Category Archives: Fiction

Posts about novels and other fiction titles

Re-engaging with the classics

Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image.  If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how.  Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare

Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference.   These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years.  It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles.  The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman.  Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through.  For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.

Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams

The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept.  The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre  (counting), Jungle Book  (animals) and many more.

 

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.  It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin.   Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once.  If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism.  This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins.  Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.

 

Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus.   To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers.  In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go.  Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways.  For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.

 

 

Hamlet by John Marsden

The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine.  The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose.  While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable.  Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.

The best children’s books you might never have heard of

I love hearing about new or ‘new to me’ children’s books as it’s great to mix-up children’s reading options with some different choices. Sometimes I feel like I know some children’s books off by heart, I have read them so often (like the Mr McGee and some of the Julia Donaldson titles), but I love gifting books that are a bit more unusual. Special books span generations within families, long after the Kmart ‘trend of the moment’ has passed.

Chances are, you may well have heard of some of these titles as they have won a string of awards, but they’re definitely not some of the more well-known children’s books.

I discovered The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg as an adult, studying teaching and absolutely loved it. It’s a picture book containing a series of images by Harris Burdick, a man who mysteriously disappeared. This book is a great resource to start the story-writing process with small children. Many famous authors have written short stories prompted by the stunning black and white images. There is a sinister nature to some of the pictures so best to use with mid-Primary students and above.

When I remember some of the lessons we were taught as kids in schools, I loved collective nouns – in particular, ‘a murder of crows’. I heard about Jennifer Crossin’s beautiful book 101 Collective Nouns just the other day. It’s beautifully illustrated and each page features an image of a different collective noun. This book is lovely to give as a gift and perfect to read aloud with younger readers.

 

 

Love a book that starts a discussion? Try Ask me by Antje Damm. I love this book, the questions and images are thought provoking and it’s quite a precious book to share with children.  Each page features a question such as ‘Can you see animals in the sky?’ or ‘How do you know that you are growing?’. It’s thought provoking and I see it as a great resource to use with the thinkers and dreamers of the world. In a sea of wonderful fiction written for children, this is a great alternative.

If you are searching for engaging titles for Mid-Primary age boys I feel like your options are either a focus on toilet humour (bum jokes) or the Harry Potter series. Of course there are plenty of girls who enjoy these genres, too. I was delighted to discover the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton recently and fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, these books do contain their fair share of toilet humour, too. But it’s more their rambling, conversational style and nonsensical plot lines that kids love. They’re silly and crazy in a Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan style, making them hugely popular and very readable.

The Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen were a recent discovery and feature a strong female protagonist who is an unofficial teenage detective, as well as dealing with the ups and downs of personal relationships.  A character with spunk and heart, the Sammy Keyes books are terrific for readers aged 10-16 as they show the main character struggling to fit in and manage complex feelings, as well as solve mysteries in her new home town.

 

 

If you know of some less well-known titles, we would love to hear from you at Booko!

Emerging authors of 2018 and their page turning novels.

It’s exciting to find a new author…and especially one who has you completely absorbed into their debut novel that you wish never finished…or that they would release another straight away!

We’re excited to share a few emerging authors who are bound to have you hooked from page one.

 

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Okay, so this isn’t a debut novel but we’ve only just become aware of Slimani’s body of work and it’s amazing. Lullaby is a dark psychological thriller that opens with the murder of two young children by their nanny…hooked already right? When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties. The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered.

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This is a spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession where Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit where Gowar explores issues of class, family and women’s role in society.

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

 

Brother by David Chariandy

This is the second novel by Chariandy and if it is anything like his first (which won a whopping 11 awards) it’s expected to be an enthralling book exploring universal themes of love between brothers as well as race, masculinity and the challenges faced by immigrant families.

Brother is the story of two sons of Trinidadian immigrants coming of age amidst the hip-hop scene on the deprived outskirts of Toronto, Canada in the Eighties and Nineties. Weaving past and present, the story explores the relationship between the boys and their mother struggling to make ends meet in their adopted home, the prejudices and low expectations they face each day, and a tragic event that changes their lives irrevocably.

 

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum is the debut novel by Mary Lynn Bracht who was originally studying to be a fighter pilot when she visited her mother’s childhood village and the seeds of this novel were laid. This is a story of two sisters separated by the Second World War in South Korea when Hana, a proud haenyeo (a female diver of the sea), saw her younger sister captured and forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel.

One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore.

So begins the story. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

 

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Nick Clark Windo has written a startling and timely debut which presents a world and explores what it is to be human in the digital age. How it makes us…and how it destroys us.

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it. Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it which will serve them well when The Feed collapses. Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing. How do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

 

 

Enjoy!

Australia’s Top Books from the Past 5 Years

We love award seasons…especially when it’s celebrating Australian literature…and the 2018 season is about to start.

Each year the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) are held recognising excellence across the book industry, uniting authors, publishers and retailers in celebration of a collective passion for sharing stories and ideas. The awards showcase the extraordinary power of Australian stories to capture a worldwide audience and we thought we’d share the winners from the past five years.

Settle in and get ready to explore the amazing worlds of some great Australian authors…

 

2017 Winner

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Gold ABIA for Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year went to Jane Harper for her internationally acclaimed novel, The Dry and the film option rights have been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty. Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

2016 Winners

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year

Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski

Magda Szubanski’s childhood in a suburban migrant family was haunted by the demons of her father’s life in wartime Poland. At nineteen, fighting in the Warsaw resistance, he had been recruited to a secret counter-intelligence execution squad. His mission was to assassinate Polish traitors who were betraying Jewish citizens to the Nazis. The legacy of her father’s bravery left the young Magda with profound questions about her family story. As she grew up, the assassin’s daughter had to navigate her own frailties and fears, including a lifelong struggle with weight gain and an increasing awareness of her own sexuality. With courage and compassion Szubanski’s memoir asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

 

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them? When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mothers death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions don’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew. A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

 

2015 Winners

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year

52 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Andy and Terry’s incredible, ever-expanding treehouse has 13 new storeys, including a watermelon-smashing level, a wave machine, a life-size snakes and ladders game (with real ladders and real snakes), a rocket-powered carrot-launcher, a Ninja Snail Training Academy and a high-tech detective agency with all the latest high-tech detective technology, which is lucky because they have a BIG mystery to solve – where is Mr Big Nose??? Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up.

 

 

 

 

 

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

At seven years old, Millie Bird realises that everything is dying around her. She wasn’t to know that after she had recorded twenty-seven assorted creatures in her Book of Dead Things her dad would be a Dead Thing, too. Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and has not left her house since her husband died. She sits behind her front window, hidden by the curtains and ivy, and shouts at passers-by, roaring her anger at complete strangers. Until the day Agatha spies a young girl across the street. Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven when his son kisses him on the cheek before leaving him at the nursing home. As he watches his son leave, Karl has a moment of clarity. He escapes the home and takes off in search of something different. Three lost people needing to be found. But they don’t know it yet. Millie, Agatha and Karl are about to break the rules and discover what living is all about.

 

2014 Winner

 

Gold ABIA for Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed the Wife Project, using a sixteen-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And on a quest of her own to find her biological father—a search that Don, a professor of genetics, might just be able to help her with. The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why quick-dry clothes aren’t appropriate attire in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love: love finds you.

 

2013 Winner

ABIA Fiction Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can follow the 2018 award season here with all of the titles that are on the ABIA’s Longlist. 

Interested in seeing which books get the most popular vote on Booko each year?  Here are the most clicked books for 2017, 2016 and 2015. 

Enjoy!

Hollywood calling: Australian fiction on the world stage

Australian fiction has always had a strong voice internationally. There was a heyday period in the 1970’s where powerful stories such as ‘The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith’, ‘My Brilliant Career’ and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ were translated easily into films that gave International audiences a taste of complex character-driven plotlines, set amongst the raw Australian landscape.

 

More recently, ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, written by the wonderful Peter Carey and focusing on a storyline involving a wealthy Australian heiress, an English Minister’s son, and a love of risk, won the 1998 Booker Prize and the 1989 Miles Franklin award. As a film, it was a great vehicle for showcasing the talents of Cate Blanchett to the International stage.

Following on, ‘Cloudstreet‘ by the multi-award winning writer Tim Winton, written in 1991 and made into a TV mini series in 2011 tells the tale of two working class Australian families who come to live together over a period of 20 years.

 

The Slap‘, written in 2008 by Chrisos Tsiolkas, delves into the complexity of the working middle class in Australia. Its subject matter, interestingly, became a topic that people were discussing around water coolers in Australia and around the world. A child is acting out and is slapped at a birthday party by a man who isn’t his father. The book (and mini-series) focus on the repercussion of this event on the group of people that witnessed it. The Slap was developed into 2 x TV Miniseries, one for Australian and one for US audiences.

 

The success of Liane Moriarty’s book ‘Big Little Lies’ and subsequent TV miniseries starring Nicole Kidman, Reece Witherspoon and Laura Dern has resulted in a huge amount of interest in the writer. Film rights have also been sold on three of her other books, including ‘The Husband’s Secret’, ‘Truly Madly Guilty’ and ‘What Alice Forgot’.

 

Saroo Brierly’s book ‘A Long Way Home’ has been hugely successful and the film ‘Lion’ was met with a bounty of awards in the 2017 awards season (including Luke Davies for Best Adapted Screenplay).

 

So what’s next?

Graeme Simsion’s debut novel ‘The Rosie Project’ about a love-lorn professor who seeks to find his perfect match using a 16 page questionnaire has been optioned by Sony Pictures. The search is underway for the perfect cast.  We’re looking forward to seeing this film on the big screen.

 

Reece Witherspoon optioned ‘The Dry’, a rural-gothic novel, written by former Herald Sun journalist Jane Harper, before the book was published in June 2015.

Focusing on a murder-suicide in a country town, it has been sold to more than 20 countries.

Have you heard of any Australian novels being made into movies or TV Miniseries? Drop us a line at booko@booko.com.au.

Top 5 Books on Friendship

Friendships are amazing things, they have the power to shape someone’s life, and many influence who we become. Every now and again a book comes along that truly depicts what it is like to be amongst the throws of a great friendship and we think we have found a few that do just that. We’ve also spotted one that explores the language within female friendships and one that takes us on a journey of friendships though our lifecycle.

Let’s get started…

Living The Dream by Lauren Berry

Living The Dream is a sharp satire of modern British life. It features Emma, who should be a writer (but works in corporate advertising) and Clem, just back in London from New York, who is on the path to becoming a successful screenwriter (but works in a bar and lives with her mum).

Both women navigate the challenges of dreams and aspirations vs. reality, of having the guts to take a risk vs. selling out. Amid the big questions, Emma and Clem also find themselves faced with life’s little challenges: how to look happy at work, what to do with undesirable colleagues, how a hen party can go horribly wrong and what (not) to wear at a ‘well-ness’ spa.

 

 

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Inseparable through university, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate into an exhilarating world on the brink of the new millennium. Eager to shrug off the hardships of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict stays behind to complete his PhD in Physics and pine for Eva, while siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue a more bohemian existence. But as their twenties give way to their thirties, the four friends find their paths diverging as they struggle to navigate broken hearts and thwarted dreams. With every summer that passes, they try to remain as close as they once were, but this is far from easy. One friend’s triumph coincides with another’s disaster, one finds love as another loses it, and one comes to their senses as another is changing their mind. It’s a novel about finding the courage to carry on despite life not always turning out as expected, and a powerful testament to love and friendship as the constants in an ever-changing world. Invincible Summer is a dazzling depiction of the highs and lows of adulthood and the greater forces that shape us.

 

 

Before Everything by Victoria Redel

End of sixth grade they made it their official name. It was a joke one afternoon but they liked the way it sounded. Permanent. The Old Friends. This way, the five girls agree, it’s just a fact. And ours forever. Anna, Molly, Ming, Caroline, Helen: the Old Friends.

Since adopting their official name aged eleven, they have seen each other through careers, children, illnesses, marriage, divorce, addiction, fame, fall outs. But now, Anna, a fiercely loved mother and friend, and the Old Friends’ glue is diagnosed with cancer again, and this time, tired of recoveries and relapses, pitying looks and exhausting regimes, she simply says: no more.

As her health declines, the politics of the still lived in world merge with memories of the past while each Old Friend tries to accept the truth of what is happening: they are losing someone they cannot imagine life without. Some will fight her decision, some will accept it, but all will rejoice in a life fully lived.

 

 

You’re the Only One I Can Tell by Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen has explored the way we talk at work, in arguments, to our mothers and our daughters and now she turns to that most intense, precious and potential minefield: women’s friendships. Best friend, old friend, good friend, new friend, neighbour, fellow mother at the school gate, workplace confidante: women’s friendships are crucial. A friend can be like a sister, daughter, mother, mentor, therapist or confessor. She can also be the source of pain and betrayal.

From casual chatting to intimate confiding, from talking about problems to sharing funny stories, there are patterns of communication and miscommunication that affect friendships. Tannen shows how even the best of friends, with the best intentions, can say the wrong thing, how the ways women friends talk can bring friends closer or pull them apart, but also how words can repair the damage done by words. She explains the power of women friends who show empathy and can just listen; how women use talk to connect and to subtly compete; how fears of rejection can haunt friendships; how social media is reshaping relationships.

Exploring what it means to be friends, helping us hear what we are really saying, understanding how we connect to other people, this illuminating and validating book gets inside the language of one of most women’s life essentials – female friendships.

 

 

The F Word by Lily Pebbles

The F Word is a debut book by blogging sensation Lily Pebbles (you can check out her blog here) who is one of the pioneers of the industry. She’s amassed a massive league of loyal followers of her blog and self-named YouTube channel (which you can find here) for content that covers a range of beauty, style and advice. The anticipation for her book is huge.

If there’s one piece of invaluable advice for women and girls of all ages, it is that there is nothing more important than creating and maintaining strong, positive and happy friendships with other women. In a culture that largely pits women against each other, Lily Pebbles wants to celebrate female friendships…all strings attached! If her 1998 diary is anything to go by, female friendships are incredibly complex and emotional but they’re the mini love stories that make us who we are. For many women, friends are our partners in crime through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses. In The F Word Pebbles sets out to explore and celebrate the essence of female friendship at different life stages and in its many wild and wonderful forms.

 

Enjoy!

The Best Novels on Pre Order for 2018

Summer is well and truly here and with the crazy festive season behind us it’s now time to sink into a fabulous new book…here are our top books to pre order.

Brave by Rose McGowan

“My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. BRAVE is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” -Rose McGowan.

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. Brave is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir.

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children, four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness, sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

This is a sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

 

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

No subject is too fringe or too mainstream for the unstoppable Zadie Smith. From social media to the environment, Tarantino to Jay-Z to Knausgaard, she has boundless curiosity and the boundless wit, insight and wisdom to match. In Feel Free, pop culture, high culture, social change and political debate all get the Zadie Smith treatment: dissected with razor-sharp intellect, set brilliantly against the context of the utterly contemporary, and considered with a deep humanity and compassion.

This electrifying new collection showcases its author as a true literary powerhouse, demonstrating once again her credentials as an essential voice of her generation.

 

 

The Elizas by Sara Shepard

New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars Sara Shepard makes her mark on adult fiction with this Hitchcockian double narrative composed of lies, false memories, and a protagonist who must uncover the truth for survival. When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness. Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it? The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel, until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

 

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”, to live as, to exist as, a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for everyone.

Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalised with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle in the larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.

 


Still Me
by Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is hurled into the world of the super-rich, Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past.

In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets – not all her own – that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

 

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

From the best-selling author of The Circle, the true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war and his riveting tale of escape. Mokhtar Alkhanshali grew up in San Francisco, one of seven siblings brought up by Yemeni immigrants in a tiny apartment. At age twenty-four, unable to pay for college, he works as a doorman, until a statue of an Arab raising a cup of coffee awakens something in him. He sets out to learn the rich history of coffee in Yemen and the complex art of tasting and identifying varietals. He travels to Yemen and visits countless farms, collecting samples, eager to bring improved cultivation methods to the countryside. And he is on the verge of success when civil war engulfs Yemen in 2015. The US Embassy closes, Saudi bombs began to rain down on the country, and Mokhtar is trapped in Yemen. Desperate to escape, he embarks on a passage that has him negotiating with duelling political factions and twice kidnapped at gunpoint. With no other options, he hires a skiff to take him, and his coffee samples, across the Red Sea.

A heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the ongoing Yemeni civil war, and the courageous journey of a young man, a Muslim and a US citizen, following the most American of dreams.

Enjoy!

Surviving summer with a great novel

With the chaos of Christmas over it is the perfect time to find a quiet spot on the beach and enjoy a great book. Here are some of our favourites that we highly recommend reading this summer.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire.

With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette (she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”) detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban mums (hang in there for the Costco loot) she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

 

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

It is September 1995. Selin, a Turkish-American college freshman from New Jersey, is about to embark on her first year at Harvard University, where she is determined to decipher the mysteries of language and to become a writer. In between studying psycho­linguistics and the philosophy of language, teaching ESL to a Costa Rican plumber, and befriending her classmate Svetlana (a Serbian refugee from Connecticut), Selin falls in love with a Hungarian maths student in her Russian class. She spends the summer in the Hungarian countryside teaching English to village children, where sad and comic misunderstandings ensue. Full of the razor-sharp evocations of character and place that have long delighted readers of Batuman’s non-fiction.

 

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy

When Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules about work, about love, and about womanhood.

In this deeply human and deeply moving memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being, in her own words, “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed, and of what is eternal.

 

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid – she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh – that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother – who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood – and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes, All Grown Up is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s power as a storyteller, a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.

 

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road To Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant. Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn’t want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie’s arrival, Heather’s bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, “Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.”

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled “like sliced apples and salted pretzels” but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie’s condition grows dire and together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

 

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa’s world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally, terribly, with Bobbi.

Desperate to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Written with gem-like precision and marked by a sly sense of humour, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.

Enjoy!

The Books that are the Playlist of my Life

Sometimes, the books you read, and the authors you love, are like staging posts, reflecting particular stages and events in your life; you grow from the experience and move on.  Sometimes, what you crave is a life partner – someone whose books engage and resonate with you year after year, come what may.  While most authors excel at writing in a specific genre or for a particular age group, there are many who write more broadly and are potential “life partners”.  Here are three popular authors who write across genres and age groups… do you have more you can recommend?

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is best known for his children’s stories – including his acclaimed and very entertaining autobiography Boy – but his adult fiction is also incredible.  He is a master of the short story, able to evoke a vivid scenario, then throw in a gasp-inducing twist, all within a handful of pages.  Where Roald Dahl’s twisted humour makes his children’s stories fantastical, it turns his adult stories hyper-real, emphasising the sinister, nasty side of human nature.  A celebrated example is The Champion of the World, a short story about pheasant poaching contained in his compilation Kiss Kiss; its twistedness was then transformed into Danny the Champion of the World, an altogether more whimsical story about the father-son bond and beating the establishment (and pheasant poaching!).

Kaz Cooke

Kaz Cooke is a fearless, frank and funny feminist – the sort of person you wish were your cool best friend, or fun auntie. Kaz works as a cartoonist, journalist, and agony aunt – and she has used these skills to create a range of advice books for women and children. From pregnancy (Up the Duff) to puberty (Girl Stuff) and women’s health (Women’s Stuff), Kaz has pretty much every life stage covered. What I love about these books is their excellent balance between irreverence and information – they are funny and easy to read, yet meticulously researched. Kaz also champions a body-positive message that helps readers block out the BS and learn to love and trust themselves and be more confident.

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries, which amply showcases her chatty style and deft balancing of comedy, romance and sweet earnestness. Through a series of fifteen books, we see Mia come of age, from a gawky teenager to a confident princess, developing her own personality while honouring duty, and juggling the demands of family, friendship and romance.  Meg Cabot has extended this series up into Chick Lit territory with Royal Wedding, where an adult Mia prepares to get married (but not before lots of drama!); and also down into junior fiction, with the spin-off Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.  Not content with one hugely successful series, Meg Cabot has also written in other genres, including series of paranormal romance, and murder mysteries.