Category Archives: Staff Picks

Wild Things

Wild Things by Brigid Delaney

Wild Things by Brigid Delaney

Like most NSW teenagers I was forced to read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in high school. The fact I could imagine the boys of my high school turning into the the boys on that island  just made Lord of the Flies that little bit too plausible for it to be enjoyable at the time.

And, like all methodical readers I have both a TBR pile (the pile is the physical books stacked against the wall at home and on my desk at work) and a TBR list  (the list of things to read spread across a Google Doc, Goodreads and Pinterest), and on this list there are a few “classics”, including Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. When I crossed this book off said list, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that impressed.

So, when Wild Things by Brigid Delaney crossed my desk, the fact it had drawn comparisons to both these books meant I wasn’t that keen to read it. It just went in the pile rather than on top. But when it featured in the Co-op’s May Promotion I thought, hey I’ll give it a shot, and well, I take back my negative assumptions!

Set at an on-campus residential college of an Australian sandstone university, Delaney presents a not-so-flattering picture of what happens behind the doors, under the covers, in front of the camera and in the newsfeeds of social media.

I went to Sydney University and, as an arts student, I didn’t have a great deal to do with that many of the college students. But I did see them at O-Week running around campus in academic gowns, carrying bricks; and the small interactions I had with them make the events in Wild Things seem completely plausible and possibly even based a bit on fact (like when Sydney Uni’s St John’s College expelled 20 students in 2012  and the experience of two female during O-Week 2013).

The world of Wild Things is a place where money and ego can develop into a malicious self-righteousness that surpasses laws and general human rights. A place where bullying is rampant and crime can be covered up with a pact, denial or by turning a blind eye. The characters explore how empathy and consciousness, or lack thereof, make a person who they are, and when combined with peer pressure, family expectations and general self-discovery, it can mean what’s on the surface isn’t a true reflection of what is actually going on.

The writing is descriptive, emotive and completely readable and my thoughts of Wild Things is best summed up by what I thought on finishing the book –

Galveston

Galveston

Galveston Nic Pizzolatto“I knew the past wasn’t real. It was only an idea, and the thing I’d wanted to touch, to brush against, the feeling I couldn’t name – it just didn’t exist. It was only an idea, too.” 

Galveston is the new novel from Nic Pizzolatto, writer of the HBO hit ‘True Detective‘ – well, it’s new to us, but was actually published in the States back in 2010, and, when it came out it was nominated for a Edgar Award (yes, an award named after Mr Poe) for Best First Novel by an American Author.

I’m not sure why it took so long to get an Australian release, but I’m glad that the success of True Detective meant it did.

Galveston takes it’s name from the city in which the story is set. A beach town on the coast in the US state of Texas; we arrive into the story as Hurricane Ike is making its way from Cuba. Our main man Roy Cady is a man with a past, and a man who knows he’s done bad and doesn’t shy away from it. Instead he owns it and his cancerous time-bomb and embraces them for what they are – him.

As the weather closes in so does part of his past – part that goes back to a different time, a time where he was – at least in part – a hero rather than a villain.

A time where his business crossed paths with Rocky – a girl who has experienced more than anyone should in her short life. Together they embark on a journey with no direction other than forward and away – unfortunately the reflection in the rear vision mirror is hard to shake and things take a u-turn…

“Certain experiences you can’t survive, and afterward you don’t fully exist, even if you failed to die.” 

Galveston is dark and gritty and not a pleasant story, but crime wouldn’t exist as a genre if we all wanted to read about whiskers on kittens. What is exceptional with this novel is the writing – I really enjoyed how the tale was told with writing that is both laid back but also sophisticated. A style that makes you Roy – you see the things he sees, you smell the sand and surf he smells, and you hear the sound of shots and screams he hears.

If you loved True Detective give this a read.

If you haven’t given crime a read lately then give this a try.

And, if  you’re a crime lover and want a page-turning read that is grounded in the dirt that can be humanity then Galveston is for you.

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The Pink Suit

On November 22, 1963, the world was rocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Beside him at the time was his wife Jackie, a woman remembered not only for her style and grace, but the incredible pink suit she wore on that fateful day. The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby is a tender and courageous look at the woman behind the creation of that iconic suit, as well as how that awful day impacted both women.

Kate is a backroom girl at Chez Ninon. She’s never met Jacqueline Kennedy but she has tirelessly hand-stitched the pieces of her luxe, iconic, all-American wardrobe. An immigrant from Ireland living in New York City, Kate is working on a ballgown when the call comes in from the White House commissioning Chez Ninon to make a replica of the classic Chanel Suit, in boucle of stunning pink. As Kate sews what will become a favourite and most iconic suit of the First Lady, she faces decisions about whether to pursue her chance to open her own salon, to marry her sweetheart, Patrick, who runs the butcher shop on Broadway; to go against the grain of her straight-laced Irish neighbourhood and embrace the whirlwind life in NYC or to give into her homesickness and return to Ireland.

I thoroughly loved this book and highly recommend reading it if you like fashion, The Kennedys or historical fiction. Kate is a brilliant character, a girl who is plain but determined and wins you over with her genuine heart and good nature. The writing is perfect – descriptive, touching, memorable. As someone who loves fashion, The Pink Suit is almost a love letter to haute couture – the handiwork and detail that was given to clothes before mass production took over is inspiring and Kate’s love of clothes, and her love for Jackie (even though she never meets her personally) shines. I highly recommend reading The Pink Suit.

Fortunately, the Milk... by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the Milk… by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the Milk . . .Fortunately, the Milk… is another great book from the man-master Neil Gaiman. This one is written for the 7-11 age group and is one that adults wouldn’t mind reading with them if need be.

It’s breakfast time and despite a reminder from Mum about getting more milk, the family are faced with the prospect of dry cereal and no tea (we all know that’s not going to happen in a civilized house). So Dad sets out to the corner store to get some more and, well, he is gone quite a while. When asked what took so long, Dad tells the kids what happened … or does he?

Full of fun and adventure (pirates, dinosaurs, time-travel)  Fortunately, the Milk… is also full of fantastic illustrations from Chris Riddle that will keep those less word-oriented focused on the story.

Fortunately, the Milk… is out now and if you’re a Co-op Member can pick it up for just $12.99 (that’s $5 off the RRP).

 

L'Khodra Maamera Bel Kefta - cooked from The Little Moroccan Cookbook

The Little Moroccan Cookbook

The Little Moroccan Cookbook More Than 80 Delicious RecipesThe Little Moroccan Cookbook is an enticing collection of more than 80 recipes devoted to the rich cuisine of Morocco. Nicely designed albeit a touch on the old-fashioned side with the photography, typeface and layout, this cookbook would appeal to the home cook interested in cuisine cooking.

The publisher of this little gem – Murdoch Books – have pulled together a tantalising snapshot of the diversity and regional flavours of Morocco. It is a gentle sortie into the infusion of Arab, Moorish and Berber influences that Moroccan cuisine is famous for.

My family have happily eaten their way through a couple of dishes including my favourite so far: ‘L’Khodra Maamera Bel Kefta’ – veggies with lamb stuffing (pictured) – a wonderful rustic dish that typifies many of the dishes on offer in this little book.

With recipes that are easy and uncomplicated to prepare and which rely on accessible and fresh ingredients, ‘The Little Moroccan Cookbook’ is going to be a stayer amongst my cooking books. Whenever I have the craving for some Moroccan street food, seafood specialities or a comforting tagine, I’ll be turning to this baby.

Guest Blogger and Photographer: Helen, Digital Producer , The Co-op

L'Khodra Maamera Bel Kefta - cooked from The Little Moroccan Cookbook

 

Hades by Candice Fox

Hades by Candice Fox

Hades by Candice FoxI love crime fiction but it’s been a while since I’ve read one that thrilled me like Hades did. Well written with a suck you in story and characters with depth Hades will keep you reading, and if I didn’t have to do things like go to work I would have finished this in one sitting.

Hades Archer is a man who makes things disappear – a junk-lord who they call Lord of the Underworld. When a problem, in the form of two small children, lands of his doorstep he changes his approach and his life forever.

Moving forward in time we meet Frank, a cop with a history settling into a new station, taking the desk of a deadman. He’s partnered with Eden Archer, a woman he can’t quite work out, and when they take on what seems to be an unlikely attempted murder case things get interesting. When Eric Archer joins the team the dynamic between the brother and sister triggers something in Franks mind that see him questioning his partners moves and wondering if there is more to the siblings than they show – there’s something lurking beneath the surface, part of their family history and past that has a sinister tinge, but Frank can’t quite put his finger on it.

Hades is an exciting read, a bit Dexter-ish, it moves at a great pace and revels the narrative twists and turns in a way that keep you playing detective as you read and has an outcome I didn’t see coming.  It’s a great debut novel from Candice Fox (yes another Australian debut author) who actually lectures in writing at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, while undertaking a PhD in literary censorship and terrorism.

I’m looking forward to reading what Fox comes up with next, for the rest of you you will have to look forward to the release of Hades in January 2014

Devered Heads, Broken Hearts

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts

Severed Heads, Broken HeartsIf you look at the cover of this it may remind you a bit of that little bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, no doubt a deliberate move by the publisher – the good news for TFIOS fans is that Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a really good read.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a coming of age story, our hero is the golden boy, sporting legend, leader of the popular pack at school, Ezra Faulkner. At least that is what Ezra was until an accident takes everything he has known and flips his world upside down. As Ezra starts to re-establish his position in the school finding the process hard and lonely – enter the transfer student, Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra has ever met before, an enigma who challenges and pushes Ezra outside his comfort zone forcing him to take a look at the big picture and be honest with himself and those around him.

I’m not the target audience for this genre of book, but I read them because I enjoy them, and while this is aimed at the ‘young adult’ / ‘new adult’ age group, the issues it deals with are timeless and good to keep in mind no matter your age – what it means to be yourself and pursue your own dreams, not because others are doing it but because you want to and the value of friendship and how a true friend will forgive and stand by you no matter what.

Robyn Schneider has delivered a great story brilliantly written with some very funny scenes, and while I won’t go and spoil things and tell you about the ending, I will tell you that I ended up reading the last 30 odd pages as I walked to work as I couldn’t put it down to finish it later.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is out in September and you can pre-order now, however if you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars I recommend you do and you can read what I thought of it here.

The Heist

The Heist

The HeistI’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s ‘numbers’ or Plum series (even with the constant indecision between Ranger and Morrelli), so when I heard there was a new series starting I was excited, as well as kind of annoyed that the Metro Girl series has been left at 2 novels and then switched to graphic novels (anyone else with me?). Sorry I digressed…

The Heist is a new series written by Evanovich with Lee Goldberg features FBI special Agent Kate O’Hare and criminal, possibly even ‘criminal mastermind’, Nicholas Fox (fox by name and sly by nature). Kate has been chasing Fox for years, finally puts him behind bars only to have him escape and then find him somehow her new partner in the fight against crime.

To put it in movie terms it’s kind of like Oceans 11 combined with Miss Congeniality – it’s got good characters, is really easy on the eye – sorry was thinking of Oceans then – it’s really easy to read, and it’s enjoyable. It’s not a book that is going to change the world, or even you as a person, but it will let you escape for a couple of hours, have a good time and not leave you feeling like you wasted the time investment.

I’d happily be Special Agent Kate O’Hare if there were to be a movie made and Bradley Cooper would make a great Nick Fox – but seeing as I can’t act that won’t be happening, so I’ll just wait for book 2 in the series to come out.

What about you – have you read it? What did you think? I’d love to know so leave your thoughts in the comments below!

The Last Banquet

The Last Banquet

The Last BanquetYou know that feeling when you think of something that’s just… well… your chest expands with the emotion of how much you loved it? That is the feeling I get when I think of how to describe The Last Banquet.

We meet Jean-Marie, sitting in front of the dung heap of his family farm, catching (and eating) beetles – whose taste is so lovingly described that I almost want to try one. His parents are asleep – he’s not to disturb them (say the peasants who have passed him by as they looted the home for the past several days). The arrival of a retinue of French nobles sees Jean-Marie introduced to the transcendent (thanks, Lisa Simpson) taste of Roquefort, and then whisked away to a school for impoverished nobles where he forges his first, and lifelong, friendship, continues his love affair with taste, and has his first experience of young love. The novel then feels like a roller-coaster – military school, two more friendships that will shape his life in years to come, a beautiful Duke’s daughter… and all the while, experimenting with and journalling the tastes he experiences along the way.

Jean-Marie’s life takes him from the glittering but foul-smelling splendour of Versailles to the would-be democracy of Corsica, and back again to the simmering cauldron of pre-revolutionary France. His democratic bent and passion for sustainable food sources sees him correspond with Voltaire, experiment with potato crops (completely unappreciated by the peasantry!) and make the acquaintance of Ben Franklin. To elaborate more would give away the intricacies of Jean-Marie’s amazing life. Suffice it to say, this is a book which will not disappoint those with a passion for food, politics or history. Enjoy!

The Last Banquet is out in August 2013.

 Guest blogger: Amelia, National Merchandise Manager and Co-op Member since  2013.

 

The Shining Girls

The Shining Girls

The Shining GirlsI haven’t read anything like The Shining Girls before and this isn’t a bad thing. The structure of the story is kind of like Pulp Fiction – you get a snippet here and a snippet there but you don’t get the whole picture until the end.

It was on on of our monthly book promotion for May, but my interest was only piqued when I heard the author Lauren Beukes read the first chapter at a Sydney Writers Festival event. The way she read what she’d written made me wish she’d recorded her own audio-book, but alas no, which meant the book went into the TBR pile until now…

Each chapter is told from a different characters point of view and from a different time in history with the stability of the location – Chicago. Why a different time? Well the story is that of Kirby and her time-travelling killer Harper and his murder victim Kirby. Yup, that’s right a time-travelling killer, and Kirby the girl who should be dead but isn’t. We travel with both of them, through time with Harper as he does his dastardly deeds, and with Kirby as she investigates her own case under the cover of newspaper intern and discovers impossibilities in hers and other cases that lead to the realisation that there is a serial killer loose in time…

While it’s got time-travel the book isn’t science-fiction-y. The web that is woven through the chapters is on the complex side (meaning no skim / skip reading) but it definitely isn’t a chore to read, in-fact it’s really enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as a book about a serial killer can be). The pace is good, the thrill is good and the ending … well I’ll just say it’s also good. If you’re looking to try something out of your normal reading zone give The Shining Girls a go – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.