Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James


Black Leopard, Red Wolf is nothing like Game of Thrones. You might say that Black Leopard, Red Wolf is to Game of Thrones what Game of Thrones is to Harry Potter - but the truth is that it's operating in a different sphere. 
The first book in Marlon James' Dark Star trilogy does not allow for lazy reading. It is dense, delirious, expansive, and compelling, spinning African mythology into dark, violent, embodied writing.
If you've found popular fantasy lacking, in its writing or in its conventions, this may be the book you've been waiting for: assured, capacious, adult fantasy. I still don't quite know what to make of this book, and that, I think, is exciting.
Like Neil Gaiman said: 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realised I was missing until I read it.'

- Jacob

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper


Chloe Hooper is a brilliant author. Her ability to transport you to a precise place and space in time, is unparalleled.
In 'The Arsonist', she paints an incredibly terrifying image. You are immediately surrounded by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which left 173 people dead.
The stories from surviving residents and emergency service men and women are haunting. As she weaves a timeline of catastrophic events you are left feeling horrified, wounded and furious at the unimaginable loss endured by all those who were effected. However, Hooper has a true gift for objective writing. Through uncovering more about ‘the arson’ himself, it is easy to also find yourself feeling hurt and angered by his painful story.

A book I had to pause from to collect myself many times – as it can be terribly overwhelming, yet remains so important and such a fine piece of non-fiction work.

- Bella

Calypso by David Sedaris


Calypso is raw, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking all at once.
Sedaris invites us to observe his family - their idiosyncrasies, tragedies, and ever shifting connections with one another.
Like all families Sedaris’ family is not without drama and disagreement. His honesty is refreshing, as he allows a view into some deeply personal experiences (his sister’s suicide, his mother’s alcoholism, parent/sibling/partner conflicts, unbreakable family bonds).
However, the book is not all doom and gloom, in fact quite the contrary. His wit will have you laughing at things that will make you question your own sanity, and no tragedy will be outweighed by his ability to make you smile.
It is a wonderful read, and there is a truly hilarious chapter in which he becomes addicted to his FitBit - that alone, made the entire book worth reading.

- Bella

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


Space opera like you've never seen it before.
Becky Chamber's excellent debut novel represents a broader shift in the narrative priorities traditionally associated with science fiction. It revels in character rather than action (though there's a fair bit of that too), and develops an episodic slice-of-life quality in an thoughtful, well-drawn universe.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a great place to start or develop your relationship with sci-fi, and it's the first in a series of three tangentially related novels.
This is one to read, savour, and throw to your friends.

- Jacob

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton


Boys Swallows Universe takes you deep inside 1980’s Brisbane underworld.
Eli and August Bell are remarkable boys, with knowledge and courage well beyond their years. Dalton beautifully contrasts what is an incredibly difficult and violent upbringing with an overwhelming sense of loyalty and love for family and friends. Each character is wonderfully thought out, all with their own unique adversities to overcome.
A crime novel where the ‘bad guys’ are actually the good guys, and in the end, the good guys will always win.

This book is truly gripping, one I really didn’t want to end. My favourite book of 2018!

- Bella

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata


This book is without a doubt, one of the quirkiest books I have read in a long time.
Keiko is a middle aged Japanese woman who is unmarried, has no children, and has worked at the same convenience store for the past 18 years. She tries hard to change her lifestyle to fit with the 'normal' Japanese woman, however fails repeatedly. The writing is full of dry humour and pushes boundaries of what is socially acceptable. Murata crafts the perfect novel for anyone who has ever felt like they just don't fit in.
The conclusion she reaches is that being happy and comfortable is far more important than being normal – a message I think everyone can do with being reminded of.

- Bella

Less by Andrew Sean Greer


A delightful and funny novel about a writer, Arthur Less, who decides to avoid his former lover’s wedding and his approaching 50th birthday by accepting previously-ignored invitations to attend a variety of literary events around the world - which Less would have us believe are for ‘less than’ authors (such as himself). The humour lies in the relatable and unique evocations involving self-deprecation and/or the fertile tragicomedy that is international travel. It is a rather simple story written in a refreshingly straightforward manner, with some startlingly exact descriptions, and for that reason seems like an unusual pick as a Pulitzer winner (which prize is referenced in the book, including a description of how it is pronounced). There is flashback, self-conscious references to ‘the narrator’ and short passages from a third party child observer of Less’ ridiculous escapades. All in all a happy making novel, really. 

Highly recommended.

- Eve

Educated by Tara Westover



The account of a girl building herself in spite of the shackles of dogma and abuse. Raised in a doomsday Mormonist household, in the plains of Idaho and its mountains, Tara paints a painful picture of education.

These are haunting images of a girl confronting the sins of a tyrannical, fundamentalist Father, and delusional, pithless Mother. From these memoirs, it seems true that the act of learning – accruing knowledge – can be a form of escapism. But self-education – using knowledge to construct oneself – can be a means of escape: from real tyranny in our family and in ourselves.

Westover’s story is inspiring because it tells of the power to confront uncertainty and emancipate oneself from those that claim certainty, especially when it is our loved ones.
As she puts it, her life was being “narrated for me by others”.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

- Virginia Woolfe


Cedar Valley by Holly Throsby


Holly Throsby’s ‘Cedar Valley’ is fantastic. 
Benny Miller knows very little about her mother. With her recent passing Benny moves to Cedar Valley in an attempt to uncover more of the woman’s mysterious and intriguing life. On the day she arrives in town, an unknown man dies in the Main Street. An investigation begins, and the town work together to find missing pieces to solve the puzzle.  
The mystery of Benny’s mother and the unidentified man run parallel throughout the novel. Through many twists and turns Throsby weaves these two stories together, eventually coming to an excellent and unexpected ending. 

- Bella

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale

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Alternating between the past and present this novel begins with an older, successful Eustace falling in love with a younger man and beginning cancer treatment. The parallel narrative tells of Eustace’s childhood, the complexities of growing up and new experiences; and his introduction to Carla Gold who is to become his cello teacher.

This beautiful coming of age story is brimming with warmth, humour, music and love, a journey of discovery and self acceptance. Patrick Gale is a genuine and elegant writer. This novel was an absolute pleasure to read.


A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne


Maurice Swift is highly ambitious in his quest to become a successful and great writer, and in doing so manipulates his way into becoming an unforgettable character in John Boyne’s compulsive novel.

This is a dark tale of seduction, literary theft and suspense from a literary gem. With effortless prose shifting across decades and characters, this wonderful story is underpinned with humour making a clever and impressive read.


First Person by Richard Flanagan


In these times of Trump's ‘fake news’, this is an eerily relevant and sobering story of how self-deception can so easily lead to the deception of others.
Flanagan weaves his fascinating story against the backdrop of the life of a writer, his family life and struggles, friendships and the powerful and controlling influence of a con man who moves all the goal posts. 

- John

What's Your Type? by Merve Emre


Merve Emre explores the curious story between mother and daughter duo Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers who became captivated by the work of Carl Jung and created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in an attempt to make Jung’s type theory accessible to the general public.

Apart from being an intriguing biography of the duo, Emre outlines the history of the indicator and it’s appeal to those in recruitment, education and in the online dating industry. Emre also challenges the nature and validity of the indicator and delves into the broader world and popularity of personailty testing. An absorbing and sharp read, particularly fascinating if you are interested in the growth of the self development industry.

Reviewed by Kate

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


In searing detail, Heather Morris retells the true story of Lale Sokolov who, not long after he arrived in Auschwitz, was given the job of tattooing numbers on the arms of incoming prisoners. Lale is canny and determined to survive the horrors he has become an intricate part of. One day he is instructed to redo some numbers which have faded and, as he takes the arm of a beautiful young girl from Czechoslovakia, he falls hopelessly in love. From that moment on his only desire is to protect Gita, see as much of her in impossible circumstances, and ensure their survival so that they can spend the rest of their lives together. This is a truly great love story which will give you goosebumps.

Guest Review by Rita

The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater


Stork’s foot, peacock tails, teardrops are just some of the chapter headings in this rich and atmospheric historical novel. These names refer to the many patterns found in the exquisite hand knitted shawls of Estonia which form the thread that holds this novel together. The knitting circles of Estonia are where women transmit the folk tales, wisdom and history of their troubled land which has often been taken over by Russia and the Soviet Union. Set in 1942 when the Estonians are facing a double threat from Stalin and Hitler, the stories of resistance and courage are told amidst passionate love and loss. Kati, a fierce Estonian patriot, and Lydia, a troubled yet brave Russian, form a difficult relationship which, out of necessity, develops through knitting. The details of this period of little known history has been superbly realised making the farms and forests of Estonia come alive.

Guest Review by Rita

The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

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Transport yourself to the delicious smells and strange noises of Shanghai in the late 1930s and 1940s where, along with many other Jewish refugees, Romy Cohen and her parents have landed after surviving Kristallnacht in Vienna. In 2016, Romy’s grand-daughter Alexandra, living in Melbourne in 2016, is offered a new job in Shanghai and realises that this provides an opportunity for her to unravel some of the mystery surrounding her birth. Extremely accurate historically through many visits and much research Kirsty Manning takes us back and forward between Shanghai and Melbourne, between Romy and Alexandra. She has done a superlative job of re-creating Shanghai and the Jewish Hongkew Ghetto as well as the showing the reader the impact of the Japanese presence in wartime. And along the way, you can learn about Chinese traditional medicine and the herbs and spices used in cooking and medical treatment.

Guest Review by Rita

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Normal People is Irish author Sally Rooney’s highly anticipated second novel.

A love story of sorts, Rooney beautifully crafts the complex relationship between wealthy, unpopular Marianne and working class, well-liked Connell.
The novel follows the two characters on-again-off-again relationship as lovers and friends, from high school to adulthood. Each character seemingly switching places with the other throughout, between self-confidence and certainty to unsettling detachment from themselves and their life.
Rooney cleverly explores difficult aspects of the human condition - vulnerability, self worth, power, identity and learning how to love and be loved. Each concept is thoughtfully brought to life through these two extremely special characters, and it is with great ease that one becomes invested in their story.
The novel is gently paced but the overwhelming drive to uncover more of both characters’ inner psyche and a compelling desire to discover whether or not their timelines will ever align and allow them to truly be together, makes for a gripping read.

Normal People is by no means a 'normal' love story. What it is, however, is a stunning exploration of what it means to be human, and the power of love to change and heal lives.

- Bella

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

An aristocratic man of tradition and erudition is confined to hotel-arrest in Russia’s etropo. The country’s decades of horror affect the outside world. The man of luxury and freedom must now live out his days in an attic - with a whole world to be discovered and encountered in the hotel: An abandoned girl, a willowy actress, an austere party ‘comrade’.

This story has a ‘coming of age’ feel to it: The gentleman must become a man - if he is to survive his confinement. The gentleman must master his circumstances, or be mastered by them.

In stark contrast to outside Russia’s failing people experiment, the gentleman will learn that one does not need to influence the course of history, but instead rise to the challenges of caring for a child.

The story is read with a constant smile, as one surveys the many lessons and heartaches that frame themselves from life’s intrusions of beauty. The smile glints and spreads with every witty and heartfelt conversation, with the many characters, and at every chapter of this wonderful book.

Guest Review by Adam 


When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger


This is a fast-moving social commentary on three women from three differing areas of today's society colliding. There is Emily, former assistant to Miranda Priestley (and yes, Miranda does have a great cameo piece) who is now a stylist-turned-image-consultant troubleshooter. She is being pushed out of her job identity by a millenial and her use of social media where the number of followers you have determine your wordly status (think Kardashian). Emily is also going through somewhat of a crisis in her long distance marriage. Then there is Miriam, an old friend of Emily’s, a high-powered New York lawyer who traded it all in for life in the very upmarket suburbs and more time with her family, but can she deal with the suburban hierarchical lifestyle that depends solely on how much money you have and the compulsory daily uniform of LuLulemons which does not correlate well with any intake of carbohydrates?Joining them is Karolina, a former supermodel married to a would-be politician and hands-on step-mother to his son who is abruptly and quite horrifically sidelined by him in favour of a younger more politically-connected partner.

This is a very 2018 story that I read straight through as it grabs you immediately, then horrifies you with how the media can be manipulated - by a power-hungry man to destroy a woman, and then further manipulated by Emily to rehabilitate her image in the media (so many correlations that can be thought of here) whilst Miriam works on the legal angles and worries about her husband’s faithfullness. And then combine this with the strange lives that people live with too much money and not enough accountability both in suburbia and the city. The minutiae of suburban life is nothing new and nothing has really changed over the decades, apart from what was previously hidden from public view now being exposed by technology and the media. The story is nicely resolved at the end and is a very enjoyable read - Highly Recommended.

- Ann

Slow Horses by Mick Herron


In a world full of fictional crimestoppers who are little more than thinly-veiled superheroes, Jackson Lamb (the former MI5 operative at the heart of Mick Herron's dazzling new series of spy thrillers) is a welcome breath of stale air. Where a character like Jack Reacher despatches multiple enemies per page, often with improbably lethal efficiency, Jackson Lamb is content to let the fight come to him - or better yet, to avoid it altogether. In fact, if there's anything improbable about the character of Jackson Lamb it would have to rest with the question of how one man could be so cynical, sarcastic and flatulant, and yet so endearing. Already wildly popular in his native Britain, author Mick Herron is fast becoming a favourite with crime readers all over the world who can appreciate a bit of old-school grit with their crime fiction. Comparisons to the great John Le Carre are not without basis, but where George Smiley's deadly skill-set was often concealed behind a facade of genteel restraint, Jackson Lamb slips under the radar for other (less savoury) reasons. The bottom line: underestimate either one of them at your peril.

A must have for lovers of old-school spy fiction. The good news is, once you finish, you can move straight onto the remaining two books of the trilogy!

- Dan