Best Reads of 2019 – Contemporary/Literary Fiction

I found it very hard to limit myself to just a few contenders in this category I read so many EXCEPTIONAL and many great contemporary reads last year, perhaps I read more in this category in 2019 than in my preferred genre, crime fiction. I didn’t tally and compare but that what if felt like to me, but they were books that were written elegantly, beautifully; evoking many emotions, started many discussions and shone the spotlight on some many social issues.  So many reason to love these ( in no particular order):

 

WEARING PAPER DRESSES

Anne Brinsden

Pan Macmillan Australia

https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760784850/

 

 

The Confession

Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509886159

 

The Burnt Country

The Woolgrowers Companion #2

Joy Rhoades

Penguin Random House

Bantam

ISBN: 9780143793724

 

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

The Borough Press

ISBN: 9780008314163

 

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

Felicity McLean

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Fourth Estate

ISBN: 9781460755068

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Hachette Australia

Little Brown Books

ISBN: 9781472154651

 

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

 

 

Boy Swallows the Universe

Trent Dalton

 HarperCollins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9781460753897

***Late Entry ** I cannot believe I read this book, rated it, commented (on GoodReads) and then forgot to write my review. This was an amazing read. It blew me away. Dont you forget to add it to your TBR

 

If I have missed anyone I do apologise…there were so many exceptional reads in this category. I hope you find something you mind enjoy on this list.

 

 

#FridayFreebie ; The Lost Summers of Driftwood – Vanessa McCausland

 

The Lost Summers of Driftwood

Vanessa McCausland

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460757680

 

This is such a gently written yet revealing read – for your chance to win a copy of this thought provoking read, answer this question – how did Karin write a note to her family? ** Giveaway for Australian residents only and kindly supplied by Harper Collins Publishers Australia.  **

 

Winner randomly selected on 17th January 2020

Review: The Lost Summers of Driftwood – Vanessa McCausland

The Lost Summers of Driftwood

Vanessa McCausland

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460757680

 

 

Description:

Is it more dangerous to forget … or to remember? A compelling drama about broken dreams, first love and the mystery of a lost sister, for all fans of Hannah Richell and Kate Morton. She remembered this part of the trip during the day time. Her sisters on either side in the back. The sunlight flickering through branches was like looking through a kaleidoscope. How could that be so long ago? How could so much have gone wrong?

 

Phoebe’s life has fallen apart and there’s only one place left to go. Alone and adrift after a failed marriage proposal, she flees Sydney to her family’s abandoned holiday cottage.

 

On the slow-moving river Phoebe is confronted with the legacy of her older sister’s suicide, a year before. Why did Karin leave a note written in flowers and walk into the water?

 

Phoebe’s childhood love, Jez, has moved back to the beautiful old house, Driftwood, one jetty down. He’s married now and the home has become a refuge for an unlikely little community.

 

As the river begins to give up its secrets, Phoebe finds herself caught up in old feelings and new mysteries.

 

The Lost Summers of Driftwood is a story of lost loves, rekindled passions, tragedy and betrayal set against the backdrop of an idyllic south coast town.

 

 

My View:

Vanessa McCausland has used this book as a vehicle to examine so many feelings and issues and she has done this with a feather light touch that draws attention to the world we live in today – a world of Instagram moments, a world of pressure to be perfect; to have the perfect life, to conform to the demands of social medias constant thirst for your energy.

 

But there is more to this narrative than a discussion about social media and the perfect IG snap shot. Friendships, grief, fertility issues, life in a country town, memories, fire and mystery. This mesmerising book packs a big punch and I highly recommend this read.

 

 

Stay tuned for another #FridayFreebie with an opportunity to win a copy of this moving, atmospheric read.

 

Guest Review: Invisible Boys – Holden Shepherd

This must be the standout book of the year – everyone is talking about this. Read what guest viewer Andy Macleod thought of this award winning debut novel.

Invisible Boys

Holden Shepherd

Fremantle Press

ISBN: 9781925815566 

 

Description:

In a small town, everyone thinks they know you: Charlie is a hardcore rocker, who’s not as tough as he looks. Hammer is a footy jock with big AFL dreams, and an even bigger ego. Zeke is a shy over-achiever, never macho enough for his family. But all three boys hide who they really are. When the truth is revealed, will it set them free or blow them apart?

Invisible Boys is a raw, confronting YA novel, tackling homosexuality, masculinity, anger and suicide with a nuanced and unique perspective. Set in regional Western Australia, the novel follows three sixteen-year-old boys in the throes of coming to terms with their homosexuality in a town where it is invisible – and so are they. Invisible Boys depicts the complexities and trauma of rural gay identity with painful honesty, devastating consequence and, ultimately, hope.

 

Invisible Boys – A review by Andy Macleod

Up until two days ago, I had only once before sobbed uncontrollably while reading a novel. It was Skallagrig, by William Horwood. It was the 1980s and I was in my twenties.

I’m now in my late fifties, and I’ve just finished Holden Sheppard‘s award-winning debut novel, Invisible Boys.

Set in Geraldton in WA’s Midwest, Invisible Boys follows three very different teenagers, Charlie, Hammer and Zeke, as they grapple with being gay in a very straight town.

This novel spoke directly to me like no other. The characters and I, although separated by nearly a generation, have a lot in common.

We share not only a hometown, but the fear, rejection, taunts and loneliness that came with being gay in it.

Finally, someone has put into words the trauma of my own experience growing up gay when I couldn’t.

When I finished Invisible Boys, I felt something crack, crumble and fall away deep inside. I’m still unpacking what that may have been. Possibly shame, maybe silence. I’ll need to work on it.

Is Invisible Boys only a book for gay men? Absolutely not. If nothing else, it’s also a great story, and I hope it becomes required reading in the high school curriculum.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but whatever you do, you won’t regret reading Invisible Boys.

My favourite laugh-out loud-moment would have to be the ‘onion rings’ reference.

 

 

Review: Starting From Now – Fleur MacDonald

Starting From Now

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529284

 

Description:

A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues from our genuine Voice of the Outback, author of the bestselling Where the River Runs

 

When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.

 

Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.

 

But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.

 

Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?

 

Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.

 

 

My View:

Fleur McDonald has an authentic country voice that she uses to share her experiences and knowledge of life in small country towns, farming and life in general. This narrative had a couple of standout plot threads – activism and social media – looking deeper, reflecting on “snapshots” on social media and media manipulation and the family in crisis.

 

I was particularly touched by the family scenes that dealt with family crisis (no spoilers here); the scenes were realistic, emotive and evoked memories that transported me to a difficult period in our lives. This was unexpected but very well written. I felt part of this family, dealing with their issues.

 

 

This book packs a mighty punch, cleverly weaving many plot threads together to bring about an informative, insightful and satisfying read.

 

 

 

Guest Review: The Life She Deserves – Maggie Christensen

The Life She Deserves

Maggie Christensen

Cala Publishing

ISBN: 9780648522423

Description:

Two old friends. A new relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.

Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.

What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.

Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?

 

Brenda’s Review:

When Alice died, her husband Col and best friend Jo were devastated. She had suffered a long time – she was now at peace. The three of them had been friends for a lifetime, now Col and Jo comforted each other with dinner out twice a week, always at ease in each other’s company. Gradually the respect and friendship they shared grew to more, and with it being a year since Alice had died and five years since Jo’s divorce, they were happy to explore their new relationship.

But Eve, Jo’s daughter and Danny, her son, were determined Jo should live her life the way they saw fit. It was only Rob, her youngest son, who was on Jo’s side, completely understanding her need for companionship and love. And it was Gordon, Jo’s ex, who was the biggest thorn in her side. What was she going to do? Would she go along with her children’s plans for her, letting them ride roughshod over her own needs and wants? Or would she rebel and have the life she deserved?

The Life She Deserves is the 1st in the Granite Springs series for Aussie author Maggie Christensen and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author depicts older characters extremely well and with both Jo and Col turning 60 in this story, Jo with adult children and grandchildren, the complexities of family and relationships shines through. A wonderful story, The Life She Deserves is one I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to book two already. 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Great Divide – L J M Owen

The Great Divide

L M J Owen

Echo Publishing $29.99

ISBN: 9781760685829

 

Description:

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.

 

Detective Jake Hunter, newly-arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation.

 

Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?

 

The identity of the murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton’s fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town’s history but his own nature…

 

 

My View:

The start of an interesting series perhaps?

 

The beginning was a little slow for me, it took me a while to enter into this quiet secret filled landscape but then BOOM! L JM Owen does not hold back – there are deaths and mayhem and a twist that may surprise you.  The item in the office (no spoilers here) must be the most sinister, gruesome trophy I have come across in all my reading of crime fiction.

 

Detective Jake Hunter is an interesting character and I feel there is more to him than has so far been revealed.

 

When you have finished reading this pay attention to the final pages. For me the most powerful part of this narrative is in the acknowledgements (p295); “This work is, in many ways, an acknowledgment of the experiences of children deemed by their adults as unworthy – of respect, of nurturing, of protection.

To you, I say: I see you.  Hear you. You matter. And I am sorry; you deserved better.”

 

Thank you L J M Owen.