Reading for Reality: 10 Non-fiction books on my TBR

Sunday, 14 January 2018

It's fair to say that my reading habits have changed over time. Even so, it's true that there are some children's books I'd return to in a heartbeat and experience all over again, and YA novels that I'll recommend to anyone because they're not just for teens. However, over the past couple of years I've been wanting something more - to read wider into genres where to be honest, I've barely scratched the surface. Today I'm sharing ten non-fic reads I hope to get through this year, from memoirs to world history, and quirky advice on the business of '#adulting' in between.

I have to admit, it was the cover of Upstream which first drew me in when it cropped up on my instagram feed. As it turns out, the content sounds even better as Mary Oliver's essays reveal how her creative journey as a poet has been influenced by the natural world. Someone as successful as J.K. Rowling must have some good advice to share, so I'm really interested to see what she has to say about 'the fringe benefits of failure and importance of imagination' in Very Good Lives. The short stories and essays of a young Yale graduate whose life was taken far too soon in The Opposite of Loneliness are said to resonate with young people at this turning point in their lives, as they figure out the type of person they want to be and what their future may look like. For a general overview of the big issues facing the country and world at large, a read into The Best Australian Essays from 2017 is likely to be thought-provoking, and looking back at the previous editions might also be useful to see how the topics of discussion have changed over the years. The Romanovs has been on my list to read for a while, and although a heavy read covering over three centuries of Russian history - it's probably something to work through between other books. 

One of the powers of reading is the ability to travel the world between pages, so I have to check out The Colossus of New York which although published a while back hopefully still captures the bustle and exuberance of the city. That being said, I think for something more recent it's Humans of New York which could be a good visual alternative. Like UpstreamAdult Fantasy is another pure cover-buy, but I actually want to get my hands on a copy to read about how today's millennials really rate life's big milestones (and of course answer the big whether buying a house is worth giving up avocado on toast). On that note, The Barefoot Investor has been flying off the shelves in bookstores, and since it's been recommended to me by customers and co-workers alike, I figure there must be some truth in its message which I'll have to discover for myself. Jenny Lawson's recount of her experience with mental illness in Furiously Happy promises to be both honest and hilarious, making light of life's totally random moments. Finally, with a title like I Was Told There'd Be Cake, I don't think I can go past Sloane Crosley's collection of quirky personal essays which should make for a good laugh.

So there you have it, my personal picks for taking a break from reading for escapism, and maybe even picking up a few pointers on life along the way. What's a non-fiction book you've read recently which has inspired you?

Celebrating Australian Women's Writing - My #StellaSpark

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Whether it's from a publisher, bookstore or library, finding a truly great read which really resonates with me is always a highlight. These days I've found that the unexpected gems I happen to pick from the shelf can end up being the most memorable and moving. Over the past year, many of these have been by local talents, and in particular Australian women writers. These authors are forging the way in our literary scene, with stories that capture so acutely a sense of place and how we navigate relationships. So to show my support for the work of the Stella Prize, today I'm sharing some of my 'Stella Sparks' from books I've read in 2017.

One of the books which had the biggest impact on me last year is Anna Spargo-Ryan's poignant second novel.

As I said in my review,
The Gulf is impeccably written, but its real triumph is revealing the courage needed to make a better life, and the sacrifices we make to find it. 

This is a coming-of-age novel that is visceral and at times confronting, ultimately offering a tender portrayal of the inexplicable bond between siblings and the depth of loyalty to those we care about. I haven't come across a book which has made me both laugh and cry in equal measure as much as this one in a long time, and I'm looking forward to going back and reading her first release The Paper House.

Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies by Jackie French: This is a book that offers a glimpse into the women behind the politics of WWI on the home front, and the hidden power they possessed during this tumultuous period in history. I really love how French has written a war narrative which incorporates the impact of events both on the battlefield and behind closed doors, plus there was also a twist here which I did not see coming! I can't wait for the sequel The Lily and the Rose, releasing in March 2018.

An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire: A small town and the brutal murder of a young woman sets the frame for this no-nonsense crime thriller that strikes at the heart of the media's reaction to these tragedies, obsessing over 'pretty dead girls'. It was so interesting to read about the journalist's perspective as she seeks answers, along the way sinking deeper into the experiences of a grieving sister and other shady characters who may know more than they let on...
Mysterious? Yes. 'Can't put it down'? You bet.

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm: Gretchen Shirm's prose is effortlessly beautiful, controlled, and tightly woven in this story of an artist assessing his own life through a new lens. She captures emotions in ways that struck a chord with me, and I cannot wait to see where she grows from here.

These are just a few of the books by Australian women writers I hope to read this year!

Over to you - what's a book by an Australian woman which you have recently read and would recommend? I'd love to hear about your #StellaSpark, and there's also the opportunity to share your favourites with the hashtag on twitter and instagram. You can find more information on this year's Stella Sparks campaign here.

Genie's Weekly News (60) - Blogging milestones, this year's AusYABloggers reading challenge, and what really makes working in a bookstore worthwhile

Sunday, 7 January 2018

So it's one week into 2018 and my reading list is already growing by the day. Even as I fail to stick to my 'book buying ban' (does it ever last?), going through my bookshelves has made me realise just how many I own but am yet to read...

Yes, I really should get onto that.

In other news, coming across the old favourites from my childhood has also brought back some good memories, which brings me to something adorable that happened while I was at work the other day. 

There I was reorganising the kids' section, when a child who must have been around three or four sat down right next to me and passed me a couple of books that had been sitting on the floor, before picking one up and beginning to flip through the pages. I asked my unexpected little helper whether he liked reading, and he replied "Yes, I love books!" before going straight back to the one he was so enchanted with. He was quite happy to do that for a few minutes before his mum came back from another part of the store, and had to drag him away because he didn't want to leave!

It really can be the smallest things in life which make the biggest impact on you, and for me seeing the look of pure wonder and curiosity on that child's face is something which will stay with me for a long time. Yes, working in a bookstore is great when you get to be surrounded by books all day, share your recommendations with others and unbox the latest release you've been waiting for. But what I've found more important than all of those things are the unexpected, heartwarming moments that remind me just why reading is so important. As the saying goes, 'a child who reads will be an adult who thinks'. 

Currently Reading

This won the Stella Prize last year, and the story so far has offered some really interesting insights into what gives art the power to really connect with us. It's not the type of book to finish in a single afternoon, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

Previous Posts

Recommendation of the Week

There have been reviews at both extremes for this book, but I have to say that overall even if it is something that I didn't completely understand at first, the style was something completely different from anything I'd read before. 

AusYABloggers 2018 Reading Challenge

The annual Australian YA Bloggers and Readers challenge is back with a new format and prompts to get you started! To join in and find all the details, head to the goodreads group here. As an incentive, there will be three prize packs up for grabs - here's a sneak peek at the first one thanks to Walker Books:

What I've Been Watching

I didn't go into The Greatest Showman with high expectations, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not usually the biggest fan of musical movies (with the exception of La La Land). I'm so glad to say that this movie was BRILLIANT - if it doesn't win at the Golden Globes, I'll be very surprised. Hugh Jackman suited the main role perfectly, and the storyline with the songs that are still stuck in my head was uplifting and magically executed. I don't usually say this, but this is a movie that I'd go and see again - it's that good.

In another momentous occasion, thank you to everyone who's visited Genie in a Book over the years to hit 100 000 pageviews! In the scheme of the blogosphere, it's not really about the numbers - but I'm grateful to know that hopefully other readers out there can come away from my blog with a new perspective on reading or a recommendation for something they hadn't considered before.

My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2018 (Jan - June)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The new year is fast approaching, and with that comes the time to set some realistic reading goals, explore different genres and find new favourites! The first half of 2018 is already shaping up to be full of exciting releases across the board, so today I'm sharing some of my top picks to look out for.


For 'palace intrigue and deception', I'm all for Holly Black's latest exploration into the Fae with The Cruel Prince which is the first book in a new series. In a change of pace, Happiness for Humans sounds like a heartwarming and endearing read with a twist of science fiction to keep things interesting - kind of like the movie Her where an AI begins to infiltrate its owners love life (but hopefully with a better ending). There have been a few YA novels about school shootings released over the past few years, particularly like This is How it Ends, which similar to Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is told through the eyes of four teens affected by the incident. But this novel seems to take a broader view into the small town and the other grievances it must face, making it a book I really can't wait to delve into. Set in Rio de Janeiro, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black has the potential to be a thriller full of twists. After all, it does start with the protagonist's parents whisking her away to another country without any reason..and suddenly everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie. Sounds like something you've read before? Maybe, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Finally, The Woman in the Window is being pitched as the next Girl on the Train-esque psychological thriller, and whether you loved or hated it, I'm hoping A.J. Finn is a hit with his debut. 


In a world where beauty itself is a commodity, The Belles promises to be more than the sum of the superficial values its society presents. It's the first in a new series by Dhonielle Clayton, who co-wrote the Tiny Pretty Things duology. Another book with a darker twist that is also focused on beauty in the eye of the beholder is Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff. A dystopian novel which questions the meaning behind morality, I'm definitely curious to see how the worldbuilding comes across in this one. Gunslinger Girl is a Western YA dystopian which I first heard about at Date a Book's blogger night earlier in the year. It's reminding me of the Vengeance Road series just at face value, but fingers crossed it brings something new to the table.


Anyone who knows me will be able to tell that Jackie French is one of my auto-buy authors, and after the huge revelations towards the end of Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies, I can't wait to see how Sophie's life changes following her role in WWI. The Precious Dreadful is already hinting at a love triangle, but with the premise of a library writing group, paranormal elements and well-written characters overall, I think I may just have to give it a go. I Still Dream sounds like the backdrop to a Black Mirror episode, and that isn't a bad thing. From what I can tell, it's a story of artificial intelligence and what happens if it goes too far, with a firmly human focus. While In Search of Us sounds like a heartfelt YA contemporary read about the bond between mothers and daughters, for scifi fans who have been hooked on the Illuminae Files, the wait to conclude the series will finally be over when Obsidio is released. In short - the hype is real my friends. A country town and a commune converge in Ellie Marney's latest #LoveOzYA novel White Night. However, my little description there has fallen way too short of how electrifying I can already tell this book is going to be, so keep an eye out for it!


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is definitely up there with some of my most anticipated Australian novels of 2018. The content seems to be equally violent and enchanting; a balance difficult to convey but if done well will make for an emotionally poignant read. Caroline Overington (author of The One Who Got Away) is back with a new thriller with The Ones You Trust, about a woman who seems to have it all until her daughter disappears and the search for answers begins. Another major #LoveOzYA release on my radar is Sarah Epstein's debut Small Spaces that looks set to ramp up the suspense and deliver a story you'll want to stay up reading. 


I'm seeing some parallels between this and We Were Liars, as it sheds light on the lives of privileged teens and the gritty secrets behind that glittering facade. The Lies They Tell will be an addictive read if it really manages to deliver complex characters and surprise me with a big reveal or two that I don't see coming.


Word has already gotten out across the blogosphere, but for those who haven't heard, book blogger and writer extraordinaire Cait @ Paper Fury is releasing her first novel! June can't come around fast enough, because A Thousand Perfect Notes needs to be on my shelf ASAP. I LOVED Night Film as one of my favourite thrillers of all time, so to see that Marisha Pessl is releasing her first YA novel is exciting news. Neverworld Wake already promises to be atmospheric and shrouded in mystery, so count me in!

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor - Guest Post

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor
Series: The Southern Star #1
Released: 8th December 2018
Published by: Black Phoenix Publishing Collective
Genre: YA Fantasy
Southerner Sergeant Kearney "Red" Redguard is the last of a disgraced family, and a loyal guardsman.

And with a murderer stalking the streets, the city guard is his city's best defense.

But in the North, King Caedmon Taranisäii is gathering his army, and the cruel Night God prepares for the downfall of the South.

A new dark griffin roams the land, warning of the war to come. Betrayed and sent on the run, Red must fight to save his homeland. But it may already be too late...
I read K.J. Taylor's first release The Price of Magic last year which was an uplifting fantasy read. Any YA fantasy fan should definitely keep an eye out for this next book in a new series!

K.J. Taylor on Writing the Last Guard

Though its predecessor came out in 2014, I actually wrote The Last Guard in or about the year 2009 (I’ve often joked that if I could publish as fast as I write, I’d have overtaken Stephen King by now! Alas, publishing is a slow business). Still I remember writing it quite clearly. I did most of my work while sitting in a certain cafĂ© with my laptop, which was an arrangement I liked because it was comfortable, there was no distracting WiFi, and I didn’t have to bring a packed lunch.

I enjoyed writing the book, which – well, I admit that’s not unusual; I’ve enjoyed writing every book I’ve ever done. Some authors grumble about how hard and stressful writing is, but I’ve always found it easy and fun. But I enjoyed TLG’s story and protagonist in particular among the other books I’ve written over the years. I enjoyed the story because it’s more or less nonstop action, with relatively few slow spots, which made it easier to write than, say, The Shadowed Throne, which had a lot of talky scenes and political stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I actually prefer writing dialogue scenes over action scenes, but it was still a refreshing change of pace.

Red as the protagonist was also a nice change of pace. Having written one trilogy starring a murderous bastard (I still love you, Arenadd) and a second one starring a woman who starts out bad-tempered and rude and eventually becomes a heartless tyrant, it was a change to be writing about someone who was a genuinely decent person for once.

Red isn’t perfect, of course. He’s uneducated and rather slow on the uptake at times, he’s unimaginative, he can be very scary when he loses his temper, he’s violent, and in some ways he’s a bit of a thug – at bottom he doesn’t really know how to solve his problems without using aggression and brute force. He’s what you’d call a “man’s man”, embarrassed by the idea of showing too much emotion, and equally embarrassed by the fact that he knows how to read (as a boy he was actually rather proud of his literacy, but a good dose of merciless teasing from his peers quickly put paid to that). Even so he’s an honest man (he claims that never in his life has he ever told a lie), and fiercely loyal to his friends, his Eyrie, and the law he serves. Unlike Arenadd he is disgusted by the idea of hurting those weaker than himself, and under normal circumstances would never raise a hand to a woman, a child, or someone trying to surrender.

Unlike Arenadd or Laela, Red isn’t out to find his place in the world: he already knows who he is and what he wants out of life. Unlike Arenadd he has no great ambitions; he just wants to be the best guardsman he can be, and restore the honour of the Redguard family name since his uncle Bran “the Betrayer” besmirched it. Other than that he hopes to find a wife and become a father, so the family line won’t die out. If circumstances hadn’t intervened he would most likely have lived a pretty quiet, uneventful life – and he’d have been perfectly happy that way. But when disaster strikes, he’s ready to step up and do whatever he can to protect his home.

The other aspect I enjoyed about writing the book was the divide between the two sides in the war. On the one hand you can sympathise with Red, since the Northerner invasion destroys his home and robs him of everything he holds dear when he’s done nothing wrong. But on the other, you can understand why King Caedmon led the assault on the South in the first place, and especially so if you’ve read the previous books and are aware that Caedmon too lost everything thanks to the treachery of Southerners, and has chosen to make war on their country purely to protect his people and his homeland from an enemy who conquered and enslaved them once before and might well choose to do so again. This is not a story of an evil overlord who wants to take over the world and the plucky hero who must nobly resist him. It is rather the story of two peoples who are blinded by ignorance and hate, which dooms them to repeat the mistakes of the past rather than learning from them. In the end, neither side is in the right. Rather, they both do what they think is right. Just as we all do. The question this trilogy asks is “can the cycle be broken?” and if so, what will it take to break it?


Black Phoenix Publishing are running a giveaway to win a free copy of this book! To enter, just visit their facebook page and like or comment on any of their posts before 15th December.