Our books of the month, June 2023
Explore our books of the month for June; each of the below titles has been read and recommended by our booksellers before being selected as our book of the month for its category.
Fiction book of the month
Sad Girl Novel by Pip Finkemeyer
Reviewed by Aurelia Orr, Readings Kids
'... a humorous, heartfelt novel about finding one’s identity and purpose.'
Set in Berlin, we meet two best friends, Kim and Bel, who lead very different lives. Kim is an aspiring author, already planning the world tours, the book signings, and awards won for her novel, even though she’s rewritten the first sentence of her chapter about 10 times now. Bel is a new mother, and has put her career as an historian on hold to adjust to life with her baby. As much as they try to support each other, Kim and Bel just can’t help but envy each other’s lives. Is the grass really greener on the other side? Would they finally feel a sense of fulfilment in life if they had what the other has?
Sad Girl Novel explores the struggles and expectations of womanhood in the modern world, and the complexities of female friendship. Kim and Bel are funny, relatable, and loyal, yet also jealous and petty, providing insight into the mindset of people watching someone they love succeed at life more than themselves (or so they might think).
Crime book of the month
Broken Bay by Margaret Hickey
Reviewed by Kate McIntosh, manager at Readings Emporium
'... this rural crime noir is anything but dry.'
An expert diver has gone down into a sinkhole to explore a newly discovered subterranean cave, but she hasn’t resurfaced. When a rescue team attempts to find her, they discover not one, but two women, one of whom has been missing for decades. Detective Ariti was only supposed to be in Broken Bay for a couple of days on holiday. An ocean expedition with a local family means he already has a connection of sorts to the brother of the missing woman, and a passing police commissioner suggests he might like to stay and keep an eye on things until the investigators from Adelaide take over in a few days. Somewhat reluctantly, Ariti agrees, and suddenly his peaceful weekend becomes anything but when a well-known local is murdered. This leads him to investigate two of the most prominent families in the area, and he discovers that nothing is as it seems in this small coastal town, not even the ground they walk on.
Although this is the third novel following the affable Ariti and his modern-day policing adventures, you don’t have to have read the first two. Hickey does an excellent job of including characters and backstory from the previous books without making it obvious that you could have prior knowledge of them. Her detective is flawed but likeable, the people he meets are recognisable, and their actions understandable, even when they lead to a sticky end. With a clever plot and a delightfully Aussie flavour, this rural crime noir is anything but dry.
Nonfiction book of the month
What's for Dinner? by Jill Griffiths
Reviewed by Angela Crocombe, Readings senior buyer
'... this is an informative and highly readable book for anyone who eats – which is all of us!'
This nonfiction account by journalist and self-confessed food-obsessive Jill Griffiths is a deep dive into some of the biggest issues around agriculture, food production and food consumption in our increasingly complex world. Tackling the topic with a journalist’s eye and with a sympathetic ear to farmers and workers in the industry, Griffiths breaks down her subject into chapters about different food basics – tomatoes, wheat, potatoes, chicken, salmon, and many more – plunging us into the controversies, the issues, and the uncertainties that lie around each particular product. Each specific foodstuff provides an entry point to talking about other issues. For example, discussion of potatoes naturally leads into a discussion about pesticide usage and no-till farming. Or macadamias, which have been our most successful indigenous crop, offer a natural segue into an exploration of why the native foods industry has yet to really boom here, given it has so much potential.
Linking the food we eat to farming in Australia and the environmental impact of all the many steps from farm to table makes for a complicated network of relationships. What Griffiths uncovers about our food industry is that there are no hard and fast rules and no easy answers, but for anyone interested in how we get our food, the market constraints around it, and how hard farmers work to make a living, this is a fascinating insight into the latest research and knowledge on the topic. Well referenced and with some ideas for further reading, this is an informative and highly readable book for anyone who eats – which is all of us!
Kids book of the month
Sunday Skating by Andrea Rowe and Hannah Sommerville (illus.)
Reviewed by Kim Grushchow, co-manager at Readings St Kilda
'... a gentle and positive story about the joy of overcoming fears to try out a new activity.'
It’s a gorgeous weekend day and lots of kids are out and about on wheels. Everyone is doing cool moves and fun tricks, but Clancy stands aside with his skateboard, not feeling very confident. Plenty of inspiration and encouragement from his friends might turn out to be what he needs though.
This is a gentle and positive story about the joy of overcoming fears to try out a new activity. Skateboards, scooters and skates are wildly popular among the picture-book crowd and the scenes and themes in this book will feel very familiar and relatable to young readers. It’s a beautiful celebration of Sundays. Is there any greater joy than spending a lovely, leisurely day with friends that support us?
Sunday Skating is a follow-on from the much-loved picture book Jetty Jumping and will also be loved by ages 3+.
Kids classic book of the month
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor
Reviewed by Angela Crocombe, Readings senior buyer
'... a necessary story for all children to read to better grasp the history of racism and its impact on children like Cassie and their families.'
First published in 1976 and winner of the Newbery Medal, this is a potent story of a tight-knit African American family experiencing prejudice and racism in Mississippi in the 1930s. The story is told from nine-year-old Cassie’s point of view; she’s the middle child in her family and the only girl.
As Cassie and her brothers go about their lives, we witness the injustices they regularly suffer and their growing awareness of their neighbours’ racism. Cassie’s family own their land and are determined to hold onto it, whatever threats may come. Cassie’s strong character and her loving family kept me enthralled with this story, despite the fears I held for them while reading it. This book made a powerful impression upon me as a child, and even more so as an adult.
Mildred D Taylor has said her books are based on oral history told by her elders, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is the second book in a seven-book series. It would be a great book for a family or class to read and discuss together. It is also a necessary story for all children to read to better grasp the history of racism and its impact on children like Cassie and their families. Highly recommended for ages 10+.
Young adult book of the month
A Curse of Salt by Sarah Street
Reviewed by Lucie Dess, marketing assistant
'I was absolutely swept away by this debut novel.'
Although she has been brought up to fear it, Ria Lucroy has always loved the ocean. But when her father’s ship is destroyed by the infamous pirate known as the Heartless King, Ria’s father is given an ultimatum: die, or give up one of his daughters in exchange for his life. Determined to protect her father and sisters, Ria leaves in the middle of the night, ready to face the Heartless King and the bloodthirsty pirates that haunt the ocean. But, onboard the Blood Rose, she discovers there is far more to the king and his crew than the stories have told. Suddenly, Ria is on an adventure, just as she has always longed to be.
A Curse of Salt is Pirates of the Caribbean meets Beauty and the Beast with just a dash of Moana, a mash-up I could never have imagined but something I now know I needed.
I’ve always loved the story of Beauty and the Beast and have read many retellings over the years, but this one stands out among the rest. Although it’s a story I know well, there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep it feeling fresh and exciting. Sarah Street has a talent for world-building which, together with a well-crafted plot, loveable characters and an intricate mythical lore, meant I was absolutely swept away by this debut novel. Plus, the slow-burn romance is absolute perfection. I’m praying to the sea gods for a sequel. This is a truly swoon-worthy romance, for ages 14+.
Classical album of the month
Mozart: Requiem by La Cappela Nacional de Catalunya, Le Concert Des Nations and Jordi Savall
Reviewed by Kate Rockstrom, friend of Readings
'... you must do yourself a favour and add this album to your collection.'
It’s 1955 and a 14-year-old creeps into a church in Igualada, Spain, where a rehearsal is being conducted by the local director of the conservatoire. Spellbound, the boy sits listening to the choir rehearse with the organ and string quartet. They are practicing a work that only just managed to survive into the modern era. Impressed by the ‘originality of the various themes and the perfection of the counterpoint and the richness of the modulations’ the young boy decided then and there to make music his life. That boy was Jordi Savall, world-renowned viola da gamba musician and director of Hespèrion XXI, who on this album presents his second recording of that seminal work: Mozart’s Requiem KV 626, from 1791.
In the 1990s Savall, with his beloved wife soprano Montserrat Figueras (1942–2011), La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and Le Concert des Nations, recorded the Requiem for release on his label, Alia Vox. Now, 25 years later, he joins with these same ensembles to again present this work which is so close to his heart.