Category Archives: Fiction

Posts about novels and other fiction titles

The Scariest Books on the Market

October seems a great time to dip into suspenseful or horror fiction – marrying our insatiable appetite for crime thrillers with an increasing enthusiasm for celebrating Halloween. Get your fill of spine-tingling chills with our selection of thrillers:

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Anna Downes follows up her impressive debut with this hard-to-put-down domestic horror. Alex heads to rural NSW with her teenage son and her baby, to escape an abusive relationship back in the city. The ecovillage called Pine Ridge, with an idyllic location and welcoming residents, seems the perfect place for a fresh start. It doesn’t take long for Alex to realise that, in escaping her own shadowy past, she may have stumbled upon someone else’s – and this time, there may be nowhere to run. The Shadow House is a creepy, perplexing thriller that follows two mothers across dual timelines, as the past begins to repeat itself in sinister and increasingly bizarre ways.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Becoming a bestseller is just the beginning for The Last Thing He Told Me – in less than six months, it has become a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, appeared on holiday reading lists by Vogue and CNN (and others), and is now being adapted for Apple TV Plus (with Julia Roberts as star and co-producer).  The Last Thing He Told Me is about Hannah, who’s left alone with an antagonistic stepdaughter when her newly wed husband Owen disappears.  Then an unexplained bag of cash, and the FBI turns up.  To find Owen, and unravel his true identity, Hannah and Bailey will have to team up and learn to trust each other.  Laura Dave has crafted a fast-paced domestic thriller that is also a beautifully-written relationship drama.

The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin

The Dark Remains is Ian Rankin’s labour of love  – he has completed a story started by the late William McIlvanney, whom he regards as his mentor.  This story is a prequel to McIlvanney’s Jack Laidlaw trilogy, widely regarded as the first “Tartan Noir” novels.  The Dark Remains is about Jack Laidlaw’s first case – back when he was younger, a misfit who didn’t make friends easily, but already gaining a reputation for having “a sixth sense for what’s happening on the streets.” Besides the central whodunit around a murdered lawyer, what will delight readers are the evocative descriptions – of autumn in Glasgow in 1972,  a city awash in rain, whisky, vice and blood; and of the stoic Laidlaw in his formative years.  Ian Rankin has continued McIlvanney’s writing style seamlessly in this atmospheric, witty and sharp mystery.

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

An unsolved mystery from the start of her career comes back to haunt, and potentially harm, seasoned journalist Olive Groves.  Dubbed the Housemate Homicide, the case involved three housemates – one dead, one missing, and one accused of murder.  Nine years later, the missing housemate is found dead on a remote property, and Olive (Oli) once again works on the story.  Paired with young podcaster Cooper, Oli unearths facts and secrets about the case that poses danger for her new family and threaten to destroy her present happiness.  Set in Melbourne, The Housemate is a crime procedural that also offers insights into journalistic practices.  Sarah Bailey’s storytelling shows great assurance, with a satisfyingly tense and complex build up until the flurry of revelations at the novel’s climax.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter’s latest book weaves a dark, compelling legal thriller with the complex relationship dramas around siblings and with parents.  Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life after a traumatic and neglected childhood.  However, someone who knows the secrets of her past is threatening to bring it all down.  Leigh’s lastest client as a defence attorney is Andrew Tenant, a rape suspect in a high-profile case.  Leigh quickly realises that she was chosen by Andrew because he recognises her – and knows secrets that she has been hiding for 23 years, about a brutal crime involving her and her estranged sister, Callie.  How will Leigh avoid Andrew’s threats without compromising her case, whilst not exposing the secrets that will destroy her hard-won happiness?  False Witness is a gripping read that doesn’t shy away from tough topics, and excels at portraying family love and loyalty. This standalone thriller is a treat for current fans, and a great entry point for readers new to Karin Slaughter’s books.

My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

My Best Friend’s Murder is an addictive psychological thriller about a toxic, multilayered friendship between two women – a “frenemy” dynamic that will be recognisable, perhaps even relatable for readers. Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives, having been together through the many ups and downs of their teen and adult years – nonetheless, a persistent dark undercurrent has finally overwhelmed their relationship.  The book opens with Bec discovering a critically injured Izzy at the bottom of some stairs; we then learn more about their relationship through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards.  The tension builds as we explore the whydunit rather than the whodunit.  In this award-winning debut, Polly Phillips has created a pair of unlovely-but-memorable characters, and  has written about the complicated nature of close friendships with insightful perception.

The newest fiction hitting the market

While in lockdown many of us took up new hobbies, such as bread making, knitting, puzzle building, yoga with Adrienne, or podcasting, some of the clever clogs around the world wrote new books – and gosh are we thankful for that! There are so many new books hitting the market that we know you are going to love. This week we’re sharing new fiction titles and have chosen six that are highly likely to make your Christmas wishlist (is it too early to mention Christmas?). So sit back, and get ready to get clicking to let everyone know whether you want an audio, electronic or actual paper version. 

Cracked Pots by Heather Tucker

Cracked Pots s the much-anticipated follow-up novel from the author of The Clay Girl. The perfect girl, from the nicest family, vanishes. For once in Ari Appleton’s life, the mayhem is not the fault of her twisted mother or dead father – or is it? The tragedy unfolds, revelations surface, then one misstep cracks everything open, leaving 16-year-old Ari with terrifying questions. Are Appletons the root of all evil? From the waning flower-power ’60s in Toronto, through her East Coast university years, Ari fights to discover who she is and what it means to be the child of an addicted mother and depraved father. With wit, tenacity, and the incessant meddling of Jasper the seahorse in her head Ari rides turbulent waves of devilry and discovery, calamity and creation, abandonment and atonement on a journey to find her true self, and to find Natasha.

Cracked Pots is a story about a girl broken by both cruelty and truth. It is a revelation: that destiny is shaped in clay, not stone. It is also a celebration of rising after the blows, gathering the fragments, and piecing together a remarkable life through creativity, kindness, and belonging.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young-but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world? You can find Sally Rooney’s other books here.

Freckles by Cecelia Ahern

Freckles is the brand new novel from million-copy bestselling author Cecelia Ahern. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city. But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections. Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin. Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.

After Story by Larissa Behrendt

When Indigenous lawyer Jasmine decides to take her mother Della on a tour of England’s most revered literary sites, Jasmine hopes it will bring them closer together and help them reconcile the past. Twenty-five years earlier the disappearance of Jasmine’s older sister devastated their tight-knit community. This tragedy returns to haunt Jasmine and Della when another child mysteriously goes missing on Hampstead Heath. As Jasmine immerses herself in the world of her literary idols – including Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Virginia Woolf – Della is inspired to rediscover the wisdom of her own culture and storytelling. But sometimes the stories that are not told can become too great to bear.

Ambitious and engrossing, After Story celebrates the extraordinary power of words and the quiet spaces between. We can be ready to listen, but are we ready to hear?

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

The Paper Palace is a magnificent literary debut about the myriad loves that make up a life. Before anyone else is awake, on a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the glorious fresh water pond below The Paper Palace, the gently decaying summer camp in the back woods of Cape Cod where her family has spent every summer for generations. As she passes the house, Elle glances through the screen porch at the uncleared table from a dinner party the previous evening; empty wine glasses, candle wax on the table cloth, echoes of laughter of family and friends. Then she dives beneath the surface of the freezing water to the shocking memory of the sudden passionate encounter she had the night before, up against the wall outside the house, as her husband and mother chatted to the dinner guests inside. So begins a story that unfolds over 24 hours and across 50 years, as decades of family legacies, love, lies, secrets, and one unspeakable incident in her childhood lead Elle to the precipice of a life-changing decision. Over the next 24 hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her much-loved husband, Peter, and the life she imagined would be hers with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.

Plum by Brendan Cowell

Plum is the wildly impressive, raucously funny and deeply moving second novel from award-winning writer, actor and director for television, theatre and film, Brendan Cowell. Peter ‘The Plum’ Lum is a 48-year-old ex-star NRL player, living with his son and girlfriend in Cronulla. He’s living a pretty cruisey life until one day he suffers an epileptic fit and discovers that he has a brain disorder as a result of the thousand-odd head knocks he took on the footy field in his twenty-year-career. According to his neurologist, Plum has to make some changes, right now, or it’s dementia, or even death. Reluctantly, Plum embarks on a journey of self-care and self-discovery, which is not so easy when all you’ve ever known is to go full tilt at everything. On top of this, he’s being haunted by dead poets, and, unable to stop crying, discovers he has a special gift for the spoken word. With spectral visits from Bukowski and Plath, the friendship of local misfits, and the prospect of new love, Plum might just save his own life. Plum is a powerfully moving, authentic, big-hearted, angry and joyous novel of men, their inarticulate pain and what it takes for them to save themselves – from themselves. It’s got a roaring energy, a raucous humour, a heart of gold and a poetic soul.

Enjoy!

The Booko Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is fast approaching – and, for those of us who cannot celebrate with our father-figures in person, what better way to show our appreciation than through a well-chosen book? Easy to buy and send for the giver, and hours of enjoyment for the receiver! Here are some Booko favourites for Father’s Day gifting:

Blessed: The Breakout Year of Rampaging Roy Slaven by John Doyle

It seems entirely appropriate that the launch of Rampaging Roy Slaven’s memoirs coincides with this year’s Olympic Games – after all, Roy and his partner HG Nelson are two of Australia’s best Olympics commentators. Blessed is the coming-of-age story of this Australian icon, raconteur, and athlete of “unsurpassable sporting feats” – a record of Roy’s “breakout” year as a 15 year-old in Lithgow, rural NSW in 1967. Blessed is a tender and insightful depiction of a community on the cusp of great change -it handles some difficult issues with a light but respectful touch. With additional tantalising hints of the life of John Doyle, the fictional Roy’s creator, this intriguing fictional memoir is a must-read.

We Were Not Men by Campbell Mattinson

Looking for a big, emotional story after finishing Boy Swallows Universe or Bridge of Clay? We Were Not Men may just do the trick (praised by Trent Dalton himself as “gut-punching” and “soul-restoring” ). We Were Not Men is a powerful, moving and ultimately uplifting story of twin brothers, Jon and Eden, and their grandmother Bobbie. Thrown together as the remnants of a family fractured by a shocking accident, we see the effort and bravery it takes to heal from unspeakable tragedy, and we also see the ebb and flow of the twins’ bond as they grow up, compete against each other, leave each other behind and catch up with each other again. Campbell Mattinson’s debut novel has been 30 years in the making – and is absolutely worth the wait.

Take One Fish: the New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland

Josh Niland is so respected that his masterclasses pack out concert halls. He is particularly known for “Scale-to-Tail” eating and cooking, adapting this sustainable and respectful approach from meat cookery. Take One Fish offers recipes for 15 global species of fish – from cheap and accessible sardines and herrings, to luxe coral trout and groper. These recipes utilise as much as 90% of each fish (nearly double of regular recipes) through innovative cutting and cooking techniques. Look out for his surprising and perfect recipes of fish versions of classic dishes, including Peking coral trout, swordfish schnitzel and John Dory liver terrine – terrific inspiration, especially for Foodies and pescatarians!

Halliday Wine Companion 2022 by James Halliday

Every year, the wine industry awaits the latest edition of the Halliday Wine Companion as eagerly as wine lovers. This bestseller is widely recognised as the go-to guide to Australian wine, with comprehensive reviews by a trusted team of critics. There’s information on wine ratings, alcohol content, best by drinking, regions, winery reviews and varietals, and it also highlights the best of the year’s output with its prestigious awards for wines, winemakers as well as for wineries. Halliday Wine Companion has all you need to know about wine buying and collecting, plus it makes a great guidebook for wine tourism!

Tales From The Perilous Realm by J. R. R. Tolkien

For father-figures who love fantasy, here is a beautifully-illustrated volume that collects Tolkien’s five novellas for the first time. Tales From the Perilous Realm contains Farmer Giles of Ham, Roverandom, The Tale of Tom Bombadil, Leaf by Niggle, and Smith of Wootton Major – these are Tolkien’s take on fairy tales, and they are as full of magic, adventure and charm as his longer works. Their shorter lengths also make them great read-alouds! The delicate and detailed illustrations are by Alan Lee, who has a deep connection to Tolkien’s worlds through previously illustrating editions of The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, as well as working on concept art for both film series.

How We Became Human: and Why We Need to Change by Tim Dean

Philosopher and journalist Tim Dean tries to make sense of our current social flashpoints – including racism, sexism, religious conflict and partisan politics – in his first book, How We Became Human. Tim suggests that, over thousands of years, humans have developed morality, and associated “moral emotions” (such as empathy, guilt and outrage), to differentiate between friend and foe. These are powerful tools that have helped humans co-exist in ever-larger, more productive societies. However, our morals have fallen out of step with our increasingly diverse world; so we will need to separate what’s natural from what’s right, in order to reframe morality for the modern world. How to Be Human is a compelling read for those who love to ponder life’s big questions.

Six of the newest contemporary fiction titles on the market now

Contemporary fiction has been growing in popularity and the number of titles hitting the market is skyrocketing. It is a genre that typically has reality-based stories with strong characters and a believable storyline. We have loved researching this genre and while staying safe at home we have had the chance to read a little more than usual. Here are our top six picks of the newest contemporary fiction books that are on the market now.

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley

How can you write other people’s stories, when you won’t admit the truth of your own? An absorbing, moving, ruefully tender, witty and wise novel of marriage, motherhood and the paths we navigate through both, for fans of Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler. Journalist and single mother Suzy Hamilton gets a phone call one summer morning, and finds out that the subject of one of her investigative exposes, 25-year-old wellness blogger Tracey Doran, has killed herself overnight. Suzy is horrified by this news but copes in the only way she knows how: through work, mothering, and carrying on with her ill-advised, tandem affairs. The consequences of her actions catch up with Suzy over the course of a sticky Sydney summer. She starts receiving anonymous vindictive letters and is pursued by Tracey’s mother wanting her, as a kind of rough justice, to tell Tracey’s story, but this time, the right way. A tender, absorbing, intelligent and moving exploration of guilt, shame, female anger, and, in particular, mothering, with all its trouble and treasure, The Truth About Her is mostly though a story about the nature of stories, who owns them, who gets to tell them, and why we need them. This is an entirely striking, stylish and contemporary novel.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect? Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

Jena Chung plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and is now addicted to sex. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing family demands, those of her creative friends, and lots of sex. Jena is selfish, impulsive and often behaves badly, though mostly only to her own detriment. And then she meets Mark, much older and worldly-wise, who bewitches her. Could this be love? When Jena wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected, New York changes irrevocably and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? With echoes of Frances Ha, Jena’s favourite film, truths are gradually revealed to her. Jena comes to learn that there are many different ways to live and love and that no one has the how-to guide for any of it, not even her indomitable mother. A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing unflinchingly explores the confusion of having expectations upturned, and the awkwardness and pain of being human in our increasingly dislocated world, and how, in spite of all this, we still try to become the person we want to be. It is a dazzling, original and astounding debut from a young writer with a fierce, intelligent and fearless new voice.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

32-year-old Nina Dean is a successful food writer with a loyal online following, but a life that is falling apart. When she uses dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad is vanishing in slow motion into dementia, and she’s starting to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. On top of this she has to deal with her mother’s desire for a mid-life makeover and the fact that all her friends seem to be slipping away from her . . . Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships and the way we live today.

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung

One hundred days. It’s no time at all, she tells me. But she’s not the one waiting. In a heady whirlwind of independence, lust and defiance, sixteen-year-old Karuna falls pregnant. Not on purpose, but not entirely by accident, either. Incensed, Karuna’s mother, already over-protective, confines her to their fourteenth-storey housing-commission flat, to keep her safe from the outside world, and make sure she can’t get into any more trouble. Stuck inside for endless hours, Karuna battles her mother and herself for a sense of power in her own life, as a new life forms and grows within her. As the due date draws ever closer, the question of who will get to raise the baby, who it will call Mum, festers between them. One Hundred Days is a fractured fairytale exploring the fault lines between love and control. At times tense and claustrophobic, it is nevertheless brimming with humour, warmth and character. It is a magnificent new work from one of Australia’s most celebrated writers.

The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison by Meredith Jaffe

Can a wedding dress save a bunch of hardened criminals? The Full Monty meets Orange is the New Black in a poignantly comic story about a men’s prison sewing circle. Derek’s daughter Debbie is getting married. He’s desperate to be there, but he’s banged up in Yarrandarrah Correctional Centre for embezzling funds from the golf club, and, thanks to his ex-wife, Lorraine, he hasn’t spoken to Debbie in years. He wants to make a grand gesture, to show her how much he loves her. But what? Inspiration strikes while he’s embroidering a cushion at his weekly prison sewing circle, he’ll make her a wedding dress. His fellow stitchers rally around and soon this motley gang of criminals is immersed in a joyous whirl of silks, satins and covered buttons. But as time runs out and tensions rise both inside and outside the prison, the wedding dress project takes on greater significance. With lives at stake, Derek feels his chance to reconcile with Debbie is slipping through his fingers. This is a funny, dark and moving novel about finding humanity, friendship and redemption in unexpected places.

Enjoy!

Our Six Favourite Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are long-form stories told mainly through drawings. They are now recognised as an important medium for storytelling, both for fiction and non-fiction, for adults as well as for children. Parents and educators are also discovering their benefits in encouraging reading and developing literacy. You can find graphic novels in a huge range of art styles and subject matter – and the diversity is growing daily! Dive into this format through these recent bestsellers:

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
It all starts here – reading Raina Telgemeier is practically a rite of passage for tweens and early teens. Whether it’s her own stories, or her adaptation of the iconic Babysitter Club series, readers just can’t get enough of her observant and empathic stories of the drama and tensions of growing up. Smile is her memoir, starting in her Sixth Grade, when she had a string of dental procedures – including braces – after a painful accident. Add in fickle friends, first crushes, and finding her own identity, and you get a heartfelt rite-of-passage story reminiscent of Judy Blume.

The Sad Ghost Club by by Lize Meddings
The Sad Ghost Club is centred around mental health, and is a great conversation-starter with tweens, while still providing a rich, reflective experience for teens and adults. It is about SG (Sad Ghost), who struggles with anxiety about school and feelings of loneliness. SG agonises over whether to go to a party, feeling nervous about not fitting in. After an awkward start to the party, SG meets Socks, and together they form the Sad Ghost Club, a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong. The Sad Ghost Club is a sweet, quietly optimistic story with a fresh and on-point analogy for depression, and presenting totally relatable situations.

Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
Alice Oseman is both an accomplished novelist and artist – their popular Heartstopper series focuses on Nick and Charlie, characters from their first novel Solitaire. This adorable LGBT+ webcomic is now available in book form! Heartstopper volume 1 sees the beginning of Nick and Charlie’s blossoming romance, from their meeting in their newly-organised “vertical classroom”, to their first kiss. Heartstopper is upbeat, but does not shy away from depicting the difficulties of being queer teens, and is lauded for being relatable and a realistic portrayal of contemporary teenage life.

Future Girl by Asphyxia
The first thing you will notice about Future Girl is that it is a beautiful object – textured cover, heavy paper, packed with colourful art. This art/prose hybrid is not strictly a graphic novel, but deserves attention for its striking format and subject matter. Future Girl is set in a dystopian, near-future Melbourne whose heroine, Piper, is based on the author’s own experience. Piper is a deaf girl who relies on hearing aids and speech for communication. When an environmental catastrophe strikes, she defies the authorities by learning to grow her own food – through which she is introduced to sign language, and a Deaf community who does not view its differences as deficits. Future Girl is an an enthralling and heartfelt coming-of-age story from Deaf artist/writer/activist Asphyxia.

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei and Justin Eisinger
The graphic novel format has been used as an eloquent tool for exploring, and inviting understanding of, social causes. They Call Us Enemy is one such award-winning example – it describes how a young George Takei – now beloved Star Trek actor and activist – and his family were incarcerated in a World War 2 camp for Japanese Americans. Their personal experiences fighting for safety and survival are juxtaposed upon descriptions of the social-political controversy surrounding this unjust practice. They Call Us Enemy is an emotional story that will resonate across many age groups, and offers powerful reflections upon the current issues of hate speech, institutional racism and racial profiling.

The Mental Load: a Feminist Comic by Emma
Not everyone can coin a powerful term that sparks a global discussion – French comic artist Emma did just that, when she drew an essay about women’s “Mental Load”, the invisible labour and unpaid organising that we do for others, an issue that disproportionately impacts women.  This piece now headlines this collection of graphic essays on everyday feminist issues – sexism in the workplace, objectification, motherhood, women’s health. The topics and examples are instantly recognisable. Follow up with its recently-released companion volume, The Emotional Load.

Our Six Favourite Fantasy Novels

For some readers, fantasy means pure escapism – getting away from the stresses, constraints and issues of the everyday.  For others, the opposite can apply – fantastical settings allow us to examine and explore everyday issues with extra clarity.  Immerse yourself in the intricate and richly diverse genre of fantasy, and let your imagination soar – here are a few recent favourites to get you started.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Get two fantasy greats for the price of one with Good Omens, which is having a revival thanks to a celebrated TV adaptation (quality assured by Neil Gaiman’s role as showrunner).  Good Omens is a story about the Apocalypse – which happens to be coming sooner than what Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon) would like.  Aziraphale and Crowley have been representing their respective sides on Earth for 6000 years, and have come to enjoy each other’s company (and their lives on Earth).  Unhappy with the thought of their cozy lives being upended, Crawley and Aziraphale team up to avert the Apocalypse.  Good Omens is a mix of urban fantasy, absurdist humour and political/workplace satire that is as gleeful and relevant today as ever.

The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

You may have met Geralt of Rivia through the Netflix series or through the popular video games – both have been lovingly created from the writings of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Discover why Witcher fans are so passionate about this world, with this short story collection that introduces the Continent, its witchers (superhuman monster hunters), monsters, epic sword fights, and magic. Once you know the background, head to The Blood of Elves, the first full-length novel of the series, which is about Geralt and Princess Ciri, whose fates are bound together.

The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell

The End of the World is Bigger than Love came out last year, where its dreamy, post-apocalypse setting resonated eerily with the silence of lockdown.  Identical twin sisters, Summer and Winter, live alone on an island, trying to survive the aftermath of a monumental environmental disaster. Soon we discover these twin narrators to be unreliable – how, then, do we interpret what’s happening? Reviews (and the string of awards and nominations) have been universally positive. The End of the World is Better than Love is category-defying and unforgettable – it is complex, ambiguous, sometimes confusing, and always rich in language and emotions – a book that invites repeat reading.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So. Much. Fun.  Carry On started as a spin-off of Rainbow Rowell’s previous success, Fangirl, but this funny, exuberant and romantic story has gained a life of its own, growing into an action-packed trilogy. Carry On is about Simon Snow, a teen wizard at a magical boarding school, who is known to be the Chosen One, but still struggling to learn to control and understand his powers. Sounds familiar?  While Rainbow Rowell states that Carry On is informed by a number of “Chosen One” stories, it has invited passionate debates  about its relationship to the Harry Potter universe.  I am really looking forward to the third and final book, Any Way the Wind Blows, due for release next month.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller, author of Circe and Song of Achilles, has actively contributed to our current interest in the Greek classics.  (Also check out recent retellings by Stephen Fry , Pat Barker and Natalie Haynes.) Circe is a witch-goddess from Greek Mythology, best known to readers through Homer’s Odyssey, where she encounters Odysseus during his long voyage.  Here she narrates her life, reinterpreting a number of myths from her perspective.  Madeline Miller has fleshed out Circe satisfyingly – with a heart, an independent mind and a sharp tongue.  This feminist retelling reclaims Circe from her traditional portrayal as a wicked witch, and reimagines her as a woman doing her best to overcome the odds.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is a hidden gem of an author.  In 30+ years of writing, he has spun tales that are intriguing, immersive and often gutwrenching, creating fantasy worlds based on the histories of ancient China, Arthurian legends, the Byzantine Empire,  the Moors, and Mediaeval Europe.  A Brightness Long Ago is an epic story of war, destiny, ambition and love, set in a world inspired by Renaissance Italy.  Through the reminiscences of Danio, an old and powerful man who rose above his humble origins, we see how chance encounters, and the seemingly unimportant lives and actions of ordinary people, can nonetheless impact upon major historical events.  The intricate weaving and interconnectedness of the large cast is pure Guy Gavriel Kay; it also offers a poetic meditation on fate, choice and the power of memory.