Best Contemporary Reads or Literary Reads of 2017

2017 was a great year for discovering new to me authors, books and publishers. The task of whittling down to just a few great contemporary  reads is too hard and so I will try and mention all I think are deserving a shout out, I do hope I dont miss anyone out.

I Am I Am I Am

I am I am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell

 

The Right Side

The Right Side – Spencer Quinn

 

Close Enough to Touch

Close Enough to Touch – Colleen Oakley

 

The Child Finder

The Child Finder – Renee Denfeld

 

#TooEasy

Too Easy – J M Green

 

Wimmera

Wimmera – Mark Brandi

 

Dear Banjo

Dear Banjo – Sasha Wasley

 

The Animators

The Animators – Kayla Rae Whitaker

 

Ache

Ache – Eliza Henry Jones

 

The Lone Child

The Lone Child – Anna George

 

Do you have any to add to the list?

 

 

Post Script: The Child Finder – Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder

The Child Finder

Rene Denfeld

Hachette Australia

W & N

ISBN: 9781474605540

 

Description:

Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own harrowing experience that allows her to succeed when others have failed.

 

Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they’d gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.

 

But Naomi knows that Madison isn’t dead. Can she find the child – and also find out why this particular case is stirring the shadows of her own memories? Could her future be bound to this girl in a way she doesn’t understand?

 

 

My View:

A refreshing approach to this genre – where less is more, no gore, no sensationalism, just an intelligently written narrative with empathetic characters painted in many shades of black and white.

 

Denfeld successfully creates scenarios that are chilling and simultaneously heart breaking. The snow girl’s perspective is compelling reading, her voice innocent yet so world wise.

 

The writing is enchanting, haunting, lyrical, mesmerising, optimistic, I certainly will be reading more of this authors work in the future – and what an interesting life Rene Denfeld leads, a life that certainly colours the narratives she writes with empathy and thoughtfulness.

 

 

**  Rene Denfeld is a death penalty investigator and the author of the novel The Enchanted, as well as three non-fiction books, including the international bestseller, The New Victorians. She has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all adopted from foster care. In addition to working with death row, clients, Ms. Denfeld volunteers with at-risk youth and in foster adoption advocacy.”

http://renedenfeld.com/

 

https://www.hachette.com.au/rene-denfeld/the-child-finder

Post Script – The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

The Good Daughter

The Good Daughter

Karin Slaughter

HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780008150785

 

Description:

The stunning new standalone, with a chilling edge of psychological suspense, from the No. 1 bestelling author of the Will Trent and Grant County series.

 

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy smalltown family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

 

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself – the archetypal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again – and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatised – Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case which can’t help triggering the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried for ever …

 

 

My View:

Karin Slaughter – you are such an incredibly talented writer and story teller. Each standalone novel you write surprises me with its excellence – all have been compulsive reading. Each time I read your latest release I think I have read your BEST work and then another book is published and surpasses all my expectations.  How do you do it?  Actually I don’t care how – just don’t stop!

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Wimmera – Mark Brandi

Powerful, evocative, once you read you cannot unread.

 

Wimmera

Wimmera

Mark Brandi

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638459

 

Description:

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

 

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab’s dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben’s next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

 

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man’s shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab’s dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

 

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can’t ignore the past any more.

 

Wimmera is the 2016 Winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger (UK).

 

 

My View:

Powerful, evocative, once you read you cannot unread.

 

I guess you can say I am intuitive, I can read people (mostly) or maybe read moods is a better explanation – a survivor’s skill, an empathetic skill. I notice things, things that can make me feel uncomfortable, little things, an attitude, a facial expression, often  something intangible, a prickling of the skin… a niggling feeling that something isn’t right, a warning, a take care or get out of here kind of thing. Reading this book I was on high alert, all my intuitive cells were screaming – NO!!! Get out.

 

My intuition was not wrong.

 

The prologue sets the scene for a very intense read. A discarded wheelie bin, lid screwed down tight. The imagination starts to process many scenarios…none of them good.

 

The tension continues to build, by page seventy I was pretty sure what was going on or about to. I put the book down and had a little break. A few days later I picked up the book and continued. With subtle hints, oh so subtle, this authors says so much – this is such powerful writing!

 

Powerful, dark, intense, painfully exquisite writing. Less is more.  Once you read you cannot unread. Brilliant!

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Ache – Eliza Henry Jones

Ache

Ache

Eliza Henry Jones

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460750384

 

Description:

A year ago, a devastating bushfire ripped Annie’s world apart – killing her grandmother, traumatising her young daughter and leaving her mother’s home in the mountains half destroyed. Annie fled back to the city, but the mountain continues to haunt her. Now, drawn by a call for help from her uncle, she’s going back to the place she loves most in the world, to try to heal herself, her marriage, her daughter and her mother.

A heart-wrenching, tender and lovely novel about loss, grief and regeneration, Ache is not only a story of how we can be broken, but how we can put ourselves back together.

 

 

My View:

I have had great difficulty trying to find the right words to describe my reaction to this book. It was an amazing read – written so beautifully, the writing seducing the reader to read more and more…and the feelings it evoked…an abundance of feelings.  The characters so credible and the situations they face almost unbearable at times and almost unbearable to read such is the empathy I felt for these paper people.

 

Survivor guilt, grief, PTSD…this book covers it all yet  despite the challenging scenarios presented in this narrative it is not a negative or depressing read, in fact it is full optimism. Read and discover your new favourite author.

 

 

Post Script: The Birdwatcher – William Shaw

the-birdwatcher

The Birdwatcher

William Shaw

Mulholland Books

ISBN: 9780316316248

 

Description:

Police Sergeant William South has a good reason to shy away from murder investigations: he is a murderer himself.

A methodical, diligent, and exceptionally bright detective, South is an avid birdwatcher and trusted figure in his small town on the rugged Kentish coast. He also lives with the deeply buried secret that, as a child in Northern Ireland, he may have killed a man. When a fellow birdwatcher is found murdered in his remote home, South’s world flips.

 

The culprit seems to be a drifter from South’s childhood; the victim was the only person connecting South to his early crime; and a troubled, vivacious new female sergeant has been relocated from London and assigned to work with South. As our hero investigates, he must work ever-harder to keep his own connections to the victim, and his past, a secret.

The Birdwatcher is British crime fiction at its finest; a stirring portrait of flawed, vulnerable investigators; a meticulously constructed mystery; and a primal story of fear, loyalty and vengeance.

 

My View:

What a fantastic narrative. This already has a place in my top reads of 2017!  

Without spoilers – we start with a fantastic hook, a confession, that colours our expectation and perception of what we might read next in this intriguing and mesmerising narrative; South’s secret is mind blowing and the circumstances surrounding this event will fill your heart with sadness, such is the strength of the character development here that you will mourn the tragedies that are slowly revealed.

What can I add? Fantastic relatable characters – minor and main, life stories that will resonate and/ or move the reader, locations that shape the dual narratives, a brooding sense of foreboding and a poignancy that is bitter sweet. Despite the bloody crimes – in the past and the present spaces, there is an underlying optimism that permeates the narrative, tightly grasp hold of this emotion as you stagger bloodied, battered and emotionally drained towards the resolution of this narrative.

 

 

 

Post Script: Flight Path – Ian Andrew

Flight Path

Flight Path

A Wright and Tran Novel

Ian Andrew

The Book Reality Experience

ISBN: 9780992464172

 

Description:
Wright & Tran are back!

Kara Wright and Tien Tran, combat veterans of an elite intelligence unit, now make their living as Private Investigators. Often working the mundane, just occasionally they get to use all their former training.

I’d like you to make sure the dead are really dead.”

So it is that the enigmatic Franklyn tasks Kara and Tien to investigate the apparent suicide of a local celebrity. Within days the women are embarked on a pursuit that leads halfway around the globe and into the darkest recesses of the human condition. Kara, Tien and their team will endure mental stress worse than anything they experienced from combat and, like combat, not everyone makes it home.

 

“…Wright and Tran are the best in the business. Andrew’s own experience working with Military Intelligence provides his work with authenticity and heart… He is an author who can be relied upon to deliver a good – no, much more than that – a great read.
The West Australian
My View:
Dark, dark subject matter in a tension filled narrative.

Did I mention the word tension here?

This series is explosive! There was a moment in this read where I really had trouble turning the page – the tension was so high, my personal level of apprehension was past RED ALERT status as I feared for the life of one of the protagonists. I did not want to read what I knew was coming next.

Ian Andrew can you write a suspenseful, intense, contemporary narrative complete with a good dose of social commentary!!! WOW! Bring on book 3.

Post Script: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman ( aka Everything You Want Me to Be ) Mindy Mejia

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman (aka Everything You Want Me to Be)

Mindy Mejia

Hachette Australia

Quercus

ISBN: 9781784295936

 

Description:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

 

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

 

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

 

My View:

This narrative is so much more than a whodunit, it has so much more to offer than a psychological thriller, indeed it offers the reader so much more of life you will be rendered emotionally spent at the end of this work of crime fiction/ life lit/YA/murder mash up. WOW!

Powerful, credible and engaging…this is a fabulous read that will have you staying up late to finish the last page. And then you will be bereft!

 

I was astounded by the amazing insight that teen Hattie has about her life and the meaning of her existence and how she was able to verbalise her identity crisis – we all at some stage of our life ponder who we are and what we are doing with our life, what a great basis for a crime novel, what a way to connect with an audience.  Hattie ponders her existence, her role, her identity, the big WHY’s and the honest answer she eventually provides herself is life changing or more accurately life ending.   So much irony here.

 

Credit must be given to this author for creating such a loathsome manipulative character who somehow we cannot help but empathise with, as we do with all the main characters. The three, first person perspectives work effectively to flesh out the story and to bring out the honesty, humanness and great sadness that completes this narrative.  This is the thinking person’s murder mystery.   WOW WOW WOW- this is a great read.

 

PS I prefer the Australian tittle i.e The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – says it all really  🙂

Post Script: The Animators – Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators

The Animators

Kayla Rae Whitaker

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925321920

 

Description:

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.

 

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

 

“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written The Animators.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder.

 

 

 

My View:

It has been few weeks since I read this wonderful novel and I still cannot verbalise or adequately describe the greatness of this read.

 

This is a book that ….. This book…  This is a fantastic read! Start reading, be prepared to be addicted to the writing, enjoy the journey this book leads you on, empathise with the protagonists, and share with them their pain and their joy.  Just read this book!

This book is…destined to be one of the best you will read this year.

This book… will stay with you for a long time.

 

Post Script: Close Enough to Touch – Colleen Oakley

Close Enough to Touch

Close Enough to Touch

Colleen Oakley

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760294007

Description:

From the author of Before I Go comes an evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart, perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult.

 

Love has no boundaries…

 

Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

 

Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can’t understand why she keeps him at arm’s length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year.

 

My View:

What a reading week I have had!  A week full of un- putdown able reads, of 5 star after 5 star narratives that will stay with me for a long time and this book belongs on that list of outstanding writing that forms the “Best of 2017” list in my reading diary. This one really surprised me – it was not what I was expecting!

 

What can I say to convince you to pick up this book because I know that if you start reading it by the end of the first few pages you will be hooked?  This is a unique coming of age narrative, (yes I think it can be classified thus), a very unique journey where the flawed, complex, engaging and heart-warming protagonists share their growth and humanness in a sometimes humourous, often poignant and evocative way that will have you cheering for team Eric and Jubilee.

 

My only complaint…the book wasn’t long enough.  I wanted to know more, what had been happening in their lives (no spoilers – this will make sense when you read the book), why did it take so long? What happens next?  I predict this to be another book to film in the near future.