Staff Picks – November 2016

November 2016


An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney $29.99rrp (HarperCollins)

This photo shows me reading the perfect book and with best reading buddies for wintery weekend or lazy sunny days when they eventually arrive! Wray Delaney’s first adult novel, An Almond for a Parrot is set in early 1700s England, where we meet orphan Tully Truegood as our narrator in the gallows waiting trial and death for murder. We then go back in time as she tells us her extraordinary life tale and we soon realise she is someone to cheer for and be fascinated by! Her father is a horrible neglectful man, who gambles and drinks instead of raising his daughter properly now she is motherless. Under the care of Cook we learn how Tully has the ability to see and make others see ghosts, and is eventually saved from a life of uneducated drudgery by a new stepmother and her two daughters. However, twists abound and soon after her new stepmum leaves, she finds herself cast out with no-one to go except The Fairy house, an upmarket brothel run by no less than her stepmother. Thus begins a new life, but certainly under her own terms and independence, as a whore and spirit seer. Gutsy, sexy and with some hilarious vegetable names for sexual organs, we hear her remarkable story from naivete to whore to accused murderer. It is a very visual, and at time witty book – never shying away from the harsh realities women had to live within at that time. It is full of eccentric characters and events such as her new adopted family, Mr Crease the magician and his little dead dog as well as a host of others. The mystery is built well as we learn more about who would Tully want to kill, why and will she be hanged. This is Dickens meets Moll Flanders meets Signature of all Things.


Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly $42.99rrp (Pan Macmillan)

Jack West Jnr returns in the new Matt Reilly blockbuster, Four Legendary Kingdoms. It opens with Jack and his daughter living in seclusion before being asked to go on a mysterious quest and then finds himself kidnapped and attacked by a masked assailant in an unknown cell. Before too long Jack realises he has been chosen with a dozen other elite soldiers to compete in a series of deadly challenges designed to fulfill an ancient ritual. An ancient ritual that will have ties to Greek mythology. With the fate of the Earth at stake, he will have to fight cruel assassins that will test him like he has never been tested before. But this may be at the expense of his family.
The cool thing about this novel is that all Reilly’s previous books have been leading to this adventure – the artefacts, the escapades, the puzzles etc and will make you realise how everything has been cleverly intertwined. Every year, Reilly reminds me why I enjoy his books so much – each scene flows well is adrenaline packed, has great visual detail without being overly descriptive, quick one liner humour, and Jack is a character I feel I get to know more and more each time – a different sort of action hero.
This is my best read so far this year – for both story fulfillment and flow. I’m always sad when they end, but best news is this is the first in a four book series!


The Nix by Nathan Hill $32.99rrp (Pan Macmillan)
Adult Fiction

Nathan Hill’s debut may be 600 pages, but it is most definitely worth your time.
It follows Samuel Andreson-Anderson, a literature college professor struggling to follow the success of his first published novel years before. To have some semblance of control in his life, he plays an online multiplayer game a la World of Warcraft. His publisher threatens to terminate the contract if he doesn’t deliver a manuscript soon, and when his mother Faye resurfaces in his life following a conviction (she had thrown gravel at a governor at a rally in Chicago), Samuel’s publisher comes to him with the plan for him to complete a tell-all memoir about her, the ‘Packer Attacker’. Herein Samuel confronts his mother, to uncover why she abandoned him without a goodbye when he was a child, in an attempt to save his writing career. But like all great books, expansive and deep, Samuel and Faye go on an unexpected journey into the past, revisiting the ghosts they’ve tried to forget, both getting more than they bargained for in the process.
At times I thought some chapters, characters and perspectives could have been culled in the editing process, but when everything came together in the end and my jaw dropped at the brilliance of Hill’s narrative and skill in tying all the elements together, I couldn’t fault anything. The Nix reads almost like many novellas bound together, traversing time, place and character to unearth the secrets and pasts of Samuel and Faye in an otherworldly, almost ethereal perspective. I was engaged with the story from the very beginning, at times needing to reread when revelations were revealed.
The Nix is about empathy and reflection, family and forgiveness, history and the power of memory. If you’ve read and enjoyed Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch I recommend delving into Hill’s novel and going along for the ride.


The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon $19.99rrp (Random House) Special release 14th November
Teen Fiction

I’ve struggled a bit recently to find a YA novel or series that I was truly interested in. However Nicola Yoon’s novel offered me a unique story, one that differed to the classic YA drama or post apocalyptic action narrative. It illustrates the struggles and challenges faced by two ordinary, young people. Natasha is hours away from getting deported back to Jamaica, after the state is made aware of her family’s illegal residency. Daniel is hours away from his first interview with Yale, despite his dream of being a poet. Whether it is a matter of fate or just pure luck, these two characters collide and leave us with one very moving story. Interchanging between different characters (Mainly Daniel and Natasha) and sometimes topics, this novel grabbed me from the very start.
This novel is more than just a love story. One of the greatest things about this book is the diversity of the characters. Natasha is Jamaican and Daniel is Korean American. Both these characters offer us an insight not only into American culture, but also their other home cultures.  I especially loved the scene where Daniel takes Natasha to norebang. Although the novel only spans over one day (excluding the epilogue), we are offered so much in each scene. It was a nice, easy read- perfect for the summer holidays! This will definitely go down as one of my favourite books this year.


Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake $16.99rrp (Pan Macmillan)
Teen Fantasy

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is being added into my top five books of all time. It is a dark story revolving around the lives of the three potential queens of the Island of Fennbirn, and their build up to the day where they have to kill their sisters in order to become the sole surviving queen. At the ripe age of 16, these queens have come to know their gifts and are ready to end the lives of their estranged siblings.
Reading the summary of this book I was immediately hooked, I could tell that this was going to be a book that would be impossible to put down. And I was right. A mix between “Red Queen” and “Throne of Glass” with a touch of “Hunger Games”, this series is definitely a YA one to look out for.
Poisoners rule the island with the black council, and it is up to poisoner queen Katherine to carry on this tradition of poisoner rule. Elementalist Mirabella is believed to be the most powerful queen that has been seen in a while, the queen that has the support of the temple and is believed to be the shoe-in winner. In contrast, naturalist queen, Arisnoe, is no longer viewed as competition due to both her naturalist standing as well her rumoured ghastly appearance.
But everything isn’t as it seems, with apparently giftless queens and possible murderous love-interests, this novel takes on so many twists and turns that you become entrapped in the world within.
It is impossible to explain just how fantastic and thrilling this book is to read, soon you will be cheering on your favourite queen, immersed in the world that is born out of the traditions of murdering one’s own sister. I can’t help but feel jealous that these characters get to experience such an amazing world and I don’t. Kendare Blake has created a world that has so many levels and characters of such complexity that it is difficult to remember that it’s a world of fantasy rather than real life. A thrilling beginning to a series that I have no doubt will be a huge phenomenon. 10/10


The Three Miss Allens by Victoria Purman $29.99rrp (Harlequin)

For those missing Kate Morton, dip into The Three Miss Allens by Aussie debut author Victoria Purman. When Roma packs up all her things and moves to the Australian town of Remarkable Bay, her brother Leo thinks she’s finally gone mad from grief. Soon, her uninvited distant cousin Addy arrives, and together they attempt to patch their broken friendship in much the same way they try to repair the run down guesthouse.  When they discover an old guestbook, the women are shocked to find that their great grandmothers stayed at Bayview in the thirties, and are even more confused by the appearance of a third sister Clara, who has never been mentioned.
Running parallel to the story of Roma is that of her great grandmother Ruby Allen and her sisters Adeline and Clara who are on the cusp of adulthood and know this will be their last summer holiday all together.  When Ruby Allen and Cain Stapleton meet in Remarkable Bay in 1934, it seems that their romance is doomed, and as she discovers a terrible family secret, she becomes even more torn between love and family duty. Soon it begins to seem that the choice of Remarkable Bay wasn’t really a coincidence at all, but a twist of fate that has allowed the misgivings of the past to be redeemed in the present. With more opportunities for women, and without the limitations that were placed on their ancestors, Roma and Addy begin to gain their independence and sense of self in this sleepy beachside town.
This story really highlights the importance of sisterhood, of letting go of the past and the necessity of taking chances. The novel is filled with strong women who overcome the troubles in their past and take risks to create new lives filled with love, family and friendship. Ultimately, the message that I took away from this novel was that of freedom and courage. The freedom to make choices that put yourself first and the courage to open yourself up to new possibilities.  Weaving past and present, Purman perfectly captures the Australian beach side town and the optimism that comes with a sea change.


When the Lyrebird Calls by Kim Kane $16.99rrp (Allen and Unwin)

‘When The Lyrebird Calls’ follows the story of spunky, sporty heroine Madeleine, who goes to stay with her kooky grandmother  – only to be pulled back in time to the start of the twentieth century. Set in the Victorian countryside, Madeleine meets the Williamson sisters: baby Imogen, tomboy Charlie, glamorous Bea, and the odd one out, Gert, who is often forgotten by the rest of the family. Madeleine must learn to get along with the sisters, all the while discovering family secrets and avoiding giving away her identity as a girl from the future. And that’s not to mention trying to figure out how to get back to the twenty-first century!
One of my favourite things about reading this was how wonderfully Australian it was – Madeleine is always wanting to check the cricket score, sand is compared to Barbecue Shape crumbs, and Melbournian trams get a look-in too.
Another lovely thing about this book is that while it celebrates Australian history – the Federation of Australia acts as a backdrop – it also doesn’t shy away from the struggles faced by both women and Indigenous people during this period. It could be a really great introduction to the suffragist movement in an Australian context, as Kane incorporates the historic elements with a cast of quirky characters in a skillful, entertaining manner. I know I learnt some new things from this book!
This would be perfect for fans of Belinda Murrell and for strong readers 11+ who want a book that’s a step-up from the Our Australian Girl series, or who enjoy anything to do with time-travel. It has also been compared to Playing Beatie Bow, an Australian classic, so it could appeal to those fans as well.

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