The Stella Prize Longlist 2019

We love a good longlist at Brays. The anticipation! Waiting and wondering to see if any of our staff favourite’s will also get the nod from the award judges. Last night the Stella Prize announced their longlist for 2019. We were thrilled to see four of our staff favs (so far) on it.

Libby enjoyed The Death of Noah Glass, Sylvia has been recommending Eggshell Skull to everyone for the past few months and Bronwyn loved The Arsonist and The World Was Whole.

Have you read any of this year’s Stella longlist?

stella longlist 2019

The Stella website stated the longlist of

twelve books cover sexual assault, arson and its consequences, parental neglect, issues of mental health, dysfunctional and complicated family life, chronic illness, and inherited pain. Each is concerned with the most important questions of how to live now, and writers demonstrate first-rate critical thinking capabilities, tremendous imagination, and a readiness to take risks with form.

The shortlist will be published on the 8th of March, with the overall winner will be announced on the 9th April 2019.

Posted in Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Stella Prize | Leave a comment

Costa Book Awards





The Costa Book of the Year Award, announced their category winners last week.

They are:

First novel

  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Stuart Turton, Bloomsbury)


  • Normal People (Sally Rooney, Faber)


  • The Cut Out Girl (Bart van Es, Fig Tree)


  • Assurances (J O Morgan, Jonathan Cape)

Children’s books

  • The Skylarks’ War (Hilary McKay, Macmillan Children’s Books).


The Book of the Year will be announced on the 29th January 2019 from one of these five titles.

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Meet the Author – Tessa Lunney

Kiki Button is here! 

Meet the glamorous, witty and charming Kiki and her equally glamorous, witty and charming sidekick, Tessa!

Tuesday 26th June 2018

6:30 for a 7:00pm start
Bookings are essential.

Cost: $12.50 per person – $10 for Brays Loyalty Club members.
Finger food and drinks included.
To book, phone 9810 5613, email us at, or ask our staff in store.

April in Paris


Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy. We all have secrets – it’s just that Kiki has more than most … For fans of Phryne Fisher and Julian Fellowes

It’s 1921, and after two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the horrors of the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Paris.

Paris in 1921 is the city of freedom, the place where she can remake herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and bold, the suspicious and strange.

But on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her old spymaster from the war contacts her – she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use every ounce of her determination, her wit and her wiles to save herself, the man she adores, and the life she has come to love – in just one week.

Playful, charming, witty and very, very entertaining, Kiki Button – the fearless, beautiful and blonde-bobbed Australienne – is a heroine to win hearts.

Tessa Lunney was a former staff member of Brays Books. Since leaving us she has had fiction, poetry, and reviews published  in the Griffith Review,  Southerly,  Mascara, and Contrapasso, as well as Best Australian Poems 2014. She received a Doctorate of Creative Arts in 2013 from the University of Western Sydney. Her dissertation was on ‘silence in contemporary Australian war fiction, with a basis in trauma theory and close reference to David Malouf, Brenda Walker, and Evie Wyld.’

Her new heroine, Kiki Button is getting rave reviews on Goodreads. Catherine says,

the real charm of this novel – besides the fantastic descriptions of Paris, the authenticity of the period detail and the wit – is of course the entirely original Kiki: her fabulous clothes, her gaiety, her secret sadness, her appetite for life, her many and complicated loves.

Thomas tells us to beware,

Warning: this book may contain a ménage à trois in the first 30 pages, outrageous characters all vying for centre stage, a strong female character kicking ass, a love pentagon (as opposed to a love triangle), and the constant consumption of copious cocktails.

Christine loved the combination of light and shade, though her

favourite aspect of the book was the many shades of femininity and female experience throughout, with so many interesting women I want to know more about. I admit I was living vicariously through Kiki, she’s like the alter ego I’ve always wanted.

Micah was impressed by Tessa’s

attention to detail and idiom (which) brings the period and place to life, and the plot and pacing are on par with the best of the genre. But what I appreciated most about April in Paris 1921 was the deft way in which the author so subtly portrays the physical and emotional bruises beneath the makeup of the ‘bright young things’ as they drink, gossip and dance.

April in Paris, 1921 also gets a big thumbs up from Tessa’s former boss, Philip Bray!

kiki tessa

A picture of the author, dressed as Kiki, sitting in the terrasse of Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse, Paris in April.

We hope to see you at Brays on Tuesday the 26th June for an evening of witty banter, good memories and great story-telling! The perfect way to while away a wintry night.

Posted in Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Crime and mystery fiction, Event, France, Local Author, Paris, Tessa Lunney | Leave a comment

Longlists, Shortlists & Winners

Tis the season for book awards. Love them or hate them, it’s hard to avoid them. Every time I open my emails at the moment, another book award is being announced (or not, in the case of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, but that’s another story!)

Trying to read as many of the nominated books each year is an occupational hazard for booksellers. We love to champion our favourites and marvel when the judges agree with us (& curse them when they don’t!)

Today the Miles Franklin longlist was announced:

  • Peter Carey: The Long Way Home (Staff favourite – Philip)
  • Felicity Castagna: No More Boats
  • Michelle de Kretser: The Life to Come (Staff favourite – Libby)
  • Lia Hills: The Crying Place
  • Eva Hornung: The Last Garden 
  • Wayne Macauley: Some Tests
  • Catherine McKinnon: Storyland 
  • Gerald Murnane: Border Districts
  • Jane Rawson: From the Wreck 
  • Michael Sala: The Restorer 
  • Kim Scott: Taboo

And the winner of the Man Booker International Prize was awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and her translator, Jennifer Croft for Flights. Not a staff favourite yet, but on several of our TBR wishlists.


Closer to home, Alexis Wright recently won The Stella Prize for Tracker, Jessica Townsend was awarded Book of the Year by the Independent Booksellers with her debut children’s book, Nevermoor (staff favourite – Bronwyn), Emily O’Grady received the Australian/Vogel unpublished manuscript award for The Yellow House (now in store) and Taboo by Kim Scott won the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year while Bram Presser won an impressive three awards on the same night – the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction , the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and the People’s Choice Award – for The Book of Dirt.

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The Women’s Prize announced their shortlist last month:

  • The Idiot by Elif Batuman
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
  • Sight by Jessie Greengrass
  • When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (staff favourite – Bronwyn & Libby)
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward


as did the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction:

  • Manhattan Beach  by Jennifer Egan
  • Sugar Money  by Jane Harris (staff favourite – Bronwyn)
  • Grace by Paul Lynch
  • The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
  • Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves  by Rachel Malik (staff favourite – Libby)
  • The Gallows Pole  by Benjamin Myers

The Crime Writers Association Dagger awards announced their various longlists during the week, with the Gold Dagger nominees including Australian author Emma Viskic for her Ned Kelly award winning novel, Resurrection Bay.


Finally, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded to Andrew Sean Greer for Less.

Have you read any of these award winning books yet?


Posted in Bronwyn, CWA Daggers, Indies Book of the Year, Man Booker International Prize, Miles Franklin Award, NSW Premier's Literary Award, Pulitzer Prize, Stella Prize, Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, Women's Prize for Fiction | Leave a comment

Author Event with Caroline Beecham

Meet the Author at Brays Books!
Caroline Beecham

Tuesday 29th May 2018

6:30 for a 7:00pm start
Bookings are essential.

Cost: $12.50 per person – $10 for Brays Loyalty Club members.
Finger food and drinks included.
To book, phone 9810 5613, email us at, or ask our staff in store.


Caroline Beecham grew up by the English seaside but now lives with her husband and two sons by Sydney Harbour.  She has an MA in Film & Television and a MA in Creative Writing.

She relocated to Australia to further her career as a writer and producer in film and television.
Caroline has worked on a documentary about Princess Diana lookalikes, a series about journeys to the ends of the earth, as well as a feature film about finding the end of the rainbow.

In 2012 she decided to explore a new way of storytelling and studied the craft of novel writing at the Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin.

Her first novel, Maggie’s Kitchen, was published in 2016 and her second, Eleanor’s Secret was published this month, both with Allen & Unwin.


Eleanor’s Secret:

An engrossing wartime mystery of past deceptions, family secrets and long-lasting love…

London, 1942
When art school graduate, Eleanor Roy, is recruited by the War Artists Advisory Committee, she comes one step closer to realising her dream of becoming one of the few female war artists. But breaking into the art establishment proves difficult until Eleanor meets painter, Jack Valante, only to be separated by his sudden posting overseas.

Melbourne, 2010
Although reluctant to leave her family at home, Kathryn can’t refuse her grandmother Eleanor’s request to travel to London to help her return a precious painting to its artist. But when the search uncovers a long-held family secret, Kathryn has to make a choice to return home or risk her family’s future, as Eleanor shows her that safeguarding the future is sometimes worth more than protecting the past.

Posted in Australian, Caroline Beecham, Event, Historical Fiction, Local Author | Leave a comment

Staff Favourites

We recently asked our staff to tell us the last book they had read AND loved.

Tim read AND loved He by John Connolly.


He is Stan Laurel and in this biographical novel you feel as if you are treading the boards of vaudeville and wandering the film sets of the ever evolving Hollywood. What shines is his friendship with ‘Babe’ – Oliver Hardy – and the drive that led them to a beloved place in cinema-goers hearts.

Sara read AND loved Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty.

rain dogs

Crime fiction is my holiday from literary fiction, but Adrian McKinty’s crime series is anything but light. McKinty has created a flawed and complex character in Duffy. His books are set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s with a background of real events: IRA hunger strikes, the bomb attack on Thatcher and so on. Not just an engaging mystery, they are a broader look at the social, political and historical issues of the time.

Nell read AND loved SPQR by Mary Beard.


Beard’s writing is very engaging and completely submerges you into the time of the Roman world. She also discusses historical figures and the debates surrounding them in order to turn them into more 3-dimensional characters. I also loved that she explored more alternative themes like gender and class.

Bronwyn recently read AND loved The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar.


Azar has given us a classic story of good and evil. Her words are fluid as is her approach to time and truth. Belonging, love and loss are the major themes while the search for solace is the main concern for her characters. Given the horrific events that occurred during the Iranian Revolution, it is easy to understand why and how an author would choose to wrap these unreal events up in mythology. When the real world you live in suddenly gets turned on it’s head, sometimes the only response is imagination and the only hope is magic.

What have you read AND loved recently?

Philip, Libby, Sylvia & Charlotte’s picks will be revealed soon!

Posted in Bronwyn, Favourites, Reading Habits, Staff Favourites | Leave a comment

Local Business Awards

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Inner West Local Business Awards!

The public now have the opportunity to nominate their favourite local businesses in a selected category.”

To vote for Brays Books please click on this link to our Inner West Local Business Awards page.


Voting is open until the 24th April, 2018.

Posted in Inner West Business Awards, Philip Bray | Leave a comment

Slow Reading

Many of you may have heard of the slow movement, especially as it relates to food, parenting and travel, but in recent times, slow reading has been added to the list of things to enjoy in a more leisurely fashion.

Slow reading is related to ‘deep reading’ or ‘close reading’ which is often encouraged in academic circles as a way to ‘fully comprehend and appreciate a complex text’ (thank you Wikipedia).


However, the recent slow reading approach is more about savouring the experience of reading. As our days and years spin by faster and faster and our daily lives get cluttered with digital technologies, many people are looking to take back their time – to slow down, unwind and disconnect from their devices.

I’m currently participating in a slow reading readalong. With a group of fellow bloggers and tweeters, we have undertaken to read Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables – all 365 chapters – one chapter a day throughout 2018.

It has been a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience so far.

Some of the chapters are only one or two pages long. It has been an exercise in self-restraint and patience to not read ahead. The advantage of these shorter chapters, though, is that if you miss a day, it’s easy to catch up.

Most of the readers involved have read the book before or have at least seen the stage production or one of the movies. A few, like me, have never seen or read any version of the story.

Slow reading has allowed all of us to savour Hugo’s language, research and discuss archaic French terms and compare translations. All the nuances of character development and plot are teased out. Understanding and empathy for each character is being fully realised. Those who know what’s coming up appreciate the set up, as those of us with very little foreknowledge, experience the thrill and shock of new discoveries.

Most of us (participating in the #LesMisReadalong) generally read more than one brief chapter a day, so we have found that we are supplementing our one LesMis chapter with bio’s on Hugo, French history books, other translations and a few brave souls are even tackling some of the chapters in French. The intellectual stimulation is amazing!

We have quickly discovered that there is an art to slow reading.

  • Pick a time of day that works best for you is important so that you don’t feel rushed.
  • Create a little ritual (read over breakfast on your front porch, with your morning coffee or snuggled up in bed late at night) to make the time feel special.
  • Switch off devices and take a slow, deep breath to clear your head space of any clutter before starting.
  • Read some sections aloud to really savour the language.
  • Make notes of any unusual words, poetic phrases or curious titbits.
  • Allow connections and deeper meanings to evolve.
  • Explore symbolism, themes, foreshadowing and other literary devices.
  • It’s the journey, not the destination.
  • Linger, delve, meander, luxuriate, play, relish…

But the best thing I have found so far about slow reading, is that it feels good. Really, really good.

It’s not too late to join in.

Posted in Bronwyn, Slow Reading | 5 Comments

Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year

Last week we heard that the Macquarie Dictionary Committee’s Choice for Word of the Year 2017 went to…


Perhaps, like me, you were a little puzzled, out of the twitter loop, and left wondering what on earth was a ‘milkshake duck’ and how would I ever use this new word in a sentence! Except I just found a way 🙂

The People’s Choice for Word of the Year 2017, however, might be more your style (it was the word I voted for anyway).


For a full list of the shortlisted words click on the link at the beginning of the post. Which one would you have voted for?

Posted in Australian, Bronwyn, Dictionary, Word of the Year | Leave a comment

Meet the Author – Luke Slattery

Tuesday 21st November at Brays Books

6:30pm for a 7pm start

$12.50 of $10 for Brays Loyalty Members

luke slattery

Luke Slattery is a Sydney-based journalist, editor and columnist. His work has appeared in The Australian, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review. Internationally he has been published at The New Yorker online, the LA Times, the International Herald Tribune, the UK Spectator, and the US Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Slattery is the author of four non-fiction books: Crisis in the Clever Country: Why Our Universities are Failing (with Geoffrey Maslen), Dating Aphrodite: Modern Adventures in the Ancient World, Reclaiming Epicurus: Could an Ancient Philosophy of Happiness Save the World? and  The First Dismissal.

Mrs M is his first foray into historical fiction and already a strong staff favourite. His publishers, Harper Collins have said it is,

a bravura literary achievement, a rich and intense novel of an imagined history of desire, ambition and dashed dreams, and a portrait of one passionate, unforgettable woman – Elizabeth Macquarie.

Elizabeth Macquarie, widow of the disgraced former Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, is in mourning – not only for her husband, but the loss of their shared dream to transform the penal colony into a bright new world. Over the course of one long sleepless night on the windswept isle of Mull, she remembers her life in that wild and strange country; a revolution of ideas as dramatic as any in history; and her dangerous alliance with the brilliant, mercurial Francis Greenway, the colony’s maverick architect.

A stirring, provocative and thrilling novel of passion, ideas, reforming zeal and desire.

mrs m

Don’t miss out on our final Meet the Author event for the year.

Call our friendly staff on 9810 5613 to reserve your seat.


Posted in Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Event, Historical Fiction, Luke Slattery, Meet the Author | Leave a comment