Monday, 31 December 2012

Best Books Read in 2012

Well, I keep forgetting but today is the last day of 2012.  I don't really know how I feel about this.  In many ways, it's been a terrible year but in others it's been one of the best and I feel like I really know myself now.  I know that I am not going to be an academic; I am going to be a writer (and for the foreseeable future, the cute indie princess at one of Perth's beloved small bookstores).

One thing that I can say for sure is that I read a lot of wonderful books this year, so here is a list of my favourite reads.  Anything published this year is in bold.  I've also included links to any reviews I posted.

* The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
* Beneath the Shadows- Sara Foster
* To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
* The Hunger Games trilogy- Suzanne Collins (I know, I know, how lame...)
* Bye, Beautiful- Julia Lawrinson
* The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary-Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
* The Drowner - Robert Drewe
* We Need to Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver
* The Slap- Christos Tsiolkos
* All That I Am- Anna Funder
* The Prisoner of Heaven- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
* The Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern
* The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky
* Sweet Tooth- Ian McEwan 
* The Casual Vacancy- JK Rowling
* Life of Pi- Yann Martel
* Friday Brown- Vikki Wakefield
* The Paris Wife- Paula McLain

Did you read any of these?  What did you think?  What were your favourite reads of this year?  Join the discussion in the comments below.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Summer Reading List: Friday Brown

Friday Brown
Vikki Wakefield
Text Publishing


Friday Brown is quite possibly the best book I have read all year.  I read it with a breathless anticipation, hung off every word on the page, and felt heartsick when Friday did.  It is a book filled with poignant and subtle imagery and characters so realistic that you start to wonder if you've actually known them your whole life.

It begins with a mother and daughter telling stories.  The mother tells the daughter about the family curse.  Each woman in the Brown family for generations has drowned on a Saturday, and so Vivienne has named her daughter Friday in the hopes that she will ward off the curse.  "Run like hell," she tells Friday.  "Or dive in."  These simple words seem like a mantra for living, and they stay with Friday on her journey.  When Vivienne succumbs to a cancer- she drowns in the fluid that builds up in her lungs- Friday hits the road.  She meets Silence, a lovable, mute take on the Artful Dodger and he brings her back to his place.  He and his friends- Carrie, Bree, Joe, AiAi, the irritable beauty queen Darcy, the menacing Malik and the captivating but dangerous leader Arden- take Friday in.  Together they squat, doing whatever they can to make enough money to stay.  Meanwhile, the curse seems to be creeping up on Friday.

While this is a Young Adult book by category, the voice of Friday is anything but whiny and teenage.  Friday is very human.  She is faced with several difficult choices and battles personal demons without whining and without getting distracted by boys at every turn.  For the despondent mother I spoke to on Saturday who could not find a YA book which was not dystopian or valley-girl, this book is what you are looking for.  The style- down to earth but poetic- is reminiscent of John Marsden's Tomorrow series, and the book is peppered with imagery from Australian history and fairy tales/ mythology.  I particularly liked the way that the book was wholly grounded in reality whilst at the same time conjuring the idea of water as a menacing figure coming after Friday.  It is a beautifully written book.

And I give it five out of five!


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Summer Reading List: Shallow Breath

"How far would you go to save someone you love?"

Desi Priest returns to her seaside home after two years in prison.  What she did has polarized her friends and family.  Her daughter Maya is growing up without a mother, but she still feels Desi's influence when Luke, the town firebrand, begins bringing injured joeys to her caravan.  Pete, who has never stopped believing in or loving Desi, is still dealing with the consequences of supporting her.  He's had to give up working with the orang utans he loves to look after the woman he loves.  And her brother Jackson has met a girl who knows something that Desi does not.  Plus, everyone knows something more than they will say about the thing Desi did.

This is a complex novel with multiple plots, most of them revolving around human reactions to looking after animals.  There are dolphins, whale sharks, orang utans and elephants, all of their plights heart breaking and moving.  In fact, in some cases, their plights are more heartfelt than those of the human characters.  My one concern with this novel is that the two mothers in the novel, Hester and Marie, are two 2D.  Their stories are integral to the climax, but I feel too distant from them.  Their husbands, in particular Rick, are larger than life but the women fade in the background against the huge cast of characters.  My favourite character was Jackson.

Set on the coast in a Northern town near Two Rocks, this is a book which reminds me of the sea-loving work of Tim Winton.  As a lover of the ocean, it was brilliant to read this book on a hot summer day and feel as if I were floating in the water.  This book has a beautiful pace, and it is structured in such a way that as a reader you are constantly curious, asking "Why?", "What happened?" and then, tantalizingly, being pulled into flashbacks.

Give this book a go!

Three stars.