Staff Picks – June 2017

June 2017


The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey – $32.99 (Allen & Unwin)


My prediction is that Sarah Bailey’s name will be as common as Jane Harper this year with her debut novel The Dark Lake. It is a fabulously absorbing and well crafted story about the murder of a beautiful young teacher in a small town after a school play she was directing.
The investigating officer, Gemma Woodstock knew Rosalind years before and it is this past knowledge that adds interesting layers as she interviews an array of connected and possible suspects including Rosalind’s teaching colleagues, wealthy father, her weird brothers and trying to locate a mysterious lover. Apart from this unethical connection to the victim, what I also loved was the flawed dimensions of Gemma – as she copes with being a workaholic mother in a man’s police unit, an unhappy marriage, guilt about her toddler, an affair with her police partner and a secret from her own past that possibly connects her to this current crime in ways she could not imagine. The realistic dialogue, various story threads that all added intrigue and made sense, as well as a satisfying ending really made this as enjoyable as when I read The Dry. Highly recommended!




Foodies theme this time round is Indian. Even though Anjum Anand’s new cookbook I Love India is her 8th book I am new to her offerings but am totally loving it not just for the recipes but also the stories and beautiful photography. This is a very personal collection that tells of the history of India, her family and a variety of regions. She shares details of her mother and father’s arranged marriage, constant moving at the time of India’s Independence and her move to London to start her own family. She has a personable style and I felt I learnt something interesting which also put the dishes into cultural context.
All of her recipes have an opening narrative like where she ate the dish, whose dish it was and/ or what she liked about it. There was a good balance between Indian street food and family cuisine which had a clear layout and detail of how many it catered for and easy to follow instructions.
Like India itself it is a very colourful book, using ingredients that you might not ordinarily have but can easily find and are repeated in many recipes so not too expensive if you cook regularly form this.
Covering all seasons from summer to winter and a variety of celebrations it allows you to go with your mood by choosing long slow dishes or quick after work family friendly meals. My wife Natasha is not a fan of hot food and I have found it easy to reduce the heat options to make it palatable for her.
Quick, easy and yummy, if you want tasty home cooked Indian give this a try as I put it in the same ball park as as my go to Asian food chef Adam Liaw.
PS the photo attached shows one of her Sides section; fragrant pea and carrot pilaf which I made to go with some chicken. Mixing in cumin, cinnamon, cloves and garam masala it certainly lives up to its delicious and fragrant name! Can’t wait to cook lots more of many of the tabbed pages I have got my eye on.


The Fall by Tristan Bancks (Random House) $16.99rrp

Kids Fiction

Fans of Tristan Bancks’s previous novel Two Wolves and Gabrielle Lord’s Conspiracy 365 series will be thrilled with Bancks’s latest, The Fall. It’s about twelve-year old, scoliosis-afflicted Sam Garner who following an operation gets to stay with his father Harry in the city – to better understand and get to know him, something he has not had the opportunity to do since his parents’ split. Unfortunately Harry’s job as a crime reporter keeps him busy and from spending important time with his son. To keep himself preoccupied at his father’s, Sam writes a comic book series, Harry Garner: Crime Reporter, creating a heroic image – an “alter-ego” – of his father he would like to be real. However, one night a body mysteriously falls past his window and Sam is pursued by the equally mysterious man. This prompts Sam to question his father, who coincidentally was not at home the same night. Like Two Wolves, this book deals with themes of family and male connection, resilience and mortality in an engaging, action-filled story that explores what it means to be a hero. It’s a self-contained, standalone mystery that will be perfect for pre-teen bookclubs or reading circles, with much to discuss and reflect on, appropriate for 10+.


The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber) $16.99

Young Adult 13+

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock follows the story of four individuals: Ruth, Hank, Alyce and Dora, and how their lives soon become seamlessly intertwined. Taking place in Alaska, ten years after statehood, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock paints a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up in Fairbanks during the early 70’s.
Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother. Dora wishes she were invisible to her abusive father. Alyce is staying at home to please her parents. Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers. When I first started reading this, I thought it’d be a simple, light YA novel. I found it really easy to read, but at the same time, it was still quite complex and very moving. Without going into too much detail, Ruth and Dora’s stories really resonated with me. It’s so interesting to see how the characters progress from start to end, how they find their own voice among all the craziness. Through her eloquent writing style and vivid imagination, Hitchcock gives us an insight into a new culture, a new world. Hitchcock’s stories realistically explore tragedy and love through some of the most lovable characters I’ve ever known.



Child series

The world of Percy Jackson is back. Apollo has been shunned from Olympus and is now stuck as a mortal, forced to complete deeds in order to regain his immortality and position among the gods.
This sequel follows Apollo and Meg’s journey to find the Oracles and defeat the Triumvirate before time runs out. These two unlikely heroes are joined by “Hero of Olympus” favourite Leo Valdez and his new ex-titan girlfriend Calypso in order to defeat the emperor Commodus and save Indiana from being overrun by monsters.
The once-immortal Apollo is plagued with visions of his past, his mistakes, and the consequences that happen as a result of these decisions. This compared by the loss of his godly-powers causes the once powerful Sun god to become the inadequate and clumsy teenage Lester Papadopoulos.
Rick Riordan is an absolute favourite of mine. His books are interesting and blend a fascinating historical culture into the world today. His characters are complex, some destroyed and hurt by past events and memories, others unable to move on from recent tragedies; all able to push forward and kick-ass with sassy and hilarious antics, as well as a good sense of humour and bravery unparalleled.
Apollo is a highlight of this book and series, he is as arrogant as he was as a god. His naivety highlights the distance that is present between god and real-life hero. But his ability to attempt running and hiding no matter the situation brings a sense of humour to a tense and serious scenario. Not only do we see the god Apollo morph into mortal friend Lester, but his behaviour and sense of companionship slowly turns him into a genuine friend and hero within the book. This paired with his godly memories and powers returning now and then creates a complicated and hilarious character that I absolutely adore.
Greek mythology is awesome, if this series teaches me anything, it’s that the history and culture of different and ancient civilisations can be fascinating, interesting and amazing to discover and learn more about. I could not but this book down: goodbye uni-work, hello Rick Riordan. 9/10


The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)  – $19.99

Kid’s fiction

Columba is a young girl living in Sydney during World War Two. She goes to school, plays with her friends and has dinner with her family — but there is always a war looming. A mysterious boy who doesn’t speak English turns up in her class, and suddenly the horrors of war seem a lot closer. From school swimming to strange neighbours to Luna Park, Columba must navigate a world that doesn’t quite make sense anymore.
For a children’s book, Duborsarky’s writing could almost be described as literary in style. There is a lot of subtext, and plenty of characters and objects which are rich in symbolism and which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. This is especially great for kids who like to mull over the books they’re reading and to think about the deeper meanings. There are few children’s books which focus on what life was like for civilians back home in Australia during the Second World War and it was fascinating to learn about the attitudes and safety measures taken during this time. Every few pages, the author has included original documents from the time such as newspaper extracts and photos which help both to capture the atmosphere of the time as well as to break up the text and make it more accessible.
Perfect for readers who love Jackie French or who have outgrown the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series but who still love historic fiction. Recommended ages 10-14.

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