October 8th was Love Your Bookshop Day and The AU Review book team took to their local bookshops to snap up an entire haul of titles to top up their TBR piles. Two of the team even went on a whole bookshop crawl to share the love with as many of their local indie bookshops as possible. Check out the books that broke their banks…
Artichoke Books, Yarram, VIC
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Pan Macmillan | Get it HERE
Jemimah: I’ve been hearing good things about this book ever since it came out and it’s been on my long-term to-buy list, so I figured LYBD was the day to get it!
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius-his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Millpoint Caffe Bookshop, South Perth, WA
Bodies of Light – Jennifer Down
Text Publishing | Get it HERE
Emily: This book won the Miles Franklin Award this year and in talking to a lot of readers I know, I’ve heard it’s one of the most accessible and readable winners in years. Also, I read Jennifer Down’s short story collection Pulse Points a few years back and it blew my mind so I could hardly pass this up.
A quiet, small-town existence. An unexpected Facebook message, jolting her back to the past. A history she’s reluctant to revisit: dark memories and unspoken trauma, bruised thighs and warning knocks on bedroom walls, unfathomable loss.
She became a new person a long time ago. What happens when buried stories are dragged into the light?
This epic novel from the two-time Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year is a masterwork of tragedy and heartbreak—the story of a life in full. Sublimely wrought in devastating detail, Bodies of Light confirms Jennifer Down as one of the writers defining her generation.
Ordinary Monsters– J.M. Miro
Bloomsbury Publishing | Get it HERE
Jess: I bought this book on Emily’s recommendation. I hadn’t heard of it before and admittedly its heftiness might have otherwise put me off, but the blurb was intriguing and I’ve since seen a lot of good reviews for this book. There is something wonderfully fun about diving into a book you know next to nothing about though!
1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.
Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.
What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.
Crow Books, East Victoria Park, WA
The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell
Hachette | Get it HERE
Emily: Maggie O’Farrell has become one of my favourite authors in recent years. I started with Hamnet but have made my way through most of her back catalogue now and so this book was the top of my to-buy list for the day. I recently watched Maggie interviewed as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival online and it just fuelled my desire to read this sooner rather than later.
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
The Women Could Fly – Megan Giddings
Pan Macmillan | Get it HERE
Jess: This book feels so timely and I love the concept. I’ve seen it everywhere and it grabbed my attention immediately. I was definitely on the list to buy There have been some amazing literary speculative fiction novels in the last few years and these sorts of books only solidify what I love about the genre.
Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother’s disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge, because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behaviour raises suspicions and a woman – especially a Black woman – can find herself on trial for witchcraft.
But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of thirty – or enrol in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At twenty-eight, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has never understood her mother more. When she’s offered the opportunity to honour one last request from her mother’s will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.
Typeface Books, Applecross, WA
Dark Palace – Frank Moorhouse
Penguin | Get it HERE
Emily: I actually did a panel on Australian Literature with Guinevere from Typeface earlier in the year in the style of Books that Made Us on ABC TV. The Edith Trilogy came up a lot in my research, and I already had books 1 and 3, so it felt right to round out my collection.
For those who loved Grand Days, this is its sparkling sequel, following Edith Campbell Berry through the war years in Geneva at the heart of the League of Nations. Her marriage is falling apart but she is reunited with her enigmatic soulmate Ambrose. Edith is a literary creation to rival a Jane Austen character, and the force of her character, as well as the humour and spirit of the book, power the reader through. The backdrop is not only Geneva, but Australia too, and both are rich with atmosphere.
Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao
Rock the Boat | Get it HERE
Jess: This book has been on my radar for quite some time, and looks right up my alley. It’s got the sort of story that makes me immediately visualise stereotypical big battle-bots anime, with all the drama and politics that go with it.
The boys of Huaxia dream of the celebrity status that comes with piloting Chrysalises – giant transforming robots that battle aliens beyond the Great Wall. Their female co-poilots are expected to serve as concubines and sacrifice their lives.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, her plan is to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But after miraculously surviving her first battle, she is declared an Iron Widow – the most-feared pilot of all.
Now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she sets her sights on a mightier goal. The time has come to stop more girls from being sacrificed.
New Edition Bookshop, Fremantle, WA
Shrines of Gaiety – Kate Atkinson
Doubleday | Get it HERE
Emily: Another one that was high on my wishlist for the day. I love Kate Atkinson, and I love her versatility. The character of Nellie Coker I am sure will be a compelling one, and I couldn’t not pick up a copy of this one.
1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven, whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.
A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee
Titan Books | Get it HERE
Jess: I have been really getting into my books about witches recently. I love the stories of female friendship and defiance, and this is set to be yet another one that totally engrosses me. Also, the cover is just really pretty.
Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students-girls some say were witches. Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it. It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway-and in herself.
Paperbird Books, Fremantle, WA
Slipping the Noose – Meg Caddy
Text Publishing | Get it HERE
Emily: I don’t read a lot of YA or Middle Grade these days but I loved the first book in this duology, Devil’s Ballast. Plus, Meg is a local author and it always feels good to double up on supporting local!
Anne Bonny is chained up in the hold of a prison ship, nursing nine-month-old Molly. The baby is all she has left of Calico Jack, the swaggering pirate captain who loved her and stole her away to sea—and who now hangs from a gibbet. When armed men rip the child from her grasp, Bonny can do nothing and Molly seems lost. But Anne Bonny was not cut out for despair. She will plan for escape and rescue, and the plan will become action. And the streets of London will belong to her and her daughter — and the ragtag remnants of Calico Jack’s crew.
House of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland
Penguin | Get it HERE
Jess: I am so behind with this one. I was drawn to it when it was first released last year but for reasons that escape me I didn’t pick it up straight away. Now I’ve seen nothing but love for this book and so it was time for it to make its way into my tote bag. I can’t wait to dive in.
Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful and inexplicably dangerous.
Now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school – something her two famously glamorous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing, leaving behind only bizarre clues, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her. As they brush against the supernatural, they realise that the story they’ve been told about their past is unravelling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.
Open Book, Mosman Park, WA
A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting – Sophie Irwin
Harper Collins | Get it HERE
Emily: This one has been picked for my book club early next year and comes highly recommended by two of my good friends. It’s been described as a little bit Bridgerton, and considering I stayed in watching the new season of that plus going back to the beginning and watching the whole lot all over again earlier this year, it felt like a good choice.
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin. Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season. Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game.
The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…
Legendborn – Tracy Deonn
Simon & Schuster | Get it HERE
Jess: Ever heard the phrase ‘TikTok made me buy it’? Yeah. That’s this book. My feed is drowning in love for this book, so of course it had to be on the list for this book crawl.
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential programme for bright high-schoolers at UNC – Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape – until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus…
A flying demon feeding on human energies. A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down. And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts – and fails – to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down – or join the fight.
The Lane Bookshop, Claremont, WA
Sea of Tranquility – Emily St John Mandel
Picador | Get it HERE
Emily: This one first went onto my radar after it was reviewed here on The AU Review, but I was reminded of it when I listened to Emily St John Mandel as part of the online Melbourne Writers Festival recently. Emily said she wrote this book as a way to escape being stuck in her apartment during the pandemic, and it has ties to her classic novel Station Eleven, which I loved.
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
Pan Macmillan | Get it HERE
Jess: This is another one that I’ve been sleeping on for far too long, but I’ve recently been adoring fantasy written in settings that aren’t essentially medieval Europe. Add to that the news that this book was recently optioned for film by Paramount and I’m sold.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers – and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Diabolik Books & Records, Mt Hawthorne, WA
The Absolute Book – Elizabeth Knox
Penguin | Get it HERE
Emily: Books about libraries always get me, plus this one had a pull quote on the cover comparing it to Phillip Pullman so I have to see what that’s all about…
Taryn Cornick believes that the past–her sister’s violent death, and her own ill-conceived revenge–is behind her, and she can get on with her life. She has written a successful book about the things that threaten libraries: insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness and uncaring . . . but not all of the attention it brings her is good.
A policeman, Jacob Berger, questions her about a cold case. Then there are questions about a fire in the library at her grandparents’ house and an ancient scroll box known as the Firestarter, as well as threatening phone calls and a mysterious illness. Finally a shadowy young man named Shift appears, forcing Taryn and Jacob toward a reckoning felt in more than one world.
The Dragon’s Primise – Elizabeth Lim
Hodder & Stoughton | Get it HERE
Jess: I’m not going to lie, I bought Elizabeth Lim‘s book Six Crimson Cranes almost entirely because of the cover and even though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I already know that as soon as I finish it, I’m going to want to read the second book in the series. So here we are, with another stunning-looking book calling to me for attention.
Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all the while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.
The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next – threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.
Rabble Books & Games, Maylands, WA
Bila Yarrudhangalangdhuray – Anita Heiss
Simon & Schuster | Get it HERE
Emily: Another book club pick. We’ve done a few Anita Heiss titles for book club and she’s something of a favourite. This one has also won lots of awards, so it’s time to experience the goodness for myself.
The powerful Murrumbidgee River surges through town leaving death and destruction in its wake. It is a stark reminder that while the river can give life, it can just as easily take it away.
Wagadhaany is one of the lucky ones. She survives. But is her life now better than the fate she escaped? Forced to move away from her miyagan, she walks through each day with no trace of dance in her step, her broken heart forever calling her back home to Gundagai.
When she meets Wiradyuri stockman Yindyamarra, Wagadhaany’s heart slowly begins to heal. But still, she dreams of a better life, away from the degradation of being owned. She longs to set out along the river of her ancestors, in search of lost family and country. Can she find the courage to defy the White man’s law? And if she does, will it bring hope … or heartache
Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
Tor | Get it HERE
Jess: This one is another TikTok-influenced buy. While the third book has just been released, it seems to have spurred an upswell in support for the series as a whole. The reviews say it’s complicated and requires attention but that it’s worth it, and given some of the themes, I’m down to give it a try.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Planet Books, Mt Lawley, WA
Mr Carver’s Whale – Lyn Hughes
Harper Collins | Get it HERE
Emily: I saw Michelle Johnston (author of Dustfall) recommending this one on her Instagram during the week, and the blurb intrigued me!
The Carvalho brothers – handsome Marcelinho and clever Antonio – are destined to spend their lives hunting whales. But the arrival of an unexpected gift changes both their lives forever. As the younger Carvalho discovers the fascinating world of the whale, a chasm opens between the two brothers, made all the more perilous by their shared passion for the alluring and wilful Margarida Machado.
From the Azores to Lisbon, from Newfoundland to Australia, our hero travels in search of love, fortune and his very soul. It is in Eden, a small whaling port on the south coast of New South Wales, that he finally finds salvation in the shape of Alice Binney, fellow lost soul and impostor, in flight from her dark past. An enduring bond forms between the two, culminating in a final, dazzling act of atonement.
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry – C.M. Waggoner
Ace | Get it HERE
Jess: If the title and cover weren’t enough to seduce you, I don’t know what will. This is another book that’s been on my to-buy list for quite some time and I’m glad it’s finally on my TBR.
Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.
Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.
Beaufort Street Books, Mt Lawley, WA
The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding – Holly Ringland
Harper Collins | Get it HERE
Emily: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is one of my favourite books, and the year it came out I actually read it twice because I loved it so much. I’m hoping I’ll love this new novel by Holly just as much.
The last time Esther Wilding’s beloved older sister Aura was seen, she was walking along the shore towards the sea. In the wake of Aura’s disappearance, Esther’s family struggles to live with their loss. To seek the truth about her sister’s death, Esther reluctantly travels from lutruwita, Tasmania to Copenhagen, and then to the Faroe Islands, following the trail of the stories Aura left behind: seven fairy tales about selkies, swans and women, alongside cryptic verses Aura wrote and had secretly tattooed on her body.
A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
Del Rey | Get it HERE
Jess: This one wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the day, but it seemed to follow me to every bookstore we visited and I kept being drawn to it. By the time we go to our last stop, I knew I couldn’t leave without it.
Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered. There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.
El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school. Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
Thanks to Jemimah Brewster and Emily Paull for their contributions to this article.