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Luke and Iris discuss books and interview author Natali Simmonds.

In the new season of our ABC Staff Picks, Luke and Iris are back discussing the books they and their colleagues are loving right now.

They also interview author Natali Simmonds about her new book, Good Girls Die Last, the difficulties of writing different genres and her favorite books of the year.

Emma V. recommends the Welcome to the Museum series, which includes different titles such as Fungarium, Anatomicum, Botanicum and Planetarium among them. The design is a little reminiscent of the Old Cabinet of Curiosities style museum. The whole series is very visual, makes great gifts and also comes in miniature versions as well as postcards of the beautiful art featured in it. The Botanicum postcards are quite popular with ABC customers.

Floris loved Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. He read it during his summer break and says it has a nice “back to school” vibe.

Iris also read and loved it.
The story is set in a magical sentient school, in a pocket dimension, and it’s quite dark and sassy. Funny and very serious, too.

Deadly Education is the first in a trilogy.

Naomi loved Cursed Princess Club by Lambcat, a graphic novel about learning self-love and acceptance.

Princess Gwendolyn has green hair and skin and people think she’s cursed. She’s invited to the Cursed Princess Club, where cursed princesses find camaraderie and friendship. It’s a wholesome and gentle story about being kind to yourself and others and growing as a person, something many of us can use in these times.

Naomi also loved Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert.

This is Hibbert’s first YA (young adult) title, but it’s as good as her previous romance novels. It’s a friends-to-enemy-to-lovers work of romantic fiction, with excellent mental health representation, diverse characters and a very funny heroine.

Maria recommends the new Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods, the sixth in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust series, which includes two books up until now, both related to His Dark Materials series: a prequel – La Belle Sauvage; and a sequel – The Secret Commonwealth.

Iris says everybody should read Babel by R.F. Kuang.

The book is a very harsh criticism of intrinsic racism, colonialist ideals and elitism in the academic world.

This excellent book features a magical system based on linguistics, where the author manages to take the reader on the same journey as the main character.

Iris M. loved Nimona and says she can’t recommend it highly enough. Having received it as a present, she read Nimona during the summer.

“It has this big message about the importance of friendship and self-acceptance in an uplifting, upbeat and queer positive package,” she says. She recommends both the graphic novel and the animated film.

Bob liked The Maniac, the latest novel by Benjamin Labatut, in which the author addresses the current state of AI while telling the story of real-life Hungarian polymath John von Neumann, a prodigy whose gifts were said to terrify the people around him. Still, he managed to transform every field he touched, “inventing game theory and the first programmable computer, and pioneering AI, digital life, and cellular automata,” say his publishers.

The Maniac is a tour de force of biographical fiction.

A talk with Natali Simmonds

Although Natali Simmonds has written many books, her first thriller, Good Girls Die Last, will be released in December. In addition to her new book and writing career, Nicole discusses her all-time favorite book and her favorite titles of the year. (This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Natali: My all-time favorite has to be The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s my favorite love story, not written in chronological order – it was a great inspiration for my Path Keeper trilogy. It’s clever and beautiful.

This year I’ve read and loved Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart, We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman, The Girl Who Grew Wings by Anna Waterworth and This Child of Mine by Emma-Claire Wilson.

Young Mungo is a harrowing telling about the journey of a man finding out he’s gay, not very different from the author’s own journey.

We All Want Impossible Things is a bittersweet story about two best friends. One is dying of cancer, but instead of being a devasting, miserable book, it is beautiful. It is funny and heartfelt, about friendship, family and coming to terms with grief and loss. It was actually a pleasant surprise.

The Girl Who Grew Wings is an absolutely beautiful mythological retelling of the Icarus myth, but instead about two sisters.

This Child of Mine shows that even a book about a woman finding out she’s pregnant and has cancer on the same day can be uplifting and hopeful. It is far from depressing and has a lovely ending.

ABC: Tell us about your new book.

Natali: Good Girls Die Last is my first thriller, and it’s a feminist thriller set in London during a heat wave. All public transport closes down. Our main character needs to go to the airport – a 40-minute tube trip now will be a 3-hour walk. Doable, but there’s a serial killer on the loose….

The book has already been optioned for a TV series, and I’m working on more thrillers.

ABC: How different was it writing a thriller to what you’ve written before? You’ve promoted some of them with us a couple of years back.

Natali: The Path Keeper, Son of Secrets and Children of Shadows make up The Path Keeper trilogy. They are not exactly YA, more like New Adult. Because it was about angel realms and past lives, I had to do a lot of historical research and work on world-building. And the books are quite big and meaty. Fantasy takes longer, especially historical fantasy, and it’s harder to write because of all the research you need to do.

A thriller, on the other hand, is a lot more about structure, pacing and keeping the reader connected.

Writing a paranormal romance with Jacqueline Silvester as Caedis Knight is another type of challenge. Trying to write a story from two brains is a totally different process. But I like to challenge myself!