National Reconciliation Week 2017 launches today (27 May to the 3 June) as all Australians are invited to celebrate the rich culture and history of the First Australians. These dates mark two milestones in Australia's history, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, and the 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s Take the Next Steps’, focusing on coming together as a nation to take the next great step in creating a country strengthened by respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples. NRW is a chance for all of us to take some meaningful steps, no matter how big or small, to spark change in our school, workplace or community. We have tins at both stores for donations!
Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa $27.99rrp
AUSSIE FICTION DEBUT
One of the best things about being a bookseller is getting advanced reading copies and reading with no awareness of story or expectation except my rep saying I think you’ll like this. This debut novel by Sri Lankan born Aussie Rajith Savandasa came to extra attention to move up the pile after Toni Jordan told me that he had been a student of hers in a RMIT creative writing course and I am so glad she encouraged me to read it for its uniqueness and heartfelt family drama. I must admit, the opening was a little disorienting, reminding me of how I felt when I read Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger back in 2008 (which would then be in my top 5 that year and win the Man Booker) for this was a world and incident I knew nothing about – the Sri Lankan civil war of the 1980s. We gain insight into this pivotal time through five voices within one Sri Lankan family opening with the family servant Latha, and then turning to the young daughter Anoushka, her successful businessman yet distracted father Mano, her mother Lakshmi and her older hardworking brother Nirijian. The chapters are structured so we hear these voices multiple times, reminding me of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and serving to seamlessly advance the story as well as that distinct advantage of allowing the reader into the internal motivations and responses of this fractured family. I liked this novel for its uniqueness, its insight and the distinctly clear individual voices of each of the family members – something that has become a bit of a modern trend and in this case, done very well. Give it a go!
Remade by Alex Scarrow (BOOK 1 – NEW SERIES) $14.99rrp
Anyone who has asked me for advice on books knows I am a massive fan of the Timeriders series. Well, that author Alex Scarrow has a new one for those teens who have grown up and want something darker, meatier, scarier. Called Remade this book is for 13+ fans of Gone with its virus infecting premise. The story centres on two teen siblings Leon and Grace who have moved from New York to London, struggling to settle in when news comes of the virus from Africa. But when Leon gets a warning email from his dad and the virus hits London panic sets in. Finding themselves immune, they run away to safety trying to stay one step ahead in a ski resort and trying to work out where the virus came from so they can beat it along with other survivors. This three part science fiction book is addictive from the start, with a believable sibling relationship between the popular sister and shy brother who always look out for each other and trying to survive against unusual elements. I think this book is gonna be a huge hit.
Error Australis by Ben Pobjie $29.99rrp
A must for fans of David Hunt’s Girt or Shaun Micallef’s The President’s Desk; or anyone who likes history and can have a laugh at it. I’d just be careful what you quoted if you’re writing an school paper on Australian history, perhaps check some other sources?
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon $19.99rrp 10-14yo
Within a few chapters Fraillon’s novel gave a strong The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas vibe – Subhi, a boy born within the refugee camp, meets Jimmi, a girl who resides outside in the nearby town, and a friendship blossoms as they trade stories and teach each other, like how to read. This relationship provided hope and fun even in the darkest of circumstances and darkest of places. Despite how the story was told, simple to reflect how Subhi or Jimmi would tell it, I found myself getting distracted, but as I came to appreciate the writing I had to keep on reading to see how Fraillon will end this touching book and the beautiful relationship between the two children and their experiences that Fraillon has realised so very well. #loveozya
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith $29.99rrp
Paul Stuart, a prolific writer of food and wine, is in a slump. His girlfriend of four years has just left him for her personal trainer and he no longer has the willpower to finish his next book. But deadlines must be met and broken hearts must heal, and so, with a little push from his editor, Paul sets off to the idyllic town of Montalcino, Italy. However, as soon as Paul sets foot in Italy, everything seems to go terribly wrong. Paul finds himself thrown in jail for suspected car theft and then, just as quickly, is rumbling down the road to Montalcino in a rented bulldozer.
For me, the true centrepiece of the book was the vivid descriptions of the Italian countryside and the food and wine on offer. McCall Smith paints this incredibly detailed, yet not overloading, scene of a sleepy yet content Italian village where there are no secrets. For me, this seems to be something that is characteristically Italian, and I’m really happy that McCall Smith has captured its essence so well. Through his descriptions, you can almost feel like you are in this landscape with Paul and, for me, this was an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable feeling. Alexander McCall Smith seems to have perfected the art of quirky and is incredibly good at forcing his characters into situations that are just short of being unbelievable. This results in hilarious, laugh-out-loud scenarios that are thoroughly enjoyable to read.
However, this book feels just slightly under-done and, after reading the last page, I felt that I needed more closure. I feel like McCall Smith has created these incredibly charged and intriguing scenarios, just to stop them short of boiling point and let them peter out, resulting in me being incredibly frustrated and longing for this wild scenarios with which the book started.
All in all, this is a short and entertaining holiday-read, full of gorgeous descriptions of the Italian countryside and absurd scenarios.
When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah $18.99rrp
I really enjoyed Randa Abdel-Fattah’s new story, When Michael Met Mina. An almost forbidden romance in modern day Sydney between a refugee and a boy whose father is a leader for “Aussie Values”, a political group that fights against the allowance of refugees into Australia. The book tackles a very controversial topic that is still fought over today, but the author has perfectly balanced the controversy with a romance that you can’t help but support.
Throughout reading the book I learnt new ideas and values held by both sides of the argument. The leaders of “Aussie Values” (Michael’s parents) initially came off as cool and collected, their ideas respectable and understandable. But as the opinion of Michael is influenced by his attraction to Mina and his exploration of the issue himself, we see the more ignorant and racist members of such a political campaign.
Mina’s story is moving, as we witness her attempt to fit into a leading private school after moving from a suburb dominated by multiple ethnic groups. Her struggles to fit in are the same as all new high-schoolers, but as we see glimpses of her past tragedies her character becomes a lot more deep and complicated. Her easy going humour and passions are easy to like, and as the reading continues it’s impossible to not think of Mina as a beloved friend.
This book was a fascinating and brilliant read, it talked about a complicated issue in a light that is easily understood. The characters are both complex and easy to relate to, it’s difficult to believe that they aren’t real members of society. I would recommend this book to anyone in a heartbeat; it is a story that creates a modern “Romeo and Juliet” in a cute romantic way that has less of an emphasis on the romance itself but the effect it has on the characters and their views on the world around them. #loveozya
Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle $26.99rrp (12th July release)
YOUNG ADULT 14+