Review: Summerwater – Sarah Moss

I am going to go out on a limb here and say I have recently read THE  TWO BEST LITERARY/CONTEMPORARY READS OF THE YEAR…with a caveat that I can add more to this short list if I come across anything super exciting. 🙂

Covid 19 has certainly impacted on my reading habits and mood. I find myself shying away  (but not given up on) my favourite genre – crime fiction, in favour of more contemporary reads – dont ask me why?

In the last couple of weeks I have read Summerwater by Sarah Moss: and Betty by Tiffany McDaniels.

 

Summerwater

Sarah Moss

Picador

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781529035452

RRP $32.99

Description:

Set in an isolated Scottish cabin park over the course of one rainy summer’s day, A DAY LIKE TODAY follows a group of holidaymakers and their growing curiosity about a disruptive foreign family staying at the site. As the residents become more closely entwined tension mounts between them, but no one can know what lies ahead as night falls. Sharp and devastating, Sarah Moss’s newest novel is the perfect follow up to her Women’s Prize longlisted GHOST WALL

 

My view:

SUPERB!       SUBLIME!!!    READ THIS BOOK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Betty – Tiffany McDaniel

**Best reads of 2020 Must reads of 2020**

Tiffany McDaniel who is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers, ever!

Betty
Tiffany McDaniel
W & N :
H
achette Australia
ISBN: 9781474617536

Description:

A stunning, lyrical coming-of-age novel set in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians in which a young girl, with only the compass of her father’s imagination, must navigate racism, sexism, and the dark secrets that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

“A girl comes of age against the knife.”

So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in Arkansas in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty, racism, abuse, and violence–both from outside the family, and also, devastatingly, from within. After years on the road, searching in vain for a better life, the Carpenters return to their hometown of Breathed, Ohio, in northern Appalachia. There, they move into a sprawling wreck of a farmhouse that local legend says is cursed. The townsfolk decide the Carpenters are cursed, too: “My mother gave birth to eight of us,” Betty tells us in her frank, wry voice. “More than one would die for no good reason in the prizewinning years of their youth. Some blamed God for taking too few. Others accused the Devil of leaving too many.”

But Betty is resilient. Her father’s inventive stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination and even in the face of tragedy and death, her creativity is irrepressible. Against overwhelming odds, she may be the first member of her family to break the cycle of abuse and trauma–and escape.

 

My View:

I Love Tiffany McDaniel’s writing – I just want to grab a pen an underline or flag words to read again – and I never ever mark my books! Or read again. Just like her debut The Summer That Melted Everything – I love love love the writing, the emotions, the themes, the protagonists, the contemporary issues and that this writing is based on family history.   What a story! Grab the tissues there are so many poignant moments without being melodramatic – in fact melodrama is the opposite of how this book is written.

 

Let me share an example of the scintillating writing:

After dinner Old Woman Slipperwort went to bed. I fell asleep watching TV through the crawling ants and static. I woke a few hours later, needing to pee. I walked quietly toward her bedroom, hoping I could pass through to the bathroom.

Like the night before, I found her naked and sitting on the edge of her bed. Unaware I was there, she continued to massage her legs, their blue -green veins twisting beneath her skin.  I wasn’t as afraid seeing her body this second night. In the folds and creases, I saw her history. Her skin the diary of her soul. All the springs she had watched the flowers bloom. The summers she had stood before the moon and kissed its face. The autumns she had grown wiser. The winter that had frozen the initials of her name. Each wrinkle was a record of this and every hour, minute an second she had lived. The things she had asked God for. The things she had cursed the devil about. In the folds and creases I saw beauty.“p 294 ( The back story to this will make your heart break) I am tearing up revisiting this section. This writer can see into the souls of people and transform that vision in words on the page

 

READ THIS BOOK.

 

Like The Summer That Melted Everything I predict awards for Betty.

Review: Long Bright River – Liz Moore

Long Bright River
Liz Moore
Penguin Random House Australia
Hutchinson London
ISBN:9781786331632

Description:
KENSINGTON AVE, PHILADELPHIA:

THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO FOR DRUGS OR SEX.
THE LAST PLACE YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR YOUR SISTER.

Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.

When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator – before Kacey becomes the next victim.
_____________________________________
‘A remarkable, profoundly moving novel about the ties that bind and the irrevocable wounds of childhood. It’s also a riveting mystery, perfectly paced. I loved every page of it.’ DENNIS LEHANE

My View:
I predict awards, awards, awards for this book! This is an amazing read, this is what you discover when literary fiction collides with crime fiction – a full on, unstoppable narrative that is poignant, simultaneously heartbreaking yet uplifting, engaging; writing that is brilliantly constructed, complex not complicated, AND then there is the slow building tension of the unsolved crimes that escalates into a teeth clenching, heart racing conclusion. What a read!

I have been reviewing books/blogging my reviews since 2013 and I cannot think of any other read that comes close to this. This book is already in my “best of 2020 reads”, possibly my BEST read, ever.

I think you should read this book.

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.

 

 

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: The Confession – Jessie Burton

The Confession

Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509886159

RRP $29.99

Description:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

 

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

 

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession …

 

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

 

PRAISE FOR THE CONFESSION

‘Dazzlingly good. The Confession is that rare thing: an utterly engrossing novel which asks big questions without ever once losing sight of the storyteller’s need to entertain and move. I turned the final pages in tears and I know already I shall return to it again and again. Without doubt one of the best novels of recent years.’

Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How To Fail

‘I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time . . . I lost myself in the story, not wanting to come up for air. A bold, intelligent, wonderful novel’ Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man

‘Burton is asking important questions in The Confession – questions about motherhood, art and creativity, love, friendship – and in doing this, she has created three utterly fascinating characters. Connie, Elise, and Rose are complicated; complex in ways that women are so rarely allowed to be in literature, demanding that their stories be heard. This is a beautiful novel and one that will stay with me for a very long time’ Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

‘an absorbing, intelligent piece of storytelling’ Guardian

 AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, and the children’s book The Restless Girls. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.

 

My View:

I finished reading this last night – OMG!!!

 

This is such a sublime read full of emotional intelligence and elegant prose – I just wanted to highlight paragraphs and paragraphs – because of the skilled use of language AND because of the many astute revelations about life’s journey.

 

The narrative is engaging; a bit of mystery, a lot of coming of age, of learning to love oneself and live in the moment not the future, about acceptance, family, identity… this book has so much to offer.  READ IT! 10 stars!!!

5 Star Books to Keep a Look Out For

I just wanted to share some recent 5 star book discoveries that I will be reviewing soon; some have recently been published, some will be published in the next month or so. Some are  by debut authors, some are  by favourites that never disappoint.  I highly recommend these – as I read each one I thought “this is the best book I have read this year,” and then I read THE NEXT AND THOUGHT THE SAME THING. Such talent.

 

The Lying Room

Nicci French

Simon and Schuster

 

Wearing Paper Dresses

Ann Brinsden

Mcmillan Australia

 

 

 

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins

 

Every Time He Dies

Tara East

Self Published

ISBN: 9780648581512

Review: At The Wolf’s Table – Rosella Postorino

at the wolf's table

At The Wolf’s Table

Rosellas Postorino

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781925791969

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

The internationally bestselling novel based on the untold true story of the women conscripted to be Hitler’s food tasters.

 

“They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. ‘Wolf’ was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.”

 

Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s.

 

As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history.

 

 

My View:

Brilliant!

A narrative that authentically involves you in the war time Germany where the impossible to accept, the dangerous, the unthinkable… is normalised. This is a study of group behaviour; of how social isolation, separation from family support, societal and military control, of how war affects those actively involved in the warfare and those who remain at home. It is also a story of love – in many forms, of violence, of living in perpetual/potential danger and a story of survival.

 

This is, at times, an intense and emotional read.  I was disappointed when I read the last page – I was hungry for more.

 

Brilliantly written, sensitively translated, this is a great read.

 

Best Contemporary/Literary Reads of 2018

This is another category that has many contenders. There were so many fabulous reads that have made me think, feel, inspired me to paint and at some that have brought a tear to my eye. If you have an opportunity to pick up any of these books I think you will be very impressed.

 

In no particular order:

Lenny’s Book of Everything – Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Beneath the Mother Tree – D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Return to Roseglen – Helene Young

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Foreman 

I Have Lost My Way

Ghosted – Rosie Walsh

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart – Holly Ringland

If Kisses Cured Cancer – T S Hawken

If Kisses Cured Cancer

Book of Colours – Robyn Cadwallader

The Book of Colours