STAFF REVIEW OF THE TRAUMA CLEANER BY SARAH KRASNOSTEIN BY OWNER NATASHA (Text Publishing) Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner has been widely acclaimed and nominated / awarded. I missed getting around to it last year during the hype but was so glad when one of our bookclubs selected it as their June read. And it is definitely deserving of all the accolades! It is an excellent portrayal of an ordinary local person and her extraordinary life. I loved how it went beyond the simple trauma cleaning story which I had thought would just be the focus, and instead cleverly wove these stories in amongst the real story - the life of Sandra Pankhurst. As a Melbourne person, I loved the connection to local areas, but was horrified by the early family abuse and then marvelled at how many roads and careers Sandra took when she left home such as working at a funeral home, in a hardware store and even for a time as a prostitute. The honesty and candor and her helpfulness at all times was a real highlight.
All of these roads were during Sandra's own sexual identity and orientation awareness and leading her to embark on transgender surgery at a time when it was still quite new, and done at great risk to the individual and also by the doctors putting their careers on the line. It was amazing to read how Sandra was married both as a man and as a woman and the impact on those around her. The final section dealing with the issue of disconnection was important in explaining Sandra's inability to see the impact on her ex wife and kids. I definitely felt sad for her abandoned children and found it understandable that one of them had not wanted to reconnect.
Sarah's investigation into the many varied trauma cleaning jobs (hoarding, death, murder, etc) and Sandra's workers was fascinating and I liked how they were dispersed throughout without judgement by Sandra or Sarah. It makes you feel empathy for people in these situations, and a little heartbroken to think there are such neglected / pained people in our own community. And also how these kinds of situations don't discriminate and can affect learned or wealthy people, not just the poor or uneducated.
It was appreciated that Sarah admitted to the limitations of recording ALL the facts as reliant on Sandra's unreliable memory, and also how Sarah pursued interviewing other key people from Sandra's past to fill in some of these gaps. Her commitment to researching thoroughly this process indicates it become more than just a story but a deep interest in the life of Sandra and those around her. And in this way it reminded me at times of the writing of Helen Garner.
What really made this book stand out, was not only the interwoven structure and the subject matter but also the beautiful and evocative writing. And even though I loved it on audiobook which was excellently read by Rachael Tidd (complete with deep gravelly voice for Sandra just as you'd imagine it would be), I would have loved to have underlined so many beautiful phrases because they so accurately pinpointed so many wonderful moments, and vignettes from a remarkable life. Highly recommended 9/10 #SarahKrasnostein #TheTraumaCleaner #staffbookreview #staffpick #truestory #aussieauthor #aussielife #transgender #traumacleaning #books #bookreview
Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin SMALLER, CHEAPER FORMAT $22.99rrp
So glad that my rep recommended this to me as we had passed it by on its original release last September and now cannot wait to handsell this on re-release mid May. Juxtaposing narratives from 17yo Tessa with her adult self decades later, we see her in her teens as the sole survivor of a serial killer only to wonder when she is a mother herself was the right person convicted. The writing is taut, the conflicted emotions real and the ghosts of the past frighteningly haunt the present until the truth is shockingly revealed. I loved the switches in time, the interplay with other characters – the cops, the psychiatrist, her child, the town. But most of all, it was a fascinating insight into an innocent girl damaged long after she was saved.
Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh (BOOK 1 – NEW SERIES) $16.99rrp
Recent films The Maze Runner and The 5th Wave have got teens hooked into futuristic action and this new series by Will McIntosh will surely appeal to them looking for something similar but new. This story sees a future world where different coloured spheres turn up all across the world, their source unknown. Burning two together gives people enhanced qualities- such as looks, mathematical prowess etc, creating a society keen to get their hands on this new element and trade heavily on the resulting black market. Sully and Hunter are two teens who team up to find a rare gold sphere. But they are not the only ones on the trail and in the wrong hands they realise that it will be up to them to potentially save the world from themselves, not to mention what is the origin and purpose of the spheres presence on Earth. With an almost fast paced gamers feel, this is a great book for those who like their stories full of adrenaline and a mystery to solve.
The Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback $32.99rrp (14th June release)
The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale $16.99rrp 10+
The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead $24.99rrp
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
The Glittering Court is the story of a teenage girl named Adelaide, a bankrupt noblewoman who pretends to be her servant in order to flee an arranged marriage. In order to take control of her own destiny, Adelaide joins the Glittering Court, a mix between a business and a boarding school, which offers poor servant and working-class women the chance for a better life by teaching them the skills of the nobles in the hopes that they will marry men in the colonial land of Adoria. The world which Mead depicts is a great combination of real-life geography and fantasy. Mead seems to have taken the geography of England and France and given them new names, as well as describing a ‘New World’ which seems very similar to what the Spanish encountered in South America. This makes the settings in the book really relatable and not something that is completely abstract and hard to imagine. However, you can also view this tactic as a form of laziness on Mead’s behalf. I also really enjoyed the romance between Adelaide and Cedric. It seemed genuine and was born slowly and steadily from friendship and attraction, rather than just a case of first-glance instant love that so many young adult books are guilty of. This makes the affection between the two seem so much more realistic and candid. One thing I didn’t like about the novel, however, was how shallow it seemed at times. Adelaide, for all her courage and stubbornness, just seemed completely and utterly useless at times which really frustrated me. Also, some of the characters only seemed to be concerned with what colour dress they got to wear and who was the headmistress’ favourite. It seemed to me that this was just a pointless way to eat through pages and could have been better used by exploring some deeper thematic issues. The book is great for fans of The Selection series by Kiera Cass, and is full of dresses, balls, and romances. All in all, a rather light and enjoyable read – a good book to take with you on your next holiday.
The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle BY Rick Riordan $22.99rrp
The Greek god Apollo has had his godly powers stripped and now must survive as a human boy by the name, Lester. If that’s not all, he has to battle evil forces and stop the destruction of the final Oracle. It is up to him and a group of misfit demi-gods to save the camp and help Apollo regain Zeus’ favour for the chance of reclaiming his immortality. Previous readers of Rick Riordan will absolutely love this new series as it alludes and continues on from the events that took place in the previous series, Heroes of Olympus. Not only this but it also creates a new set of unlikely heroes for us to cheer for. With the return of old long-lost heroes and the fall of Apollo, this book is impossible to put down. For those that enjoyed J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, this is a new chance to delve into another world full of magic and wonder. But instead of wizards and witches, there are demi- gods (children of a human and God coupling) and monsters. The world of Camp Half-Blood is full of blood-thirsty teenagers and moody gods, creating the perfect balance of action and humour. I really enjoyed this book, as a huge Rick Riordan fan I had huge expectations for this book and they have been surpassed immensely. Not only is the character of Apollo hilarious, but the quest to regain his immortality is so selfishly perfect that it’s impossible not to cheer for a good result. The battle scenes and desperation of needing to protect the last oracle causes the book to be constantly interesting and fascinating to read. As the pages turn and the book ends you can’t help but question what’s next.
The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon $29.99rrp
AUSSIE ADULT FICTION
Katherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist has just won this year’s Australian Vogel’s Literary Award. After a customer enquiry, I was interested to see what the book was all about. The Memory Artist follows Pasha Ivanov, a child of the freeze, born during Brezhnev’s repressive rule over the Soviet Union. Fast forward many years and Pasha is 24 year-old, now living under Gorbachev, during Glasnost- a time of openness. The novel focuses on several different periods of Pasha’s life, showing us perhaps why he yearns to go on this journey to rediscover and write about the past. I, myself do not know much about Russian history in the 20thcentury, and despite this being a historical fiction, I believe it did aid in my knowledge, whilst still offering an interesting narrative. Brabon writes eloquently and delivers us a haunting reality of what it was like for citizens in this period. Her use of natural imagery makes it easy for the reader to imagine the beautiful landscapes Pasha encounters. The novel offers mystery, encouraging the reader to continue and really engage with the text. Despite being quite heavy at times, The Memory Artist is a book I felt I could read anywhere. It was easy to simple open it up and start back from where I left off. I would recommend this novel not only to our avid historical fiction readers, but also to those who would like to read something poignant and unique.