Staff Picks: End Of Year 2019

From Amy

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Imaginary Friend - Stephen Chbosky
This novel completely captures the power of children’s imaginations but with a chilling (can’t put this book down) kind of way. The characters are masterly carved out by Chbosky and will stick with you a long time after the book ends. If you like Stranger Thigs’ you’ll love this book.

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The Serpent - Sarah Fine
Best urban fantasy I read this year. First book in a fresh, fast paced trilogy. Ernestine Terwilliger stumbles upon a powerful set of cards and characters that sets her on a whirlwind action packed ride as she battles to save friends, family and yes the world with the help of a rattlesnake called ‘Legs.’

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The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab
A magical fairy-tale styled read based in the town of Near where no one leaves and no one new ever arrives. Expect of cause one day a stranger does appear and challenges everything the holds it together. The stand out is Lexi the heroine of the story. She is a brilliant character smart, resilient and determined to save her town... and the stranger.

From Sarah:

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Dad you suck : and other things my children tell me
- Tim Dowling

A very funny look at the misery and merriment of family life and especially parenting young children and teenagers.

A door in the earth - Amy Waldman
Although this is a fiction book it seemed a very realistic account of village life in Afghanistan, the intended and unintended consequences of American intervention as well as the complexities of war.

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Hope, never fear: a personal portrait of the Obamas - Callie Shell
Beautiful photographs from the Obamas public and private lives as well as moving and inspirational quotes.

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Lenny’s book of everything - Karen Foxlee

This is a sweet and sad story told from a child’s perspective about her brother’s illness.

From Anon:

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Read again without glasses
- Leo Angart

Because it did exactly what it says 😆

From Jil

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Everything I know about Love
– Dolly Alderton

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Only child – Rhiannon Navin

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The end of loneliness - Benedict Wells

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The last time I lied – Riley Sager

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The body lies – Jo Baker

From Hilary:

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Boy Swallows Universe - Trent Dalton
A slightly mystical coming of age story about a Australian boy growing up in a rough neighbourhood, and a troubled family. This book is bleak, funny, and absurd, but put together creates a wonderful, moving story that captures your heart.

From Bev:

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A biker's life - Henry Cole

For motorcyclist enthusiasts, Henry Cole will be a familiar face (and voice) from the many television programmes he has presented over the years.  His biography is a candid, laced with humour, look into his early struggle with drug addiction, his eventual overcoming of that addiction but foremost throughout his story is his absolute love and passion for what the motorcycle represents to him – the freedom to ‘be’.  A very enjoyable read.

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Alexander and the wonderful, marvellous, excellent, terrific ninety days : an almost completely honest account of what happened to our family when our youngest son, his wife, their baby, their toddler, and their five-year-old came to live with us for three months - Judith Viorst
The title says it all!  A very enjoyable read.

From Linda:

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Lenny’s book of Everything - Karen Foxlee

Told from the Lenny’s experience of growing up with her increasingly disabled brother and single parent mother.  If you can put this book down for just a moment it will likely be to reach for a box of tissues as you laugh and cry your way through the pages. Suitable for ages 10 to adult.

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Too close to the Falls - Catherine Gildiner

Recollections of a childhood spent growing up near the Niagara Falls. Cathy is not your typical child. She has Aspergers and ADHD, has a very unusual mother, and is extremely intelligent. Hilarious. I imagine she is much like Anne Hegerty from The Chase.

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Nevermoor: the trials of Morrigan Crow / Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow - Jessica Townsend

Morrigan is fated to die on her 11th birthday. She escapes and finds herself facing trials in a magical world beyond her imagination.

Award winning children’s fantasy series. The first book “Nevermoor” was the biggest selling Australian debut since records began. Part 3 is due to be published later this year. Can’t wait…

From Laura:

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My Sister the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

Laura's RNZ review.

From Hayley:

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Spin the dawn – Elizabeth Lim

“Project Runway meets Mulan” – I mean what more could you ask for.?! To protect the honour of her family, haunted by the recent trauma of war, Maia pretends to be her brother to participate in the Emperor’s competition to be the Master Tailor. She dreams of winning the title, for her family and for herself. But along the way she must complete the impossible – sew three magic dresses for the Emperor’s new, and reluctant, bride. She must go on treacherous adventures to fetch the materials required, all the while aided by the mysterious and dark court magician. This harnessed brilliant aspects of Chinese culture and wove them into a beautiful story of being true to oneself, family, love, and sacrifice. A variety of folklore enriches the story, as it blends together many diverse cultures. You feel as though you live in their world, eat their food, and can see the stunning works of art made by the tailors as they compete. Whole-heartedly recommend for anyone looking for an inspiring, uplifting read, whether teen or adult.

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A Study In Honour – Claire O’Dell

African-American, female and LGBTQ+ Sherlock Homes – Sara - and her sidekick with a mechanical arm, Dr Janet Watson, stumble across a series of murders which reveal a great conspiracy amongst the leaders of the New Civil War in North America. Spectacularly developed characters, navigating the complicated worlds of medical practice, post-combat PTSD and treatment, dodgy insurance providers, military ethics, and emerging technologies.
The fabulously wealthy and dramatic Holmes gives new life to Watson, who in turn grounds and humanises Holmes, as they come together to save not only the sabotaged soldiers, but each other. Finally, a refreshing take on the traditional Sherlockian format, combining diversity and technology seamlessly into a thrilling read, perfect for any fans of murder mystery, classical Holmes, and fierce female leads.

From Sally:

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Dear Mrs Bird - A. J. Pearce

This is a story of London during the Second World War. The main character wants to be a war correspondent but the closes she gets is helping an agony aunt reply to letters. It’s funny and sweet and I loved it.

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Meet me at the museum - Anne Youngson

This book is based on letters between two people, in different countries, with a shared passion for history and nature. It is also a story with serendipity – one letter being read and answered by the right person at the right time. Delightful.

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Gloucester Crescent : me, my dad and other grown-ups - William Miller

This is the story of a street and all the families that lived on it. We meet some famous people but also enjoy the day-to-day life of the ordinary families who live there. It made me think I’d like to be a writer one day!

From Ngaio:

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The Proposal - Jasmine Guillory

Friends to lovers plot with strong female characters and friendships. Great discussions about important subjects like death, feminism, abuse and much more.

From Beth:

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How To Find Love In The Little Things - Virginie Grimaldi   Translated from French

Julia Rimini has got a great job as a psychologist and when she met her fiance Marc seven years ago, she knew he was The One. But when Julia's father dies suddenly, her whole world begins to unravel. Marc turns distant and cold, leaving Julia to navigate her grief alone. Then she loses her grandmother, her beloved 'Maminou', too. Sleeping on her best friend's sofa and leafing through endless self-help books, Julia's not exactly where she hoped she'd be at thirty-two. Something has to give. She has to get out of Paris - and fast. Then, a lifeline. Julia accepts a job in a retirement home in Biarritz - her home town. She'll tell no one she's there, not even her mother or sister, despite them now being just round the corner. It's the best establishment in the area, boasting ocean views, sun-drenched days and Basque country living. It will be her refuge. Except Julia isn't the biggest fan of old people. Little does Julia know that this place is home to far more than just stooped backs, pureed vegetables and incontinence pants. Behind its double doors lie broken hearts, lifelong secrets, a budding romance or two and an unflinching zest for life. And Raphael, the grandson of the newest resident, isn't looking all bad, either...

This was a great and quirky little gem. It had excellent depth to story yet at times I was laughing out loud. As the saying goes…..”Ageing is not for sissies”.

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Call Me Evie -  J.P. Pomare

New Zealand author (whoop whoop)
Meet Evie, a young woman held captive by a man named Jim in the isolated New Zealand beach town of Maketu. Jim says he's hiding Evie to protect her, that she did something terrible back home in Melbourne. In a house that creaks against the wind, Evie begins to piece together her fractured memories of the events that led her here. Jim says he's keeping her safe. Evie's not sure she can trust Jim, but can she trust her own memories?

This one will keep you guessing at trying to figure out what really happened. Definitely gripping and hard to put down as you just really want to know.

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The Rosie Result - Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back in Australia after a decade in New York, and they’re about to face their most important challenge. Their son, Hudson, is struggling at school: he’s socially awkward and not fitting in. Don’s spent a lifetime trying to fit in - so who better to teach Hudson the skills he needs? The Hudson Project will require the help of friends old and new, force Don to decide how much to guide Hudson and how much to let him be himself, and raise some significant questions about his own identity. Meanwhile, there are multiple distractions to deal with: the Genetics Lecture Outrage, Rosie’s troubles at work, estrangement from his best friend Gene… And opening the world's best cocktail bar.

The third book about Don Tillman and I’m still not tired of him. This book follows up ‘The Rosie Project’ and ‘The Rosie Effect’. I have really enjoyed getting to know Don and understanding his unique perspective on the world. I liked how the book delved in ‘labels’ and the impact it can have on people.

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The Three Beths - Jeff Abbott

My mom would never leave me. This has been Mariah Dunning's motto. Her compass. Her belief. So when she glimpses her mother - who's been missing for the past year--on the other side of a crowded food court, Mariah's conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind? An unlikely coincidence? When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder-despite the lack of a body or any physical evidence-immediately fell upon Mariah's father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances from Lakehaven. And all three women had the same name: Beth. Or a sinister connection? Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to her mother, and clear her father's name. But the truth may be more devastating than she could have imagined...

I had to read this, of course, because of the title! After reading the synopsis I was even more intrigued. This was a brilliant read with lots of twists and turns. I liked that the main character was a strong and determined young woman.

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles - Hiro Arikawa

Nana is on a road trip but he's not sure where to. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved Satoru in the front of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn't know why and Satoru won't say. Set against the backdrop of Japan's changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana's story explains the wonder and thrill of life's unexpected detours. It is about friendship, solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. Above all, it shows how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

This book took me on a journey and captured my heart. It is narrated by a cat which makes it all the more interesting and entertaining. Definitely put this one on your to read list.

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Where The Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark. But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.

To be honest, when I read what this book was about it really didn’t hold much appeal. It kept popping up in a myriad of ways though including some excellent book reviews so I figured it was serendipity. I read the first page and I was absolutely hooked. A heart breaking yet uplifting story at times. It is beautifully written and has poetry infused through it. The characters are flawed. Some more deeply than others and this adds to the poignancy of the tale.