We love reading...staff picks September 2014

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Stella Gibbon’s classic comic novel written in 1932, is a hilarious and memorable read full of eccentric characters.
Flora Poste, orphaned at 20, has been expensively educated in many accomplishments except for earning a living. She decides to live with some relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex, England. There she finds Aunt Uncle Amos preaching hell-fire and damnation to the local villagers, Cousin Seth seducing the village girls, young Elfine running wild in the woods, and Great Aunt Ada Doom refusing to leave her room because she saw something nasty in the woodshed as a child. None of it is to Flora’s liking so she decides to tidy up all their lives, tackling one family member at a time.
Reviewed by Neza

The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice (Ship Kings 2)  by  Andrew McGahan

This is the second volume of Andrew McGahan's adventure series, Ship Kings.  In the first book (The Coming of the Whirlpool) we meet Dow Amber, a boy who has lived his whole life in a small inland community of forest workers.  When Dow first glimpses the sea  he feels a deep yearning, the pull of the sea is irresistible.  Against the wishes and customs of his village he is sent to the coast to learn to become a fisherman.  Dow performs an amazing feat which brings him to the notice of the Ship Kings, the powerful maritime rulers.  In this second book Dow is invited to travel on the Chloe, a Ship King battleship, on a voyage to the icy north.  A tale of adventure, survival, rebellion and treachery, I particularly loved McGahan's descriptions of the Ice Wall and the landscape of the North Pole.  An absorbing read for mid teens and up.  I eagerly await Vol 3 to continue the story. 
Reviewed by Bernie

Keepers of light by Christopher Salmon

 I really enjoyed reading this debut novel by local author Christopher Salmon. The story is about Best, a 94 year old man living in a nursing home, who has been bestowed the dubious honour of being selected by his doctor to be the first subject to be voluntarily euthanized under new NSW legislation. The book moves easily back and forth in time, offering insight into Best’s childhood and life (you may recognise some locations), and  delving into his aboriginal /convict heritage, and back to his life now.  The many themes introduced in the book create a thought provoking and fascinating story.  It is a well written, easy to read and hard to put down-I would recommend it to anyone. 

Reviewed by Monique

The messenger by Markus Zusak

Ed is an under-aged cabbie driver whose future is looking pretty bleak. He loves to read, but doesn’t enjoy school. When he accidently disturbs a bank robbery, his life changes – for better or worse? Then the messages from the Ace arrive. Each time they arrive, Ed must carry out a special task. Sometimes these tasks are thoughtful and pleasant and at other times, they are brutal and life-risking. These tasks change Ed in a profound way that Ed starts to wonder: Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of”. But who is the Ace? This book is suitable for ages 15 – 18 years.

Reviewed by Ali

“The Fictional Woman” by Tara Moss.

Discussion of Tara Moss seems to be universally prefaced with the tag ‘model-turned-author’. It is a telling paradigm, the classic separation of beauty from intelligence. For the same reason Moss famously opted to undergo a polygraph in order to prove that she was, in fact, the author of her own books.
“The Fictional Woman” is Moss’ memoir, but it is so much more. Drawing from her own experiences Moss presents commentary on a myriad of social issues affecting women (and men) today. Her face on the cover has been inscribed with some of the labels she been encumbered with: ‘inspiration’, ‘dumb-blonde’, ‘feminist’ and ‘gold-digger’. Moss reflects on the “fictions” imposed on her, and on other women, historical and contemporary. Candid and personal, she speaks about motherhood, body image, exploitation and grief, simultaneously casting a wider net with which to explore issues such as everyday sexism, sexual violence and issues surrounding the under/representation of women in politics and the media.
I want my friends to read “The Fictional Woman” and understand that a make-up-free ‘selfie’ can be an objectifying online obligation. I want men in my life to read this book and recognise that the term ‘feminist’ is not threatening, but rather inclusive.
I do not often read non-fiction, so when I recommend such a book it is because it had a profound effect on me. “The Fictional Woman” challenges social perceptions and assumptions we all have, ultimately in the hope to change them.

-by Dash

2014-Ned Kelly Awards for Crime Fiction

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes honouring our crime fiction and true crime writing. The winners were announced Saturday, 6 September at the Brisbane Writer's Festival. And the winners are:

 Best Crime Novel

In the morning I'll be gone by Adrian McKinty

A Catholic cop tracks an IRA master bomber amidst the sectarian violence of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The early 1980s. Belfast. Sean Duffy, a conflicted Catholic cop in the Protestant RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), is recruited by MI5 to hunt down Dermot McCann, an IRA master bomber who has made a daring escape from the notorious Maze Prison. In the course of his investigations Sean discovers a woman who may hold the key to Dermot’s whereabouts; she herself wants justice for her daughter who died in mysterious circumstances in a pub locked from the inside. Sean knows that if he can crack the "locked room mystery," the bigger mystery of Dermot’s whereabouts might be revealed to him as a reward. Meanwhile the clock is ticking down to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1984, where Mrs. Thatcher is due to give a keynote speech....

Best First Fiction

Hades by Candice Fox 
A dark, compelling and original thriller that will have you spellbound from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking climax. Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction. 

Hades Archer surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem – for a fee.

Then one night a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants ‘lost'. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything...

Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there's something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can't quite put his finger on.

At first, as they race to catch a very different kind of serial killer, his partner's sharp instincts come in handy. But soon Frank's wondering if she's as dangerous as the man they hunt.

Best True Crime Award 

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran 
When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.
Sandra Harvey Award 

Web Design by Emma Viskic


2014 Best Crime Novel 
Bitter Wash Road by Garry Disher
Fatal Impact by Kathryn Fox
In the morning I'll be gone by Adrian McKinty,
Beams Falling by P.M. Newton
One boy missing by Stephen Orr
The dying beach by Angela Savage

2014 Best First Crime Novel
Dead cat bounce by Peter Cotton
Hades by Candice Fox
Blood Witness by Alex Hammond
Every breath by Ellie Marney

2014 Best True Crime 

14th Davitt Awards for Australian Women’s Crime Writing

The winners of the Davitt Awards for Australian Women's crime writing were announced Saturday, 30 August by leading South African crime writer, Lauren Beukes. This year a record 76 books published in 2013 competed for six Davitts. The winners are:

Best Adult Novel
Dark Horse by Honey Brown
t's Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.
Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman's Hut.
She settles in to wait out Christmas.
A man, alone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn't ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What's driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.
But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger's dangerous game of intimacy.

Best Novel: Young Adult 
The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
When a teenage girl disappears, a small town is awash with rumours: everyone is talking about the dress she wore, a midnight-blue dress made from the remnants of other dresses, a dress of stories ...
For her whole life, Rose Lovell has moved from town to town with her alcoholic father. When they wash up in a coastal sugarcane town, Rose wonders if this time it will be different.
At the local high school, Rose meets Pearl Kelly, who is popular, pretty and intent on tracking down her Russian father. When she convinces Rose to be part of the annual Harvest Parade, Rose must find a special dress for the occasion. She seeks the help of the eccentric Edie Baker, who knows all the town's secrets and whose own family is a rich tapestry of stories. When Rose agrees to let Edie teach her to sew, she doesn't realise that nothing will ever be the same again.

Highly commended in this category were:

 Every breath by Ellie Marney

 A Ring Through Time  by Felicity Pulman

Best True Crime Book
Night Games: Sex, power and sport by Anna Krien
What does a young footballer do to cut loose? At night, some play what they think of as pranks, or games. Night games with women. Sometimes these involve consensual sex, but sometimes they don't, and sometimes they fall into a grey area.
In the tradition of Helen Garner's The First Stone comes a closely observed, controversial book about sex, consent and power. In Night Games, Anna Krien follows the rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer. She also takes a balanced and fearless look at the dark side of footy culture - the world of Sam Newman, Ricky Nixon, Matty Johns and the Cronulla Sharks.
Both a courtroom drama and a riveting piece of first-person narrative journalism, this is a breakthrough book by one of the leading young lights of Australian writing.

Best debut novel and Readers choice
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes.
Only Tóti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul.
As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?
Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love.

Best Childrens Novel
 Truly Tan: Spooked  by Jen Storer
Tan is back in another deliciously spooky adventure! Book 3 in the bestselling series that kids describe as 'seriously hilarious' and 'fabulously funny'. Tan and the Chosen Few have another mystery on their hands... The 'stonies' (stone animal statues) around Peppercorn Valley have been mysteriously disappearing. But who would steal them? What could the thief want with a stone emu or flamingo? This mystery is truly baffling! It's a good thing Tan has the mind of a Great Detective... A brilliant chapter series for fans of Alice-Miranda, Judy Moody and The Famous Five. Ages: 8-12  Congratulations to all the winners. 

Shortlisted titles
Best Adult Novel
Dark Horse by Honey Brown
Nefarious Doings: A Nell Forrest Mystery by Ilsa Evans
A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell
Web of Deceit by Katherine Howell
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Dying Beach by Angela Savage

Best Young Adult Novel
The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
Girl Defective by Simmone Howell
Cry Blue Murder by Kim Kane and Marion Roberts
Every Breath by Ellie Marney
A Ring Through Time by Felicity Pulman
Best Children’s Novel
Truly Tan: Jinxed! by Jen Storer
Truly Tan: Spooked! by Jen Storer
Best True Crime Book

Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport by Anna Krien

Deadly Australian Women by Kay Saunders

Best Debut Book (Any category)

A Trifle Dead Livia Day

The Midnight Dress Karen Foxlee

Girl Defective Simmone Howell

Burial Rites Hannah Kent 

Every Breath by Ellie Marney