On our most anticipated fiction reads of 2016 (so far)

It’s pretty obvious Jody and I are a tad book-obsessed. When we’re not reading them, we’re reading about them, writing about them, or listening to podcasts about them. We even keep notes in our calendars for the upcoming releases we’re excited about. With that in mind, we thought we’d let you know about the fiction books we’re ridiculously eager to read in the second half of this year.

Amanda

The Muse by Jessie Burton: Burton’s The Miniaturist was hugely popular in 2014 and her next book sounds like it could be equally so. History, art and a little suspense combined! Released June 28.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Okay. So to be honest I don’t have high hopes for this play/book about Harry Potter’s life as an adult, but I’m still hanging out to read it in the hope that I’m wrong! Released July 31.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty: Liane’s writing is full of wit and wisdom and we can’t wait to get our hands on her next book, especially after Jody just reread a whole bunch of her previous titles. Released July 26.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Edition: I know, I know, I’m showing my true colours here, but the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was beautiful so I will definitely be adding this one to my collection. Released October 1.

The Good People by Hannah Kent: like so many other readers, I thought Burial Rites- the story of the last woman hanged in Iceland – was an incredible book. So deeply moving. Hannah’s new book is based on another true story, this time set in a remote Irish valley. Released October 11.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. Author of Room and apparently with the same level of psychological tension. Enough said? Released September 20.

Jody

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi: I have been seeing this title everywhere over Twitter and even  read the sample. I can’t wait to read it! In fact I think it was released this week; so my wait is over.

Conrad & Eleanor by Jane Rogers: Sounds like an interesting and complex family story. Released June 2.

Heartland by Lucy Hounsom: The second book of the Worldmaker series. I read the first one (Starborn) last year and it was one of my books of the year. A great new fantasy series! Released June 30.

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine: This one picked purely because I like the cover, then after reading the blurb I thought yes I really want to read this. Released July 1.

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson: book number three of the Remnant Chronicles, a young adult series I have really enjoyed. I can’t wait. Released August 2.

What have we missed? Is there anything you’re waiting for this year?

Amanda & Jody

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On Rereading Liane Moriarty

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When thinking about what I should write this week the first name that popped into my head was Liane Moriarty.

Amanda and I have both read all of Liane’s books and we loved every one; it’s fair to say we are huge fans. They have everything we both look for in a book; great characters, stories that keep you entertained, family dynamics and real life issues. Liane has a real talent for writing books that have substance but are enjoyable too.

This month I decided to re-read a few of my favourite Liane Moriarty books – The Husband’s Secret, What Alice Forgot and Three Wishes. I also hope to get to Big Little Lies again next month.

The Husband’s Secret was the first Moriarty book I read and it was so good I ran out and bought every book she had written. At first I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this book the second time around given the whole big secret reveal plot, but I really did. Knowing the outcome in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book because of all the great supporting characters and their stories. The Husband’s Secret tells the story of Cecilia and the secret she discovers her husband has been keeping and how knowing and sharing his secret affects her family and the lives of the people around them.

When I first read What Alice Forgot a couple of years ago I loved it! Alice was a great character; someone you could really identify with and the story line was such an interesting one. After falling and hitting her head, Alice wakes up a decade later. She’s ten years older and everything is very different (that has got to grab your interest). This was an enjoyable read but one that made you think at the same time. How would you feel? Are you happy with the direction your own life has taken? If you had the opportunity to make different choices would you? Complex, isn’t it! So many different aspects to one book. What Alice Forgot is one of my favourite Liane Moriarty books, well worth a read especially before they make the movie!

Now I don’t know if I’ve written too much and you are already sick of me rambling on about Liane Moriarty, but I have to keep going and tell you about Three Wishes.

Three Wishes is now officially my number one favourite Liane Moriarty book. It was second behind What Alice Forgot, until now. Reading it a second time has allowed me to absorb so much more of the story and the characters. A family saga revolving around the Kettle sisters (they’re triplets). Three Wishes is funny (laugh-out-loud-on-the-train funny), sad and altogether intriguing. I got to know the characters so much more the second time around; taking the time to reflect on what I was reading without powering on through to find out how it would end. It’s my favourite because the characters pull you in and don’t let go. They are likeable and real. A great book!!!! Too many exclamation marks?

Anyway I am sure you’ve had enough of me rambling on by now and I promise you won’t have to read any more about how enjoyable, engaging, entertaining and amazing Liane Moriarty’s books are – at least until her new one comes out in July (yeah).

Until then, why not do yourself a favour and pick up a Liane Moriarty book today.

Jody

On Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright

I first found this book on Kate Forsyth’s blog on a list of books that she was reading. Wait. Have Jody and I mentioned our teensy obsession with Kate Forsyth? It’s true. But I’m sure we can discuss our mutual love of all things KF later. Now is not the time.

Small Acts of Disappearance was there, listed among other fascinating reads and I knew straight away I had to read it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through it because the subject matter is quite heavy, but I wanted to. For many months since it has sat on my TBR shelf, a thin volume lost between other heftier reads (I haven’t missed the irony in that, don’t worry).

Then it was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and I thought, do it now. Just read it. But when I picked it up the raw emotion of the writing got to me:

We feel so uncertain, so anxious about our rightful space within the world, that we try to take up as little of it as possible. It is a drive to disappear that can only ever succeed in making us more prominent, more visible because it makes us as different and offensive on the outside as we often feel we are at heart.

And I put it down, unfinished. The seed was planted though, and I went back to it with trepidation weeks later, certain this time I needed to finish it. And I did. But not without finding myself getting teary on public transport at the beauty of the writing, at the honesty of it all.

Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright is a series of essays detailing her battle with an eating disorder. Wright’s intelligent prose and her fascination with her own disorder ensure the essays are well-researched and entirely engaging. It is so easy for these books to fall into the “how-to” manual (as she mentions herself), but this is very different. It’s the depth of her self-awareness that grips you:

Eating disorder patients are, almost without exception, hypersensitive to the opinions of others, punishingly judgemental of themselves, and easily wounded because of the fragility of their sense of self. So gentleness itself, arguably, is therapeutic, because it’s something that we never grant ourselves. At criticism, cruelty and violence, however, we’re old hands.

My book is littered with folded down page corners (sacrilege I know, but that’s how I roll), all pages that have struck a note, made me skip a breath with the delicacy of Wright’s writing and that slight flare of self-recognition I’m sure so many women will have. Or indeed anyone really who has looked into the mirror and felt themselves unsatisfactory, or worse, inconsequential. But Wright’s book draws a picture that goes so much deeper than this, into food as a control mechanism in a world where it is is entirely possible to always feel out of control.

I’m glad I made it through because it’s one of those rare books that makes you reluctant to pick up another for fear of losing something of it. Still, the reading must go on and I know Small Acts will linger with me for a long time.

I’m disappointed Wright’s book didn’t win the Stella Prize, just as I know Jody is disappointed that Hope Farm by Peggy Frew didn’t either.  But we’re both proud there are so many wonderful female writers in this country and happy that we have an excuse to read so many of them (not that we really need an excuse)!

 Amanda x

On Freya by Anthony Quinn

I’m writing this as the sun begins to set outside, even though it’s only 5.30pm. The long light of summer is leaving, the cold coming, and with it the strong desire to cosy up in bed and read endlessly. I have envied my in-laws’ retirement this week while they’ve been staying at our place. They’ve had time to inhale novel after novel from my bookshelves; A God of Ruins by Kate Atkinson, Lost and Found by Brooke Davis, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, even good old Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. That life seems like a dream to me, and infinitely out of reach.

I did manage to get through one novel this week though, Freya by Anthony Quinn. I bought this book over Easter, on a ‘booksploration’ in Port Macquarie at one of my favourite book shops, Bookface. I was with my two-year-old niece who thinks every book in the world belongs to her, and every adult is someone who must read it to her (when she isn’t determined to read it to herself that is). Needless to say, I love her dearly for it. Freya’s cover immediately captured my attention- so simple and beautiful. I also recognised Anthony Quinn as the author of Curtain Call, which is one of those books I picked up and put back down so many times last year.

Freya is set in England from 1945 through to the 1960s. It follows Freya Wyley and her friend Nancy Holdaway as they celebrate the end of the war, head off to study at Oxford and their lives beyond. Freya is outspoken and ambitious for a 1950s woman. A budding journalist, she drops everything to follow the story of her life while Nancy struggles to have her first novel published. It’s a story of quiet rivalry between friends and the battles that must be fought and more-often lost by women of this era.

It’s an era I love to read about. We owe so much to the determination of post World War II women and their ability to fight for rights we take for granted today. I feel like there is a lot to be learned from them, if we take the time to absorb and to understand. This book covers much of the political concerns of the time; rights for women, homophobia, adultery and abortion, and Quinn weaves a wonderfully detailed story. It’s no page turner, rather a delicate novel that builds a story around you piece by piece, so that you almost feel as if you know Freya and Nancy, as if you are the third party to their friendship.

My only quibble is that everyone is so gosh-darn special. The characters are a bevy of eccentric authors, playwrights, politicians, journalists, actors, painters. They are highly educated, wealthy and influential. If it was a film, I would say that even Freya is a tad overacted.  At certain points I found myself asking, where are all the normal people? Surely not all of them could have graduated and become so important? It certainly wasn’t the case when I went to university (admittedly I didn’t go to Oxford). I remember also feeling this way when I read Life After Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I loved the story, but sometimes you just want to know what it was like to be average. Is there not a story in someone being average? Maybe not. Maybe that is what it means to escape into a novel. And I do love to escape.

Nevertheless, I loved Freya’s story and I realised when I was wandering the library shelves this morning that Curtain Call, Quinn’s previous novel, is the story of Jimmy Erskine, a writer who appears intermittently in Freya. I’m curious to know more, so I will be adding this one to my TBR pile for sure!

Amanda x

On The Silent Inheritance by Joy Dettman

I hadn’t read any books by Joy Dettman before The Silent Inheritance. I found myself picking it up every time I walked into a book shop, but then I would put it back. This week I thought, you know what? Just buy it! And I did.

Choosing The Silent Inheritance was one of the best decisions I made this week. I enjoyed every page. The main story line revolves around the life, secrets and heartache of Sarah Carter and her daughter Marni, but there are so many other stories intertwined, some of them quite dark like that of the serial killer.

In the beginning I was a little bit put off by the language of the book; it was confusing and hard to read. However it wasn’t long before it became clear why it was written in this manner. So please, if you have tried to read this book but put in down because of the first few chapters or so, persevere because it is well worth finishing.

I will admit I found it hard to read the chapters about the serial killer dubbed “The Highway Killer”. I wanted to skip them but I didn’t because I felt it was important to the overall story to know what everyone was feeling.

Sarah and her daughter Marni were strong and likeable characters, as was Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Hunter (I loved him). In fact all of the characters in the book were really interesting.

Now I come to a very hard part to write about, the book’s ending. I have mixed feelings and am not sure how to write it down without giving too much away or discouraging anyone from reading this book; because I loved it.

I think the main thing I find hard to cope with is that I didn’t get the closure I needed for most of the characters in the book; including Sarah, Marni, Ross, Dani (and her family), Bob, basically everyone who featured in the story. Maybe this was how it was meant to be; perhaps there is a sequel planned, or am I the only one who felt this way?

But the book’s ending didn’t alter my overall opinion. Quite the opposite,  it left me wanting more, more, more. I totally enjoyed every page and if there isn’t a sequel planned that’s OK, because it doesn’t spoil the fact that it was a great Australian novel.

I will definitely be looking for more Joy Dettman books in the future.

It’s 5/5 stars from me.

Jody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Golden Age of YA and Getting Your Mojo Back

Sometimes, when we hit a bit of a reading rut, we pick up a young adult book. Why? Well, you may or may not have heard we’re in a YA golden age. And we are. These books tend to be fresh, trend-setting reads that are equally suitable for adults. They often explore sensitive issues, even political concerns, through the frank lens of a modern-day teen. While there is usually romance, usually a little angst, they also offer a glimpse into the future, and what’s important to our younger generation. Even if you haven’t read any, you are probably familiar with the influx of young adult books that have strong female characters, lasting relationships and dystopian story lines that reflect a conscious concern for the future.

Both Jody and I have been in a little bit of a reading rut lately and we thought there might be some of you out there struggling with the same thing. So here are five YA books that have helped us get our mojo back in the past – do you have any you would add to the list?

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – a quirky, often hilarious and totally awkward read which is a little bit Harry Potter, a little bit John Green and a whole lot of Rainbow Rowell. Rowell wrote the bestsellers, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, where we first met the protagonist of Carry On, Simon Snow. This odd, entertaining book was a delight to read.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, both contemplating a dramatic end to their lives. With this in common, they embark on an unlikely friendship. This book is a great one for fans of The Fault in Our Stars, although it’s quite different, and for adults with teenage children. It does well to outline some of the issues at the forefront of their minds today.

The Heart of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson – the second book in the Remnant Chronicles. One of Jody’s favourite young adult series, with a great story line and characters you can love and hate. She even bought the eBook first so she could have it sooner!

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Definitely one for fans of The Hunger Games series. This story is set in a world divided by blood-type, red or silver. The Reds are commoners, the Silver elite. What happens then, when Mare, a red-blooded commoner, discovers she has powers that should only belong to the Silver elite? While the story is predictable, the world is so interesting you’ll find yourself eager to pick up the second in the series!

Stay with Me by Maureen McCarthy – Maureen McCarthy has been a favourite of ours for a long time. The Australian born author wrote the much-loved Australian YA classic, Queen Cat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life. Stay with Me is the fast-paced, dramatic story of Tess, who is running from a life of domestic violence with her young daughter. This intense book is definitely skewed to the older-teen age bracket but it packs a punch worthy of its accolades.

There are so many other great YA titles out there, so maybe next time you’re browsing for books, it might be worth taking a stroll past!

 Amanda & Jody