24 Books of Christmas

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Does your fur baby enjoy your reading tine? My Cavoodle Meadow does. She loved it when I read Able by Dylan Alcott, as a great read guarantees her many hours of enjoyable sleeping time on my lap. If you like inspirational biographies than check out Able, you will get to know an amazing young Australian who sets big goals and achieves them.

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With so many great books released this year it’s hard to choose just one. My Fiction discovery of the year was the exquisite “Writing on the Wall” trilogy by Miklos Banffy. This little known classic in three parts will sweep you away to the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a society on the brink of the First World War. It’s a world of aristocratic house parties, mysterious snow-covered forests and tragic love stories. For lovers of the classics – a beautifully written and addictive series – start with Book One, “They Were Counted”.

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I found this book looking for something new for my book club Around Words that runs on the first Wednesday of the month at Yarra Junction Library. Allegra is eleven and has three important people in her life. She lives with one grandmother, Matilde, who is from Hungary and with her own story to tell. Next door is Joy, her other grandmother. They both love Allegra but can’t stand each other. Rick, her Dad lives at the end of Matilde’s garden and is Joy’s son. As Allegra says, Matilde’s ‘got a blind spot when it comes to Rick’. He is trying to be a good dad to ‘Al Pal’ but has his own issues and the absence of her mother affects all four of them. These relationships cause a great deal of tension in the child’s life and culminate in a very dramatic conclusion. A gripping book with many life lessons for all of us. I loved the rich, full blooded characters of the grandmothers but also the secondary characters, the people Allegra comes in contact with, her friends and neighbors. What an exciting new novelist.

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DeWitt wrote one of my all-time favorite books called ‘the Sisters Brothers’, so I was quite intrigued by this his latest novel. To be honest it started quite slowly but after persevering, I became absorbed by the characters, relationships and strange and humorous situations they get themselves into. I find the relationship between mother and son fascinating and the interchange from past to present and how they create this little bubble between them, which is hard for anyone around them to break into. As the story unfolds it becomes a lot harder to put down.

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The Lost Man is a well-plotted and tense psychological thriller with well-developed characters and an immersive sense of place and space in isolated rural Queensland. The author writes about the empty landscape of heat haze and the absolute necessity of water and shelter to the rugged, harsh and solitary days of the farmers. The descriptions make you feel you have spent a few days there yourself.

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This is a book of beautiful description and imagery, fierce battles and more than interesting characters. Onorio Celavini, an ex-soldier now law enforcer in 16th Century Florence needs to confront his troubled and traumatic past when he must solve two murders in Florence.

A past feud between two wealthy families in the area, which ended in the massacre of one of the families, is linked to the murders and Onorio’s past. 

He must solve the murders, save a friend and confront his own past to find peace and harmony in his future.

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A great easy to read historical novel. Kate Morton transports the reader back to London 1862 and weaves in a beautiful modern twist.

The story comes to a stunning conclusion which will stay with you long after you put the book down.

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Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik is the second novel in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy.

I stumbled across Jessie Mihalik when I went looking for female science fiction authors.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series, with strong female characters and an entertaining story line; I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

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Geena candidly shares her life story so far and it is full of detail, humour and truth. As the book cover suggests it provides an intimate insight into the Australian sex industry, and is written in a way that you feel you are there in that moment, right beside her as she lived her life. 

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Quite a few borrowers said how much they enjoyed the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley so I started reading book number one, called The Seven Sisters. 

Within the first chapter, the book had me enthralled and intrigued. The Seven Sisters who were from all corners of the earth, were adopted by ‘Pa Salt’. The girls were given mythological names and you gradually learn about their backgrounds and cultures.

I have now read five books and have a hold on the sixth – cannot wait to read the next exciting chapter.

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Scrublands is the story of a drought-stricken country town thrust into the media spotlight after the local priest opens fire on several locals, and a journalist’s investigation into the mysteries surrounding the incident.

Extremely well written, with evocative description of the arid location and quirky characters, Scrublands was thoroughly engaging right to the end.

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The Nanny was really good, lots of twists, could not put it down. Read it in 2 days, my mother, my mother-in-law loved it as well. A very good read.

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This is the first book in ten year that Minette Walters has written. I really thought she had hung up her pen, so I was very excited to find she hadn’t.

I wasn’t disappointed, The Last Hours is a fine read. Set in Dorset, England, in 1384 the Plague is raging, people are shutting their doors and walling off their villages to try and keep the dreaded disease out. What follows is literally a fight to survive against not only the Plague but outsiders and class consciousness. Lady Anne is beset on all fronts from within and without.

Mystery and magic! Fantasy and fairytales! Twists, turns and time travel! Betrayal and a touch of romance too. Much-loved Australian children’s author Emily Rodda has captured all of this and more in her beautiful book His Name Was Walter. 

A gorgeous looking hardcover book, His Name Was Walter won the Book of the Year (Younger Readers) in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Children’s Book of the Year Awards, 2019.

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This collection of stories will leave you with a deeper understanding of the terror that a bushfire like Black Saturday brings to ordinary people like you and me. There is a disjointed and strangely lost feeling to the writing – much like the surreal place that those who experiences such a life-changing ordeal find themselves in. 

My heart ached for the myriad of characters as they grappled with the changes big and small that follow surviving a bushfire when a loved one, or a pet, or your home may not have survived.

An important book to read as we head into another Victorian summer – if only to head off complacency.

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This is the type of book that you want to give your full attention to, to get the most out of it. You’ll want to spend hours at a time reading on the couch absorbing each poetic sentence.

What I loved most about the Milkman is the lack of names and the ambiguity. The story follows ‘middle sister’ as she struggles to live her life on ‘this side of the road’ hiding her ‘maybe-boyfriend’ from her family, and her encounter with the Milkman from a town full of gossip and rumours. 

I have never read anything like this book, and I doubt I ever will again. The writing is unique and beautiful. If you’re looking to mix up your summer reading list, I highly recommend it.

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This is Holly Ringland’s debut novel, she grew up barefoot and wild in her mother’s tropical garden on the East coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert.

In the novel Alice suffers a tragedy at 9 years old when a fire destroys her home and she loses her parents. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of flowers, but Alice also learns that there are secrets about her past that her grandmother is reluctant to speak about. An unexpected betrayal sees Alice leave the farm and she ends up in the central Australian desert where she learns the culture of the people and their relation to their plants.

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