Mark, Sun Bookseller, has been reading Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel.
I once gave away my beloved copy of a T.Rex LP to a girlfriend. We lost contact, I lost the record. Some thirty years later I was working in a second-hand record shop and a came across a copy of the record in a pile someone had sold in. Inside was my name and form in my then-signature red ink “marc luffman 1cz”.
So Eris Spitznagel’s quest – to repurchase the specific copies of records that he’d lost, sold, or given away – seems less fantastic to me than it might to you. No matter. “Old Records Never Die” is a story that never suffers from concerning itself with the unlikelihood of its premise. The whys and wherefores reveal themselves organically through the narrative rather than explication. It’s an odyssey that leads the author to ex-girlfriends, emotionally estranged siblings and his own doubts and fears. By turns hilarious, moving, scathing and hopeful it never quite does the expected.
The fact that I have limited interest in the particular records he searches for – what IS it with Americans and Neutral Milk Hotel? – is not a hindrance. After all, he admits that one of the most important quests is for a record he doesn’t even like himself. Never arch, never cooler-than-thou, untainted by Hipsterism – he is hilariously unimpressed by Record Store Day.
“Old Records Never Die” will strike a chord with anyone that has an unhealthy relationship with records and make their relationships seem a little less unhealthy to people who don’t.
Kate, Sun Bookshop Manager, has been reading Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison.
An exceptional piano protege from the age of three, now in her dwindling years, Alice Murray has stopped playing. She spends cold afternoons wrapped in blankets, sorting her music, burning her books and making phone calls. Then she hears through the wall, a piano being played. It drives her to the brink, makes her question her sanity and dwell on her past.
As a child Alice escaped, by virtue of her mother, an unyielding, parched orange orchard in country Australia, to an equally bleak, grey and bitterly cold north of England. She escaped a father who, post WWI, is driven mad and driven to drink by the naked branches of the orange trees that are his livelihood. She escaped into a seemingly golden life, that slowly unwinds as a tormenting shadow creeps into the fringes. Her parents pass away on the other side of the world, and her idyllic relationship with her beau, Edward, unravels soon after they are married – his temperament more like her father’s than she had first realised.
Morrison delves into the horror and suffering of domestic violence, as well as the rampant sexism that afforded women in the 1950’s a place in the shadows, rather than the spotlight.
This novel is a symphony. Beautiful. Haunting. Composed perfectly. Like the often referenced classical masterpieces in the text – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Rachmaninoff. It contains within it’s pages the delightful slow build, the epic crescendo and the devastating silence.
Ella, Younger Sun Bookseller, has been reading And I Darken by Kiersten White.
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Set during the Ottoman Empire and spanning almost twenty years, And I Darken is a complex of tale of love, beauty, power, religion and politics, and how all these things are inextricably linked. This book is rich with the history of the time period it is set in, and while much of it is historically accurate, liberties have also been taken.
Lada and her younger brother, Radu, are the Children of the Dragon. Their father, Vlad Dracul, is the Prince of Wallachia, the neighbouring kingdom to the Ottoman Empire. Lada and Radu are complete opposites; where Lada is all sharp angles and scowls, Radu is all curls and cherubic smiles. Where Lada is fierce and resilient, Radu is soft – yet manipulative. In their formative years, the children are sold to the Ottoman Empire as a sign of good faith from their father. Living amongst their enemies, both children must find a way to survive, but while Lada learns that love is a weakness that can be turned against you; Radu finds comfort in the foreign religion of Islam. Both children are befriended by Mehmed, the forgotten third son of the Sultan who was never meant to rule. But when Mehmed is thrust onto the throne, all three children’s lives are thrown into turmoil. Alliances will form, promises will be broken, loyalties will be tested and love will threaten to destroy them all.
I devoured this book and was consumed by Lada, Radu and Mehmed’s lives. White has a beautiful writing style that manages to cut right to the bone, whether she is describing the interconnectedness of the brothers at prayer or the way a woman’s power is concentrated in her body. I am loving this trend of having feisty, bad-ass female protagonists and Lada is up there with the best of them. While there are no fantasy elements in this book, Throne of Glass lovers will appreciate the similarities between Lada and Celaena. Fans of historical fiction will be enthralled by this relatively unexplored (at least in young adult fiction) time period with its engrossing and bloody history. This book receives two very enthusiastic thumbs up!
Michael, Sun Bookseller, has been reading Alex Cox’s Introduction To Film: A Director’s Perspective by Alex Cox.
Alex Cox gained cult status, through video release of his films Repo Man, Straight to Hell and Sid and Nancy. You‘ve probably seen Repo Man a zillion times, but those repeat video-hire viewings never earned Cox any money, let alone the acumen to work in mainstream Hollywood — or maybe he just wanted to keep working the lean Indie way. But whatever your opinion about the quality of his films, you’d have to agree that Cox has earnt the right to tell you about film making, the history of cinema and something of his idiosyncratic film appreciation. Based on the film course Cox delivered at University of Colorado — and while he can’t show you the actual films he’s talking about (you’ll have to look them up through the net) — he can tell you what to look for, what to appreciate, what you can learn, steal or love about them. If you took film studies at university you’ll have studied something called theory with a capital ‘T’ and while Theory is an extraordinary way to appreciate cinema, you will be equally satisfied with a practical thinking approach to how the makers of films achieved what they did and discover that what they set out to make and what becomes the perceived version, are not always the same thing.
It’s mid June… Already. Winter has been coming (thanks GRRM), and has now arrived. The Winter Solstice is just around the corner, and beanies are out in full force.
Generally, when halfway through a countdown to something (in this case, Christmas – which is also coming), one stops to reflect on what has come before. In this case, we’ve done a bit of
soul sale searching, and come up with a list of best sellers from the first half of 2016. So here they are:
- The Natural Way of Things – by Charlotte Wood
- Betweeen a Wolf and a Dog – by Georgia Blain
- Eye of the Sheep – by Sofie Laguna
- Maestra – by L.S. Hilton
- The Dry – by Jane Harper
- The Whites – by Richard Price
- Everywhere I Look – by Helen Garner
- Talking to my Country – by Stan Grant
- Road to Ruin – by Niki Savva
- My Brilliant Friend – by Elena Ferrante
- A Little Life – by Hanya Yanagihara
- All The Light We Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr
- When Breath Becomes Air – by Paul Kalanithi
- Lady in the Van – by Alan Bennett
- Reckoning: A Memoir – by Magda Szubanski
- Moroccan Soup Bar – by Hana Assafiri
- Broadsheet Melbourne Cookbook – by Broadsheet
- Nopi: The Cookbook – by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ellen, Sun Bookseller, has been reading The Healing Party by Micheline Lee.
This is one of those great novels that transports you completely into its universe. Natasha Chan’s evangelical Christian family live life with a very particular intensity.The depth of feeling around their faith is suffocating, as is the family dynamic, and a dark seam of lies flows beneath the surface.
Natasha has escaped to Darwin but she is called back into the family fold when her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. On her return she confronts the zealotry, the mess, and the immense love that is her family, all of which is intensified by her charismatic father’s revelation that the family must host an enormous “healing party” if they want their mother to return to health. The pressure is on.
Beautiful Australian debut fiction.
1. It is of little surprise that our top selling book in May was The Official Miss Fisher Colouring Book. We hosted a massive, star-studded launch event with the team at Every Cloud Productions. Kerry Greenwood, Nathan Page and Essie Davis were all in attendance, along with a crowd that were queuing out the door before 8am for their chance to get their hands on this gorgeously illustrated book.
2. Two Decades Naked by Leigh Hopkinson came in at number two. The literary debut of a former stripper is sexy, seductive, insightful and superbly written.
3. Dominic Smith’s The Last Painting of Sara De Vos is an atmospheric entry at number 3. Beautifully descriptive and moody, this tale of art, fraud, loss and history is a must read for everyone – especially if you enjoyed Tracey Chevalier’s Girl With A Pearl Earring.
4. Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner is continuing to draw us in – Helen’s conversational and accessible writing style nurtures readers and offers moments of effortless insight.
5. It feels like everyone has caught what we have dubbed “Ferrante Fever”, and there does not seem to be a cure for this wide spreading and highly contagious reading frenzy – except to give in and read! My Brilliant Friend, the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels has entranced readers worldwide – as well as here in Yarraville – gathering more readers every week.
6. With the release of the trailer for the film adaptation, coupled with her recent appearance at numerous Australian literary events, Paula Hawkins’The Girl on the Train has enjoyed a serious resurgence back up to the top of our best sellers list. Tense, twisting, dramatic and more than just a little creepy, this is a page turner for lovers of psychological thrillers – akin to Gone Girl.
7. Winner of the 2016 Stella Prize. Finalist for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Winner and nominee of many other literary awards, The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood is gripping, dark, and a confronting look at women being given a public trial by the media, and being stripped of their identity. Misgony, corporation, gender and humanity clash in this raw, electric prose.
8. Georgia Blain’s latest novel, Between A Wolf and A Dog is a beautifully crafted story that elegantly explores the complexity of the family dynamic, and the relationships that form and fall over time. A stunning book that we love to recommend.
9. The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a FCK by Sarah Knight has, at times, been confused as a satirical or spoof version of Marie Kondo’s multi-million copy selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And while it may give more than a nod to this revolution with it’s name, Knight is really encouraging her readers to tidy their social life. Stop tying themselves in knots with social obligations and societies expectations, and start putting themselves first.
10. The 2016 Pultizer Prize for Fiction Winner, The Sympathizer by Viet Than Nguyen rounds out the top ten. A dynamic novel that explores the nature of politics, identity and espionage at the height of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Gripping and powerful.
Younger Sun bookseller, Ella, has been reading Whisper to Me by Nick Lake
Engrossing, addictive and disturbing … I’ve never quite read a book like this.
Cass didn’t do what they said she did in the news and now she’s telling her story, to set the record straight.
Written in the form of an email to you, the boy she has fallen in love with and whose heart she has subsequently broken, Cass writes in shocking detail about the summer her life fell apart. It’s been two years since Cass saw her mother die in an armed robbery at the family restaurant, two years since her father has been able to look her in the eye and two years since the Houdini Killer (a serial killer targeting sex workers) took his first victim. Now it’s the beginning of the summer before Cass’ final year of school and she’s hearing voices. Well, just one voice, but that’s bad enough right? Over the course of the summer Cass will find a foot belonging to a dead girl, hear a voice that could belong to that dead girl, hurt herself in various ways because The Voice has told her to, fall in with you and then break your heart.
There’s a lot going on in this book but Lake somehow manages to bring it all together in an absorbing and cohesive way. As it is written in the second person it is almost impossible not to be drawn into this story of mental illness, family secrets and first loves. Lake’s depiction of The Voice and the effect it has on Cass is particularly disturbing and I had to be careful about reading certain passages at night. However, it was incredibly eye-opening to get an insight into the way people with this particular trauma feel and how they rationalise this completely illogical occurrence to themselves. This is by no means a light read, but is wonderfully written with characters that bury themselves in your heart.