Staff Picks – September 2015



All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr $19.99rrp 

Prior to its release last year my publisher rep gave me a copy of this and said I would loved it, for some strange reason I never got around to it – and then it won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction and was recently the book of choice for our Early Birds bookclub who all loved it. Finally with the release of the smaller, cheaper edition last month I got around to reading this and thought – why did I wait so long? Perhaps it was because I have read so much WWII fiction I thought could I handle another one, could it be different – well indeeed this beautifully evocative book is different. The common new trend of multiple points of view are shared in this story by 6yo French blind girl Marie-Laure and 8yo German orphan boy Werner who we see age over the course of 10 years from 1934 to 1944 in alternate chapters. Their lives will cross but not before Marie-Laure has moved from Paris to a small town for safety and Werner has joined the Hitler Youth. But what really appeals is the everyday glimpses into the ordinariness of their lives and how it is changed by war – Werner fixing radios in the orphanage and his relationship with his younger sister Jutta, Marie-Laure trying to navigate the streets using a city model built by her locksmith father to guide her as well as her introduction to classics by reading Braille . So many gorgeous quotes, so many profound moments and yes like all war stories it will not all end happily – alas it never can but how we get there is what makes it heartbreaking. The emphasis on the importance of family, the importance of the radio, the impact of war as well as the inclusion of fable stories about the Sea of Flames (precious cursed diamond) add a magical twist to this coming of age story that is moving, philosophical, and enthralling. Yes it’s a big book with multiple characters and time shifts, and yes another book on WWII but one that definitely deserves to be added to your “to read” pile.


300 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath $9.99rrp

What I loved about this book is that it was like 10 books in one-  short stories all packing a punch right from the start. In each story we are shown a character in strife who has 30 minutes to escape. There is a bunch of different scenarios such as a boarding school, space race, radiation fallout, inferno, and a runaway train that are full of action and daring. Kids 9-13yo, especially reluctant readers will be attracted to the sharp, visual writing, short sentences, non stop action and seeing kids in the lead role using their wits and taking risks in order to survive. Only thing that disappointed me was that I wanted more – I reckon any of these stories would be perfect for a full blown kids novel on their own – hopefully Jack Heath gets the hint and develops this into a full blown series because the open endings of some really left me hanging!


Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover  $29.99RRP

I suspect that Richard Glover’s parents may have provided him with enough tales to create multiple volumes of absurd memoir. Flesh Wounds is just the tip of the iceberg. A polished concoction, Flesh Wounds traces Glover’s sometimes lonely childhood and beyond while slowly unraveling secrets long held by his parents, and my god, are they a couple of odd ones! But this isn’t a pity party, Flesh Wounds is full of hope – and full of laughter. In some ways this book is like an extreme episode of Who Do You Think You Are, complete with comic skits littered throughout. My mood went up and down with Richard’s story, and I was enthralled as he hunted down the truth. As a broadcaster and a writer Richard Glover certainly knows how to connect with the audience and tell a really good story, and Flesh Wounds is his story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a fantastic read, the kind of read that you sneak off to keep reading, when you know you have other things to do



Cloudwish by Fiona Wood $19.99RRP

In her third novel Cloudwish, Fiona Wood introduces the reader to Van Uoc Phan, who loses a glass vial with the word ‘wish’ trapped inside, a prompt her creative-writing teacher gave her class to write about. Her teacher guarantees that Van Uoc will find it, but she remains distracted over the vial’s disappearance, especially when she has a liking for Billy, a boy who wouldn’t be into a Vietnamese-Australian girl like herself. Her Bronte obsession forces her to ask herself what Jane Eyre would do in particular situations. Then somehow she captures Billy’s attention, and the two hurdle their school and home environments to find themselves and each other.

Cloudwish is not only a sweet, heart-melting Romeo and Juliet-styled romance set in Melbourne, but it is a book that uses identity as a theme to reflect on political issues pervasive in Australian culture, for example, immigrants and ‘boat people’. Giving Van Uoc a family of the immigrant nature adds another layer to the story – the pressures Van Uoc must deal with to do the best that she can do in her studies and be the best that she can be because of the sacrifices and choices her parents made for a better life. Cloudwish also touches on the effects emigration has on someone’s health, with Van Uoc tending to her mother’s needs as her health declines. Van Uoc is an extremely relatable and likable narrator – one of those quiet, keep-out-of-the-way types of students at school. It makes it all the more interesting when Billy takes an interest in her – magic or not, Van Uoc’s change over the course of the novel is captivating, the voice written with a respectful insight. Wood has written another beautiful novel to stand alongside Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. The three are linked, but ultimately present three individual stories about Australian teen/young adult experiences in a genuine, delightful and relatable manner. Fans of Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi will see similarities but will also find a new favourite. #LoveOzYA


Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman 

Teenage Game of Thrones fans rejoice! Legacy of Kings is the first book in a new Young Adult series by historian Eleanor Herman which is guaranteed to satisfy your cravings for a high fantasy novel. Filled with countless characters, political intrigue, action, and history, Legacy of Kings follows a teenage Alexander the Great who is about to inherit the Macedonian throne.
Since I’m currently studying history and ancient history at university, and recently completed a unit on Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World, I jumped at the chance to sink my teeth into this book. Since Herman is a historian and has written non-fiction history books, she really knows what she’s talking about with regards to the historical setting. So it was pretty cool reading a historical-fiction book knowing that the setting details were accurate. However, this book isn’t all just boring historical fact, it also has a generous side of fantasy and magic, as well a number of supernatural beings such as oracles and hellions.
One thing worth mentioning is that this book contains multiple protagonists and, hence, multiple points of view (six all up). Therefore, it can be quite difficult keeping track of everyone. Each chapter features a different protagonist and sometimes it’s five or six chapters before you return to that character, so it took a while for me to remember what had happened to the character in previous chapters. With that being said however, all of the characters were significant, cunning, and completely dynamic, as well as being morally grey, which definitely kept things entertaining!
This is a great read with a fascinating combination of real history mixed with magic, mystery and intrigue!

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