Guilty. I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge this year and I’ve been too busy (or notably slack) to post reviews. The challenge is all about promoting and exposing our diverse female Australian talent because they are so underrepresented in literary awards, book reviews and publishing in general. I’ve given the challenge a good bash in 2013 and sadly run out of time to do thorough reviews so I’m doing a round up instead. Check out some of these great books, you might find something you really like.
Rough Diamond – Kathryn Ledson (Romantic suspense/crime)
The first in a series featuring the awkward and funny Erica Jewell. I’m not a big reader of commercial fiction and have only just begun tasting from the commercial genres this year. This book was laugh out loud funny, Erica is an utterly loveable heroine and her lust-worthy love object, Jack Jones is a perfect straight man to Erica’s quirks. The next book in the series, Monkey Business, is out early next year and I can’t wait to read it. Ledson’s irrepressible humour can’t help but uplift you. She describes her work as ‘beach fluff’, which may be true, but it’s great beach fluff. Don’t miss it.
The Burial – Courtney Collins (Literary)
Based on the life of a notorious and mysterious female bushranger, Jessie Hickman, The Burial is a beautifully written and crafted story. Another debut novel, it was short listed for numerous awards and is to be published in several other countries in 2014. It reads as poetry sometimes and is a brave debut with the story being told from the point of view of a dead baby. Sounds macabre? It’s not. It’s powerful, moving and brilliant. I loved it and haven’t stopped raving about it.
Sex, Lies and Bonsai – Lisa Walker (Romance/Women’s fiction)
This is Walker’s second novel and I’m keen to read her first, Liar Bird. I really enjoyed this sweet and awkward love story told through the eyes of Eddie. Eddie is a fish out of water in her home surfing town and her shyness is challenged when her erotic writing, inspired by fantasies for her boss, becomes accidently public. Walker peppered the novel with quotes from Freud and sharp insights about people and social expectations. The writing is accomplished in that the book is a very fluent read. Nothing jars, it just flows. For those who enjoy a sweet love story with a bit of Aussie quirk, this is for you.
House for All Seasons – Jenn J MacLeod (Contemporary women’s fiction)
Another solid debut from a writer with a boisterous sense of humour that permeates her characters and writing. This is kind of tele-drama in its style. It’s set predominantly in a house with a complicated past and each season explores the history it has with one of four women who used to be best friends. The characters are vivid and diverse and it’s their stories that really drive this novel. The writing style is light and easy and carries the more serious issues the novel deals with (disability, cancer, death etc) without being glib. I’m a tough bitch so it didn’t make me cry, but I know it had that affect on a lot of other people.
The Watchtower – Elizabeth Harrower (Literary)
I heard about this book on ABC TV’s Tuesday Night Book Club and had to read it after hearing the panel rave about it. First published in 1966 it’s been reissued by Text Publishing as an Australian classic. I found the style a bit heavy and complicated at first. Harrower uses a lot of words, but once I got used to her style I quickly consumed this compelling story of insidious psychological domestic abuse. Her characterisations are flawless, her insights shocking. Harrower expertly captures the descent and impact of a controlling personality, the subtlety with which people can be manipulated into submission. “That dense, threatening blackness in him that rose for no reason, which was almost visible, making him seem physically bulkier...” “He was a boy who had known true things torn from life raw and still smoking with blood.” It was frighteningly real and the prose instilled a terror you could taste, but at the same time it was darkly comic in how puerile and silly the situation became for the sister protagonists. Exhausting but worth it.
Bitter Greens & The Wild Girl - Kate Forsyth
So much to love about these books. Glorious prose. Fairytale underpinnings. Convincing settings. I've written short reviews on Goodreads. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13101761-bitter-greens.
Hope’s Road – Margareta Osborn (Rural romance)
I’ll be honest, Margareta is my critique partner and a good friend of mine, but even if she wasn’t I’d still love her writing. Her characters jump off the page with life, quirky and quintessentially Australian. Her love of landscape, of rural life and of people can’t help but shine through. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.
Triptych – Krissy Kneen (Literary porn)
I did manage to review this one last week (see previous blog post).
Not Your Ordinary Housewife – Nikki Stern (Memoir)
I also managed to review this one here.
Dom with the Safeword – Cari Silverwood ( and Sorcha Black and Leila Shaw) – BDSM romance
This one wasn’t technically in 2013, it still deserves a mention here because Cari Silverwood is an amazingly talented writer of romantic stories with kinky BDSM flavour. I reviewed it here.
I still have a towering to read pile with many authors I'm simply too slow to get to (Hannah Kent, Eden Summers, Alexis Wright, Jennifer Scoullar, Emily McGuire, Anabel Smith, Annie Seaton and so many more...). However I intend on posting one more review on Little Raven 2 short story anthology before the year’s out. I hope you find something in this lot that resonates with your taste. Reading is all about stretching my usual boundaries at the moment and I’m looking forward to the adventure continuing in 2014. If only someone can teach me to read faster!