Category Archives: Staff Picks

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Dead Ever After

The HBO series True Blood is still going strong (Season Six starts June 17 on Showcase) but alas the written adventures of Sookie Stackhouse by author Charlaine Harris have come to an end with the release of the thirteenth book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series, Dead Ever After.

For me the release of this book was incredibly bittersweet. I have found Sookie’s adventures to be captivating reads that always left me thirsting (pardon the vampire pun) for more and as with any beloved series it is sad to see it end. Dead Ever After picks up right after the events of Deadlocked whereby Sookie is dealing with the fallout of using the Cluviel Dor to save Sam’s life. Things are not going as Sookie expects. Sam is suddenly acting really strange – even for a man who was brought back from the dead. The situation with Eric is still not fully resolved and she simply doesn’t know what to do.

In true Bon Temps style there is soon the discovery of a body and once again Sookie finds herself in the firing line of forces that are out to threaten her life. Old friends return to help but with so many past enemies and an uncertain future, could this really be the end of the line for our beloved telepath or will she break free at last from the supernatural world that threatens to consume her?

In many respects Dead Ever After brings us some closure on some very important threads of the story while leaving others open for the reader’s imagination (or possibly some spin-off stories). Personally, I found the overall ending a little lacking in some ways and naturally would have liked more but on the whole it is a fitting ending for the character and the world that Harris has created.

Guest Blogger, Hayley, Co-op Member since 2003, can be found recommending titles in-store at The Co-op UTS

Life After LIfe

Life After Life

LIfe After LifeKate Atkinson is one of my favourite contemporary fiction writers, and as I love her crime series featuring Jackson Brodie when I found out she had a new novel coming out in 2013 I was excited. Atkinson’s work is considered to be on the “literary” end of fiction and I’m pleased to say that Life After Life isn’t a stuffy “literary for literary’s sake” read.

The book opens in 1930, a smoky club, a man, a woman and a gun. An assassination and the first, (or perhaps the last) time darkness falls on a life. The next chapter jumps back in time and it’s 1910 and it’s snowing. Baby Ursula is born and then dies. And then she’s born again.

She’s not reincarnated, she’s Ursula – she’s the same but a little bit different. And then she dies again, and is born again, and so on and so forth. It may sound a tad repetitive, but it’s not. Each reincarnation is a new opportunity, an opportunity to change the future, to learn from the past she’s already lived – a life with dejavu that influences choices and corrects past mistakes, and puts lives in parallel and direct opposition to each other.

Atkinson subtly moulds all the characters as each life progressing, adding new layers of love, hate, friendship, loss and opportunity. They creep under your skin and actually make you care about what happens to them – so much so that I found myself thinking about the changes Ursula should make when the darkness falls again.

Life After Life is already on the shortlist for the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction (formally known as the Orange Prize for Fiction), and I’m sure it’s the first of many prize lists this novel will find itself on.

Life After Life is an example of storytelling at its best, it begins at the end and follows an orbit that extends possibilities and defines what it means to live a life to the fullest. – it’s engaging and entertaining and you’ll find it hard to put down.

Fresh and Light

Fresh and Light

Fresh and LightBarely a skerrick of pasta or butter in sight. That was my first impression of Donna Hay’s newie, the aptly titled Fresh and Light. This concept alone almost made me put it back on the shelf. Almost. However, my undying faith in Ms Hay combined with the fresh and, er, light flavour of this cookbook prompted me to try techniques and play with ingredients I may never have thought of – all with incredibly tasty endings.

Open sesame and enter kale, quinoa, tofu and agave, who all make regular appearances throughout the book. The kale slaw (see what she did there?) featuring – you guessed it – kale, fennel, rocket, herbs, pine nuts and a lemony buttermilk dressing is crunchy fresh deliciousness. Served alongside the goat’s cheese and lemon chicken, it’s perfection on a plate.

Next victim is a polenta-crusted tart encasing roasted tomatoes snuggled into a creamy ricotta filling, which is devoured before Manu Feildel could purr, “Melt in ze mouth”. Following this success, I moved on to trial condiments for hubby’s lunchbox, and discovered a controversial soy mayonnaise. Let’s just say we’re going to stick with the regular eggy kind from now on.

The final treat attempted for now is an icy granita. I pick coconut and lime, as there are a range of flavour combo variations to choose from. Snowy and coconutty and limey in a powdery mouthful, it’s actually how you would imagine clouds to taste like. Yes, clouds over Thailand. I can’t get enough of it, and secretly I know it’s because I indulged my inner tart and added extra lime juice.

The exquisite food styling and photography in Fresh and Light are reminiscent of Ms Hay at her best – everything is flawless. The result is a collection of pure, clean, simple recipes that not only charm your health conscience but are big on taste, little on effort. Despite issues with the soy mayonnaise, it’s a winner. But now, time for some pasta…

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars is one hell of an emotional read.

It’s been on bestseller charts, it’s won Book of the Year accolades (including our own) and has award nominations and wins, and when you read it you will understand why.

In this book you’ll meet Hazel and Augustus – star crossed lovers.

It’s Romeo & Juliet but instead of feuding families you’ve got battles with disease, and while I don’t want to spoil the story, I do need to tell you that it is as equally passionate and tragic as that of R & J. So much so that I did find myself tear-ing up and shedding a few over it.

The writing is superb. It manages to deal with cancer, life, love and loss with humour and realism. It makes you care about all the characters and the journey they are on.

I would recommend not just for those who are unlucky enough to have to deal with child / teen illness and death, but for everyone – teen or adult – who enjoys a good story.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Hungry Zombie

Very Hungry…

I loved reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a kid.

A major part of the book is counting and learning numbers, but that wasn’t what I liked.

The other major part is learning new foods. I definately didn’t like that (“but the caterpillar eats it” didn’t inspire me at all).

Remembering back, what I liked, and what inspired me, about the book was it’s texture (yes, books have texture).

The fact the pages weren’t all the same size, and there were holes in them broke the square book rule.  I guess you could say it’s a reading adventure.

Now there’s a new take on the 1969 book – The Very Hungry Zombie.

It follows the same path as the caterpillar, well kind of …  instead of ice cream, cheese and cherry pie, there’s, clowns, footballers and rockstars.

If, like me, you loved the original then you’ll probably get a laugh out of The Very Hungry Zombie, it could also make a good gift for the child learning to count who doesn’t scare easily (ignoring the warning on the cover).

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The Dreaming Void

The Dreaming VoidI picked up The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton on a whim, not having read any Space Opera* before. It, like all Peter Hamilton books, is a big volume.

This book certainly grabbed me. Epic in scale. Spanning two galaxies are two very different plotlines. One follows a myriad of characters in a 24th Century Human Commonwealth of Planets, full of political intrigue, terrorism and excess. The other story follows an orphan boy, coming of age and into power on a strange backward planet, and is more fantasy than Sci-fi.

Do not expect story resolution from this single volume. I have learned that reading Hamilton is like fighting a long campaign and have since read the remaining two books in this, The Void Trilogy. I was glad that I did.

 Ian, Bookseller, The Co-op Bookshop UC

*Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities – Wikipedia

Where Good Ideas come From

Where Good Ideas Come From

Where Good Ideas come FromThe perfect balm for the psychological bruising dealt by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers.Gladwell told me that genius is the product of multiple factors and, basically, my chance has passed.

Where Good Ideas Come From reminded me that though I may be lowly on the genius scale, I can still have great ideas – and now have strategies to get my brain producing more.

Steven Johnson, I salute you!

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Ubik

Take a trip into the weird world of Philip K. Dick with his 1969 science fiction classic, Ubik.

The book takes the reader on a trip into the distant future…to the year 1992. Okay, so it was the future when Dick wrote the book and it isn’t exactly how things panned out but some of it is a plausible projection of what society and the human race could have evolved (or perhaps degenerated) into with some elements that aren’t too far off the mark and some based deeply in a world of fantasy.

As the story progresses, however, the characters are plunged into a strange, nightmare-like reality where they don’t know what’s real and what’s not and neither does the reader.

Fraught with a really unnerving sense of paranoia and tension, you are left guessing the answers to the questions raised by the story up to the very last page and beyond as this is one tale that is sure to stick with you long after you have put the book down.

If you love sci-fi, be sure to pick up a copy of what is easily one of the best pieces of science fiction literature.

 

Gary, Web Clerk, The Co-op Bookshop University of Sydney

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the WindPatrick Rothfuss pulls us into his world of action, romance and mystery as we follow the adventures of budding arcanist and born entertainer, Kvothe, as he sets off to discover the name of the wind. The Name of the Wind, part one of the ‘Kingkiller’ trilogy, excites our imagination as Kvothe overcomes the many perils and hurdles life has thrown at him. From surviving the massacre of his trouper family by the infamous Chandrian, to dealing with the distraction of an elusive lover and the challenges of life at the University, Kvothe is caught in an epic adventure. All the while Rothfuss spins an irresistible story filled with suspense, leaving us hanging for the sequels in order to uncover the truth behind the rumours surrounding ‘Kvothe the Kingkiller’.

This is a story of how legends arise, tales are exaggerated and heroes are made.

Rose, The Co-op Bookshop University of Canberra