Staff Picks

Book reviews

Meet Our Staff

Beth is the owner of Dymocks Busselton. She has a passion for literature and encouraging children to read. Beth loves to read literary and topical novels.

Maya is an aspiring local musician who performs all over the south west. Maya loves to read psycho - thrillers, murder mysteries and sometimes fantasy YA.

Beth

Maya

Jaimee is currently completing her Year 12 studies and is passionate about writing. Jaimee loves to read YA, fantasy and fiction about other cultures. 

Jaimee

Liana is currently studying at university to become a primary school teacher. Liana loves to read historical fiction, murder mystery crimes and some rom-coms.

Liana

Our Collective Staff Favourite Book - American Dirt

American Dirt still remains the top pick for all of us so far this year. It is moving, powerful and just a simply incredible read. Check out Beth's video review for this amazing book.

Upcoming Books

The book is everything Craig Silvey said it was and more. As he writes, 'When we live their story on the page, it's an experience that changes us.' What will stay with me are the emotions and feelings that Sam's story generated. Her particular experience is that of transgender but the turmoil, disconnect, hopelessness, rejection, isolation, misery, futility, isolation, frustration, uncertainty, etc, that she feels are similar to those many young people, trying to navigate a world that doesn't fit them, experience. Therefore, Honeybee transcends the particular; it becomes universal.

 

Despite the despair of the opening, the book is full of warmth and joyful moments and is, ultimately, hopeful. There are comic scenes and times when I just wanted to shake Sam - her self-doubt and sabotaging of herself - and then I had to pause and remind myself that this is how a person whose whole life has been one of struggle would react and behave. And, despite her, at times, poor decisions, she also makes some very good, very Sam ones. She has a heart of gold and does 'stay gold' throughout. 

 

And then there are the other characters - Vic, Peter, Aggie - who Silvey also vividly brings to life and who have stories of their own. Not to mention Sam's mum and Edie. There are just so many characters that, as a reader, I connected with. And then there were all the subplots to savour .... As you can see, I am consumed by Honeybee

 

The purpose of fiction is to, first and foremost, entertain and I think Silvey achieves this through Sam and Vic's story, through his wonderful secondary characters and through his numerous subplots that range in tension from violent and heavy to light-hearted and humorous. The pace of the book constantly changed, ensuring I didn't become overwhelmed  by the tragedy. A couple of times, I did feel the book became a little didactic, for example Diane's own story and her explanation of grief. 

 

I really think Silvey has achieved his aim of crafting a 'compelling novel' that also develops understanding and empathy for an other, reminding us of our commonality. Personally, though, I feel Honeybee is an extraordinarily well written YA novel and I hope that, like Jasper Jones, it is included in the WA English curriculum. - Beth

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Jasper Jones fans have waited a long time for Craig Silvey’s follow up book, and with Honeybee he’s produced something decidedly different, while still being distinctively Silvey, and definitively West Australian. I was gripped by this book from the very first page, it’s a great opening to the story, and once I’d opened the cover, I didn’t move until I’d finished the book. With over 420 pages, it was a really fast and compelling read.

 

Honeybee is the story of Sam Watson, a transgender teenager trying to find a place in the world, and self-acceptance, but it so much more than that. It is also the story of Vic, an elderly man nearing the end of his life, alone, and it is also the story of a range of other very diverse characters that Sam crosses paths with. It is the story of chance meetings, and unexpected friendships, and survival against the odds. It is a story about good people, if we are open to finding them. It is a work of fiction, but I felt like I knew these characters, like Silvey was writing about people I know, people I pass at the supermarket, and in the street. Silvey uses Perth landmarks and suburbs and locations in this novel, but changes enough detail that we know roughly where he is writing about, without being really pinpointed. As a Hamilton Hill local, I felt like I was following the characters into familiar houses there, and experiences. He typified the spaces well.

 

This is a cracker of a story. It is rich, and beautiful, and funny, and sad, it is full of hard times and difficulties, but feels positive and optimistic throughout. While it begins with two characters standing on the outside of a bridge and planning (separately) to jump to end their lives, that experience and the way they each save the other provides an opportunity for them both to learn and find a better life. The friendship between Vic and Sam is beautifully written and developed, but all of the peripheral characters add rich and interesting dimensions to the story, including those who have few redeeming qualities.

There is a bit of everything in this story. Thematically it covers some difficult content; gender identification/transgender, self-harm, suicide attempts, end of life choices, abuse, drug use and distribution, abuse of painkillers, violence in a range of forms, self-sabotage, a bank robbery, and much more, but for all that, it is a positive book, and does not dwell on the negative or poor life choices. It is not a graphic book when dealing with difficult content, it is all about the story, and relating to the characters. It is about finding people who accept you as you are, and accepting help. Three days after finishing this book, I’m still thinking about those characters and who they are, and the experiences they had. Very powerful and enjoyable reading. - Paula (Beth's fellow lover of Craig Silvey)

Our Top Reads for the Month of September

Betty

I'm not going to lie, this is a brutal read, but so, so worth it! It is a story of horrific generational abuse, racism & poverty and the traumas that Betty and her family experience are relentless and devastating. But it is also a story of love. Betty's father, a humble, vulnerable Cherokee man sustains his children through stories and his way of seeing the world provides light through all the darkness. He enables Betty and builds her resilience, strength and self-belief. Told from her point of view, Betty's voice is incredible. Such a powerful book! - Beth

The Mystery Woman

The Mystery Woman will have you hooked from the get go with its secrets and scandals set in a small Australian town during the 1950's. After fleeing a scandal in Sydney, Rebecca moves to a small whaling town to become the new postmistress. The story follows Rebecca as she transforms while trying to start fresh and leave her past behind. Belinda Alexandra has done a wonderful job of weaving domesticity, social etiquette and feminism throughout the enthralling story. The characters are so well created and the history in the small town is fascinating. A really great read! - Liana

The Tolstoy Estate

If you love historical fiction and books about books, then this is the book for you! It is a homage to Tolstoy and, in particular, War and Peace: a book that draws a German doctor and Russian housekeeper together despite the brutalities and horrors of war, showing the power of literature to inspire thought and to connect people. Conte's characters are so well drawn, each with individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, and his descriptions so vivid that we feel what Bauer feels - the suction of mud on boots, the itch of lice on skin, the sting of ice crystals flicked by an arctic wind... Such a good read! - Beth

The Book of Two Ways

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you made a different decision somewhere along the way? The Book of Two Ways opens us up to all the potential paths we could've taken and the regret that can linger behind in our choices. Focusing on the life of Dawn Edelstein, after surviving a crash landing, she is filled with doubt and uncertainty about the decisions she's made. She's led a good life with her husband and their beloved daughter but now she can't help but wonder about her old life in Egypt and the certain someone she left behind. Jodi Picoult doesn't disappoint, and neither does the amount of research and emotion she puts into each and every book she's written. A truly emotional (and very informational!) story of a woman trying to navigate the journey of life. Although potentially overwhelming with big themes of Egyptology and quantum physics, this is a brilliant read. Loved it! - Maya

The Morbids

A year after a tragic car accident, Caitlin remains haunted by her near death experience, unable to shake the idea death now follows her everywhere. I couldn't help but become wrapped in her story as she struggles with survivor's guilt, painting an intimate insight into how we deal with the after math of tragedy. Caitlin's flippant remarks and stubbornness are guaranteed to win you over! - Jaimee

The Thursday Murder Club

A charming story with multiple murder mysteries being solved by a lovable bunch of oldies from a retirement village. The characters grow on you and genuinely surprise you along the way with their quick wits, smart thinking and humour. Are these 4 friends able to solve the murders before even the police can work out who has committed the dreadful crimes. This book is a perfect weekend read! - Liana

Flying the Nest

Rachael Johns just keeps getting better! Do you know what nest parenting is? Well I do now and so does Ashling in this book. When she is surprised that her husband no longer loves her, Ashling has to learn how to deal with her heartbreak as well as supporting her children. Her efforts to make a new life for herself as she tries to reunite with her husband are what makes this book so special. Ashling is so like us that I couldn’t help identifying with her. Love stories in books always end happily but this shows us many versions of happiness. I love that it is set in Western Australia and showcases places I know. You definitely won’t be sorry you read Flying the Nest! - Beth's Mum

Our Top Reads for the Month of August

The Last Migration

A simply stunning story! The Last Migration is both beautiful and devastating; a love story of extraordinary magnitude set within a shattered world of near animal extinction. Franny - feisty, wild and terribly damaged – is determined to follow a flock of terns on their last migration to Antarctica and so embarks on a calamitous journey on a fishing boat with a disparate group of characters. Physically gruelling, Franny’s inner turmoil is even more gruelling as her life story unfolds. And then, against all odds, there is hope and redemption. The exceptional crafting of story and the heartbreaking emotions Franny evoked make this book one of my must reads for 2020. - Beth

To see an interview live with Charlotte on Thursday the 20th of August at 8pm..

The Girl in the Mirror

The Girl in the Mirror is an amazing thriller full of twists and turns. Just when you think to yourself that you have it all worked out, trust me you don't! The story follows two identical twin sisters and delves into their unique relationship with one another and will have you questioning just how far one of them might go to be just like her twin. A fast-paced book that will have you hooked and unable to stop turning the pages until the very very end (This I PROMISE!). Unlike anything I have read in a long time, this has to be my favourite book I have read this year. I highly recommend this fantastic crime thriller and I absolutely cannot wait to see just how big this book is going to be. - Liana

The Vanishing Half

Such a timely novel as the Black Lives Matter movement builds. A sprawling, family epic that moves between the 1950s and 1980s, Bennett writes about family, identity and belonging within a setting of racism, prejudice and white supremacy. Twin sisters. Two different paths. One chooses black, one white. Both lives, and those of their daughters, are difficult, challenging and heart-wrenching. And then there are the other characters, all skilfully created with their own back stories, flaws and strengths, who pull you in and make you feel. A disquieting, topical read but well worth it. - Beth

The Night Swim

Two crimes, twenty five years apart, in the same small town. To say this book had me hooked would be an understatement. I was absolutely enthralled and couldn't stop until I reached the last page. The Night Swim follows true crime podcaster Rachel, as she sets up Season Three of her podcast with a sexual assault trial in the small town of Neapolis. But when she starts receiving anonymous letters she realises everything is not as it seems.  Despite parts of this book being incredibly confronting and emotional, it is worth persisting to find out the truth. Unput-downable! - Maya

The Swap

I'm a huge fan of Robyn Harding and the way she can take a seemingly innocent concept and turn it into something wicked, creepy and uncomfortably brilliant - The Swap is no exception! The story focuses on seventeen-year-old loner Low; ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer Freya; and Jamie, who after several disappointing attempts to become a mother, has been pushed to the edge. A psychological thriller about obsession, desire and crazies. I just couldn't put it down, what a page turner! - Maya

Nothing Can Hurt You

Nothing Can Hurt You is like nothing I’ve read before! It is so unique and fascinatingly based on a true story! With a murder of a young college girl being the centre of the story, each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. It emphasises just how many lives can all be intertwined and effected by one murder with an  impressive rippling effect. I really enjoyed it for something very unique, different and yet brilliantly amazing. I highly highly recommend giving this one a read. - Liana

Our Top Reads for the Month of July

A Room Made Of Leaves

Kate Grenville weaves a wonderful tale with this inventive reimagining of the little-known life of early pioneer, Elizabeth Macarthur. Shes frames her story as a secret memoir that sees Elizabeth - spirited, intelligent, passionate and manipulative - navigating a ruthless, bullying husband amid the societal confines of colonial Australia. Such is Grenville's writing that I was one with Elizabeth, absorbed in her world (the story finished much too soon! A sequel?) and moved by her beautiful, evocative, lush descriptions of nature and landscape. And all the while, the sufferings and treatment of displaced Indigenous peoples hover uncomfortably in the background. Yes, Grenville has visited this era before but A Room Made Of Leaves is still well worth reading.  - Beth

To see an interview live with Kate on August 14th

To check out some fantastic book club notes...

Rodham

Rodham is so deceiving! The cover, sporting a real photo of Hillary, fully suggests the book is a biography but it is actually a fictional memoir that asks the question, ‘What if Hillary Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton?’ The ensuing story, a riveting reimagining of history, will certainly polarise readers which, let’s face it, makes for a robust Book Club discussion! For me, however, the twisting of the life of a living person became uncomfortable at times and I had to keep checking which parts of the narrative were fact and which were fiction, such is my knowledge of American politics! - Beth

To see a full Q&A with Curtis Sittenfeld ...

The Silk House

Kayte Nunn has done it again! Her historical fiction novels are like nothing else. She beautifully weaves the stories of three women from different time periods together in such a clever way. You cannot help but  connect with the wonderful characters, and the old Silk House itself is portrayed as a character. The elegant descriptions of the timeless silk weaving is stunning and paints an incredible picture. An absolutely gorgeous story that I absolutely loved! - Liana

For an interview with Kayte herself...

The Safe Place

When things seem too good to be true - they usually are. The Safe Place focuses on struggling actress, Emily Proudman, who after suffering rejection after rejection, is given what seems like the opportunity of a lifetime from former ex boss to live in a luxurious coastal property in France helping to look after the property. The only problem is the family who live there are not what they seem. This novel will have you glued to your seat and unable to stop turning the pages. The plot is dynamic and twisty and a joy to read - an awesome debut from Anna Downes! - Maya

For an interview with Anna...

Our Top Reads for the Month of June

The Spill

The Spill is for anyone with siblings who love reflecting on the past and being surprised when everyone's memories are different! It's about sisters and families and the bonds that bind; it's about secrets and perceptions and actions that can destroy this. I really connected with the characters (so like many in my family) and loved the structure of the novel (pieces of a jigsaw puzzle having to be put back together to create the overall picture). - Beth

For Book Club notes and an interview with Imbi... 

The Jane Austen Society

A delightful, feel-good read! The story, the characters, the setting could all have come straight from one of Jane Austen's own novels. It's like a book within a book as a disparate group of quaint, old-fashioned villagers come together through a shared love of Austen's books and characters and, though this, find satisfying solutions to their own longings and desires. If you loved The Literary Guernsey Potato Pie Peel Society (like I did!), then try The Jane Austen Society. - Beth

The Sight of You

'Would you choose love if you knew how it would end?' A beautiful, heartbreaking and clever book that has the potential to be the next Me Before You. The author has down an outstanding job at creating something new within the romance genre as this is nothing like I have read before. It is no soppy romance by any stretch, instead is full of the entire meaning of love. Joel has dreams that tell the future and ultimately has to decide whether or not to fall in love if it means knowing how it might end. - Liana

Devolution

Devolution tells the tale of volcanic eruption, chaos and confusion whilst one woman and her community face a fight of a different kind. Told through journal entries and interviews, this is completely different to what I usually read. Nonetheless, it had me absolutely hook. The book is at times harrowing and completely earth shattering. A tale of strength and resilience in the face of a deadly predator. I loved it and highly recommend. - Maya

Our Top Reads for the Month of May

Phosphorescence

It shouldn’t but it did! The gorgeous cover drew my eye and the words, ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ tantalised me. I picked it up, began to read and didn’t put it down! Phosphorescence is a beautifully written meditation on the ‘things that sustain you when the world goes dark.’ Drawing on personal experiences as well as the reflections of scientists, astronauts, psychologists and Indigenous leaders, Baird’s quest is to find and nurture ‘that light within’. Heartfelt and thought-provoking, Phosphorescence is definitely for fans of Leigh Sales’ Any Ordinary Day. - Beth

Husband Replacement Therapy

I absolutely adored this novel! Hilarious, relatable, fun and just an easy, entertaining read with likeable characters who just root for. The story starts with Ruby's 50th birthday celebration not going exactly to plan - after one too many drinks, her big birthday speech includes telling everyone what she really thinks of them, accusing her husband of having an affair, announcing she has terminal cancer and finally, informing her sisters that she's used her life savings to book them a three week cruise so she can spend time with them before she kicks it. What could possibly go wrong? - Maya

The Book of Longings

Following on from The Dictionary of Lost Words, this is another wonderful story about the power of women's voices and refusing to be silenced. It is an account of Ana's struggle to realise the passion and potential inside her in a time when women were invisible. A reimagining of the New Testament, Ana is the wife of Jesus. The time period has been meticulously researched and Jesus is vividly brought to life as a person. I just loved it! - Beth

The Lost Love Song

A beautiful love story about how an enchanting love song can change so many lives. There are two parts to the story and the separate characters story lines are cleverly woven together over time. A song that never got its chance to be recorded by Ari's fiance, Diana, thought to be lost was found in a journal at an airport. In an inspiring journey it travels around the world bringing joy and love to many people. You will easily lose yourself in the power of a love song and the incredibly gorgeous characters. - Liana

Our Top Reads for the Month of April

The Paris Secret

This book is amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking and simply unforgettable! I completely fell in love with the  strong characters and the story is just brilliantly moving. All about the lengths that friends will go to protect each other and how love can still survive through war. It is full of mystery surrounding some stunning Dior gowns and their owners. I did not want this book to end and I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. I absolutely loved it! - Liana

Dictionary of Lost Words

If you love words and history, I can't recommend this book highly enough! A wonderfully engaging book that weaves fact and fiction as it explores the lives of women during the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. Through the character of the feisty and irrepressible Esme, the history and prejudices of the era are beautifully brought to life as is the critical issue of the dictionary's male bias. - Beth

My Dark Vanessa

Dark. Definitely dark. And disturbing. But so compelling! Despite such an uncomfortable, confronting topic, I couldn't put the book down. I didn't enjoy it but I devoured it. It made my skin crawl to bear witness to years of predation and sexual abuse; how pernicious this kind of abuse is because it makes Vanessa doubt herself and lose herself and see herself, rather than the predator, as the problem. Definitely recommend for book clubs as it will engender some pretty intense discussions. - Beth

Code Name Helene

Ariel Lawhon breathes new life into the much loved Australian war heroine, Nancy Wake. Charming, smart and fiercely stubborn, Lawhon's Nancy absolutely does not disappoint. A thrilling historical fiction featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII. This book was just impossible to put down! - Jaimee

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