particularly the strong and self-assured Hero, a trans character who belonged to this world as much as any other character, all outsiders (Joss included) trying to find their Way – there’s no tokenism here.

The first book of four, I can see this series getting the audience it deserves soon enough. Magic, dinosaurs, machines, quests. What more could a kid want? #loveozya


 Gabi

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Six Pence by Jennifer Bell $17.99rrp
KIDS SERIES

When their grandmother is hospitalised, Ivy Sparrow and her older brother Seb are thrust into an underground world full of intrigue, mystery and danger. The siblings find themselves in Lundinor, home to the Uncommoners – people who trade in uncommon goods, such as teleporting envelopes, light bulbs that look like lemon juicers and paperclip handcuffs. Soon Ivy and Seb uncover a mysterious and deadly family history and have to race against time to uncover the secret to some suspicious goings-on.

This book is definitely a great read for those who love fantasy and magic and is a great series to get stuck into after you’ve finished reading Harry Potter. Although there are no witches, wizards and wands, there is a whole lot of magic, mystery, and adventure to keep you entertained and intrigued to see what happens next.

The mystery and suspense is the best thing about this book. You are kept guessing until the very end while author Jennifer Bell leads you on a wild goose chase to uncover who the real mastermind is. Bell cleverly tries to steer you off course whilst also dropping tiny clues as to the true identity of the ringleader. Additionally, some of Bell’s finest moments of writing occur during creepy Haunted Mansion-type scenes which make you feel like you are exploring the dark and narrow passageways right alongside the characters in the book.

All in all, this was a really entertaining fantasy read. The world-building is spectacular and the writing keeps you engaged and intrigued. The book ends with one part of the mystery solved whilst the other is left wide open – I will definitely be checking out any possible sequel in the future! $17.99 RRP


 Jess

Promise by Sarah Armstrong $32.99rrp
Adult Fiction

How far would you go to protect a child? Anna notices that something is very wrong with her new neighbours’ five-year-old daughter, Charlie. She spends the nights screaming and crying; comes to visit Anna with bruises and strange bite-marks. After calling the authorities with no result, Anna comes to the decision to take the law into her own hands: grab Charlie and just run.

I really enjoyed this book, I found Anna a realistic and likeable character that has obvious flaws and a past that still troubles her. She is complex in her thinking and the hints of her past that comes to clash with her present causes a level of depth to her characterisation that explains how she became to be the mature child-less woman she is today. But with Charlie’s difficult behaviour and the lack of maternal instinct in Anna causes a tense and strained relationship.

The book highlights the concept of love, focusing on the innocence of a child and the complex bond between mother and child or, in this case, protector and child. It also focuses on the flaws of the system that is input in order to protect children in harsh and complicated situations. Fans of Liane Moriarty will enjoy this book as it is an easy read that tackles a difficult and harsh topic. I found it a fascinating read that was difficult to put down. Sarah Armstrong has beautifully constructed a book that causes you to question how you would react in a similar situation, and makes you wonder if you would be able to sacrifice everything in order to protect a child.


Steph

The Toymaker by Liam Pieper $26.99rrp 
ADULT FICTION

Wow. What can I say about Liam Pieper’s The Toymaker? The first I heard of Pieper was from my sister who recommended I read his memoir- The Feel Good Hit of The Year. Having added it to my “To Read” list like we all do, I forgot about it. However with the release of his new novel, I was interested to see just how good of a writer he could really be, especially since he chose to delve into fiction, after having only written just the opposite. I can honestly say right now, all Pieper’s books have been moved up on my list. I cannot stress how intrigued I was by Pieper’s novel. Pieper has described it as “kind of a historical novel, but also a bit of a thriller? Or a horror? And a love story!”
After finishing reading the novel, I can look back on it as just that. It is a novel that engaged me with sophisticated writing. At times, I honestly didn’t know where the narrative was going, but somehow it worked itself out. It is a well-researched narrative that offers us an insight into Russian and German language and culture.
The story is written from the perspective of three characters: Adam Kulakov, a privileged, self involved owner of the family toy company; Tess Kulakov, his sometimes naïve, but also fed up wife; and finally Arkady Kulakov, an Auschwitz survivor and Adam’s grandfather, whom he owes for the success of his company. The novel follows these three characters within their daily lives, urging the reader to question whether a person can be defined by the secrets they keep.
However, you must read through to the end to really find the most devastating consequences that result from the actions of these characters.
Pieper focuses not only on the fiction itself, but the real life horrors of WWII and the holocaust, events that we as human beings should continually reflect on. Overall, I can confidently say this book has been one of my favourites this year.


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