What We're Reading / March 2023

Take a look at what we’ve read in March: funerals, thrillers, Songlines, and the Ming Dynasty. It’s quite a list this month…


The Wakes by Dianne Yarwood

Amy Lovat, Program Manager

The Wakes by Dianne Yarwood

To be completely honest, I wouldn’t ordinarily have picked up this book, but I’d heard some buzz about it back in late 2022 and it was on my radar prior to the release date of 1 March 2023. I’m so glad I ignored my instincts and listened to people I trust — because I, too, adored this book.

The Wakes by Dianne Yarwood captured my attention from the first page. It’s so warm and so beautifully written. The sentences flow seamlessly, injected with just the right amount of heart and punch, and I found myself truly immersed. The chapters each change perspectives between central characters — a group of adults living in Sydney — and we gradually learn how their storylines intertwine.

At the centre, we have Clare and Louisa, who accidentally start a funeral catering business together. Clare’s husband has just walked out of their long marriage, and she takes a sabbatical from work. Louisa, a single woman with a quirky sense of humour and bottomless pit of interesting facts about nature and the world, just moved in down the road and starts popping in to Clare’s house for cups of tea. Somehow, they end up catering a funeral, and then another, and another. Their friendship blossoms into something so warm, tender and profound — combined with the friendship between Max and Chris, it’s one of the best books featuring pure-gold friendship I think I’ve ever read.

Through four funerals that connect the key characters together, The Wakes explores failed marriages and career changes and strangers falling in love and delicious food. It’s a beautiful story brimming with humanness. A story about love lost and found, about life and death and what it truly means to live well.


The Wakes, Hachette.

Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Rowena Tuziak, Membership and Operations Manager

I finished Ashley Kalagian Blunt’s Dark Mode a week ago and I’m still thinking about it. A gripping psychological thriller, Dark Mode dives into the murky quagmire of the dark web. It made me so angry…in a good way!

After a terrifying incident as a teenager that she’d rather forget, Reagan has done all she can to keep herself safe by staying offline. No smart phone, no digital footprint. But when she discovers the body of someone who looks just like her, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence.

Dark Mode is expertly researched with fascinating details about the secret lives of plants, as well as the 1940s unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, now known as the Black Dahlia. Kalagian Blunt’s examination of the dark web and its infiltration into mainstream society in big and small ways was the most impactful for me and left me reeling at how reticent we are about it. A powerful message in an absolute page turner of a crime novel. Clear your weekend and prepare for a couple of late nights. You’ll be hooked.


Songlines: The Power and Promise
by Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly

Isaac Wilcox, Administration and Digital Services Officer

I’m really enjoying this slightly unassuming looking book. It’s really well written and both writers take their time to lay out ideas clearly and at a gentle pace.

I enjoy that it’s written in two styles, as both authors write in their own respective styles. Not that they are massively different in writing as they are both from academic backgrounds.

Songlines: The Power and the Promise is the first in a series that explore Aboriginal and Western ways of thought and action and where the two can meet. It also waves a huge flag that says how much settler society, could learn from First Nations peoples. I’m looking forward to reading the rest in the series.


Songlines: The Power and the Promise, Thames & Hudson Australia 

She Who Became the Sun
by Shelley Parker-Chan

Wen Yu Yang, Administration Assistant

I’ve been reading Shelley Parker-Chan’s stunning historical fantasy debut. She Who Became the Sun reimagines the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, first emperor of the Ming dynasty, and is a story about fate, identity, and ambition. As a reader who gravitates towards character-driven stories, this has been such a pleasure to read. Many characters – though horrible and selfish – have such captivating inner worlds and while each unique, possess an aggressive drive towards what they yearn and desire, making this a particularly thrilling read.

This novel bleeds with emotion and is rich with a culture that I’ve been brought up with – I’ve loved the little details weaved throughout the world in such a graceful, poetic manner and the queer romances in this book are some of the most tender and heart-wrenching relationships I’ve seen in the fantasy genre.

The sequel, He Who Drowned the World, is coming out later in the year, and I am so excited to sink my teeth in the continuation of this epic retelling.


She Who Became the SunPan Macmillan Australia


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