Category Archives: Fiction

Posts about novels and other fiction titles

Six of the newest contemporary fiction titles on the market now

Contemporary fiction has been growing in popularity and the number of titles hitting the market is skyrocketing. It is a genre that typically has reality-based stories with strong characters and a believable storyline. We have loved researching this genre and while staying safe at home we have had the chance to read a little more than usual. Here are our top six picks of the newest contemporary fiction books that are on the market now.

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley

How can you write other people’s stories, when you won’t admit the truth of your own? An absorbing, moving, ruefully tender, witty and wise novel of marriage, motherhood and the paths we navigate through both, for fans of Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler. Journalist and single mother Suzy Hamilton gets a phone call one summer morning, and finds out that the subject of one of her investigative exposes, 25-year-old wellness blogger Tracey Doran, has killed herself overnight. Suzy is horrified by this news but copes in the only way she knows how: through work, mothering, and carrying on with her ill-advised, tandem affairs. The consequences of her actions catch up with Suzy over the course of a sticky Sydney summer. She starts receiving anonymous vindictive letters and is pursued by Tracey’s mother wanting her, as a kind of rough justice, to tell Tracey’s story, but this time, the right way. A tender, absorbing, intelligent and moving exploration of guilt, shame, female anger, and, in particular, mothering, with all its trouble and treasure, The Truth About Her is mostly though a story about the nature of stories, who owns them, who gets to tell them, and why we need them. This is an entirely striking, stylish and contemporary novel.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect? Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

Jena Chung plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and is now addicted to sex. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing family demands, those of her creative friends, and lots of sex. Jena is selfish, impulsive and often behaves badly, though mostly only to her own detriment. And then she meets Mark, much older and worldly-wise, who bewitches her. Could this be love? When Jena wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected, New York changes irrevocably and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? With echoes of Frances Ha, Jena’s favourite film, truths are gradually revealed to her. Jena comes to learn that there are many different ways to live and love and that no one has the how-to guide for any of it, not even her indomitable mother. A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing unflinchingly explores the confusion of having expectations upturned, and the awkwardness and pain of being human in our increasingly dislocated world, and how, in spite of all this, we still try to become the person we want to be. It is a dazzling, original and astounding debut from a young writer with a fierce, intelligent and fearless new voice.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

32-year-old Nina Dean is a successful food writer with a loyal online following, but a life that is falling apart. When she uses dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad is vanishing in slow motion into dementia, and she’s starting to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. On top of this she has to deal with her mother’s desire for a mid-life makeover and the fact that all her friends seem to be slipping away from her . . . Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships and the way we live today.

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung

One hundred days. It’s no time at all, she tells me. But she’s not the one waiting. In a heady whirlwind of independence, lust and defiance, sixteen-year-old Karuna falls pregnant. Not on purpose, but not entirely by accident, either. Incensed, Karuna’s mother, already over-protective, confines her to their fourteenth-storey housing-commission flat, to keep her safe from the outside world, and make sure she can’t get into any more trouble. Stuck inside for endless hours, Karuna battles her mother and herself for a sense of power in her own life, as a new life forms and grows within her. As the due date draws ever closer, the question of who will get to raise the baby, who it will call Mum, festers between them. One Hundred Days is a fractured fairytale exploring the fault lines between love and control. At times tense and claustrophobic, it is nevertheless brimming with humour, warmth and character. It is a magnificent new work from one of Australia’s most celebrated writers.

The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison by Meredith Jaffe

Can a wedding dress save a bunch of hardened criminals? The Full Monty meets Orange is the New Black in a poignantly comic story about a men’s prison sewing circle. Derek’s daughter Debbie is getting married. He’s desperate to be there, but he’s banged up in Yarrandarrah Correctional Centre for embezzling funds from the golf club, and, thanks to his ex-wife, Lorraine, he hasn’t spoken to Debbie in years. He wants to make a grand gesture, to show her how much he loves her. But what? Inspiration strikes while he’s embroidering a cushion at his weekly prison sewing circle, he’ll make her a wedding dress. His fellow stitchers rally around and soon this motley gang of criminals is immersed in a joyous whirl of silks, satins and covered buttons. But as time runs out and tensions rise both inside and outside the prison, the wedding dress project takes on greater significance. With lives at stake, Derek feels his chance to reconcile with Debbie is slipping through his fingers. This is a funny, dark and moving novel about finding humanity, friendship and redemption in unexpected places.

Enjoy!

Our Six Favourite Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are long-form stories told mainly through drawings. They are now recognised as an important medium for storytelling, both for fiction and non-fiction, for adults as well as for children. Parents and educators are also discovering their benefits in encouraging reading and developing literacy. You can find graphic novels in a huge range of art styles and subject matter – and the diversity is growing daily! Dive into this format through these recent bestsellers:

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
It all starts here – reading Raina Telgemeier is practically a rite of passage for tweens and early teens. Whether it’s her own stories, or her adaptation of the iconic Babysitter Club series, readers just can’t get enough of her observant and empathic stories of the drama and tensions of growing up. Smile is her memoir, starting in her Sixth Grade, when she had a string of dental procedures – including braces – after a painful accident. Add in fickle friends, first crushes, and finding her own identity, and you get a heartfelt rite-of-passage story reminiscent of Judy Blume.

The Sad Ghost Club by by Lize Meddings
The Sad Ghost Club is centred around mental health, and is a great conversation-starter with tweens, while still providing a rich, reflective experience for teens and adults. It is about SG (Sad Ghost), who struggles with anxiety about school and feelings of loneliness. SG agonises over whether to go to a party, feeling nervous about not fitting in. After an awkward start to the party, SG meets Socks, and together they form the Sad Ghost Club, a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong. The Sad Ghost Club is a sweet, quietly optimistic story with a fresh and on-point analogy for depression, and presenting totally relatable situations.

Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
Alice Oseman is both an accomplished novelist and artist – their popular Heartstopper series focuses on Nick and Charlie, characters from their first novel Solitaire. This adorable LGBT+ webcomic is now available in book form! Heartstopper volume 1 sees the beginning of Nick and Charlie’s blossoming romance, from their meeting in their newly-organised “vertical classroom”, to their first kiss. Heartstopper is upbeat, but does not shy away from depicting the difficulties of being queer teens, and is lauded for being relatable and a realistic portrayal of contemporary teenage life.

Future Girl by Asphyxia
The first thing you will notice about Future Girl is that it is a beautiful object – textured cover, heavy paper, packed with colourful art. This art/prose hybrid is not strictly a graphic novel, but deserves attention for its striking format and subject matter. Future Girl is set in a dystopian, near-future Melbourne whose heroine, Piper, is based on the author’s own experience. Piper is a deaf girl who relies on hearing aids and speech for communication. When an environmental catastrophe strikes, she defies the authorities by learning to grow her own food – through which she is introduced to sign language, and a Deaf community who does not view its differences as deficits. Future Girl is an an enthralling and heartfelt coming-of-age story from Deaf artist/writer/activist Asphyxia.

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei and Justin Eisinger
The graphic novel format has been used as an eloquent tool for exploring, and inviting understanding of, social causes. They Call Us Enemy is one such award-winning example – it describes how a young George Takei – now beloved Star Trek actor and activist – and his family were incarcerated in a World War 2 camp for Japanese Americans. Their personal experiences fighting for safety and survival are juxtaposed upon descriptions of the social-political controversy surrounding this unjust practice. They Call Us Enemy is an emotional story that will resonate across many age groups, and offers powerful reflections upon the current issues of hate speech, institutional racism and racial profiling.

The Mental Load: a Feminist Comic by Emma
Not everyone can coin a powerful term that sparks a global discussion – French comic artist Emma did just that, when she drew an essay about women’s “Mental Load”, the invisible labour and unpaid organising that we do for others, an issue that disproportionately impacts women.  This piece now headlines this collection of graphic essays on everyday feminist issues – sexism in the workplace, objectification, motherhood, women’s health. The topics and examples are instantly recognisable. Follow up with its recently-released companion volume, The Emotional Load.

Our Six Favourite Fantasy Novels

For some readers, fantasy means pure escapism – getting away from the stresses, constraints and issues of the everyday.  For others, the opposite can apply – fantastical settings allow us to examine and explore everyday issues with extra clarity.  Immerse yourself in the intricate and richly diverse genre of fantasy, and let your imagination soar – here are a few recent favourites to get you started.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Get two fantasy greats for the price of one with Good Omens, which is having a revival thanks to a celebrated TV adaptation (quality assured by Neil Gaiman’s role as showrunner).  Good Omens is a story about the Apocalypse – which happens to be coming sooner than what Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon) would like.  Aziraphale and Crowley have been representing their respective sides on Earth for 6000 years, and have come to enjoy each other’s company (and their lives on Earth).  Unhappy with the thought of their cozy lives being upended, Crawley and Aziraphale team up to avert the Apocalypse.  Good Omens is a mix of urban fantasy, absurdist humour and political/workplace satire that is as gleeful and relevant today as ever.

The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

You may have met Geralt of Rivia through the Netflix series or through the popular video games – both have been lovingly created from the writings of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Discover why Witcher fans are so passionate about this world, with this short story collection that introduces the Continent, its witchers (superhuman monster hunters), monsters, epic sword fights, and magic. Once you know the background, head to The Blood of Elves, the first full-length novel of the series, which is about Geralt and Princess Ciri, whose fates are bound together.

The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell

The End of the World is Bigger than Love came out last year, where its dreamy, post-apocalypse setting resonated eerily with the silence of lockdown.  Identical twin sisters, Summer and Winter, live alone on an island, trying to survive the aftermath of a monumental environmental disaster. Soon we discover these twin narrators to be unreliable – how, then, do we interpret what’s happening? Reviews (and the string of awards and nominations) have been universally positive. The End of the World is Better than Love is category-defying and unforgettable – it is complex, ambiguous, sometimes confusing, and always rich in language and emotions – a book that invites repeat reading.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So. Much. Fun.  Carry On started as a spin-off of Rainbow Rowell’s previous success, Fangirl, but this funny, exuberant and romantic story has gained a life of its own, growing into an action-packed trilogy. Carry On is about Simon Snow, a teen wizard at a magical boarding school, who is known to be the Chosen One, but still struggling to learn to control and understand his powers. Sounds familiar?  While Rainbow Rowell states that Carry On is informed by a number of “Chosen One” stories, it has invited passionate debates  about its relationship to the Harry Potter universe.  I am really looking forward to the third and final book, Any Way the Wind Blows, due for release next month.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller, author of Circe and Song of Achilles, has actively contributed to our current interest in the Greek classics.  (Also check out recent retellings by Stephen Fry , Pat Barker and Natalie Haynes.) Circe is a witch-goddess from Greek Mythology, best known to readers through Homer’s Odyssey, where she encounters Odysseus during his long voyage.  Here she narrates her life, reinterpreting a number of myths from her perspective.  Madeline Miller has fleshed out Circe satisfyingly – with a heart, an independent mind and a sharp tongue.  This feminist retelling reclaims Circe from her traditional portrayal as a wicked witch, and reimagines her as a woman doing her best to overcome the odds.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is a hidden gem of an author.  In 30+ years of writing, he has spun tales that are intriguing, immersive and often gutwrenching, creating fantasy worlds based on the histories of ancient China, Arthurian legends, the Byzantine Empire,  the Moors, and Mediaeval Europe.  A Brightness Long Ago is an epic story of war, destiny, ambition and love, set in a world inspired by Renaissance Italy.  Through the reminiscences of Danio, an old and powerful man who rose above his humble origins, we see how chance encounters, and the seemingly unimportant lives and actions of ordinary people, can nonetheless impact upon major historical events.  The intricate weaving and interconnectedness of the large cast is pure Guy Gavriel Kay; it also offers a poetic meditation on fate, choice and the power of memory.

Six of the newest crime novels of 2021

There’s something about Winter that makes curling up to read a gripping crime novel seem so right. Maybe it’s because crime stories rarely take place in the summer or on a beach. Maybe it’s the rain and the dark afternoons and looming storms that create a sense of being in the thick of it. Well hold onto your hats and brace yourself for some sleepless nights – have we got some great novels to settle into! Below are six new crime novels hitting the market now. 

The lady With The Gun Asks The Questions by Kerry Greenwood

The Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the Lulu bob, Cupid’s bow lips, diamante garters and pearl-handled pistol – is the 1920s’ most elegant and irrepressible sleuth. Miss Phryne Fisher is up to her stunning green eyes in intriguing crime in each of these entertaining, fun and compulsively readable stories. With the ever-loyal Dot, the ingenious Mr Butler and all of Phryne’s friends and household, the action is as fast as Phryne’s wit and logic. 

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

The unputdownable new novel from the bestselling author of The Ruin and The Scholar. Police corruption, an investigation that ends in tragedy and the mystery of a little girl’s silence – three unconnected events that will prove to be linked by one small town. While Detective Cormac Reilly faces enemies at work and trouble in his personal life, Garda Peter Fisher is relocated out of Galway with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. But even that is not as terrible as having to work for his overbearing father, the local copper for the pretty seaside town of Roundstone. For some, like Anna and her young daughter Tilly, Roundstone is a refuge from trauma. But even this village on the edge of the sea isn’t far enough to escape from the shadows of evil men.

Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee

Celia Lily is rich, beautiful, and admired. She’s also missing. And the search for the glamorous socialite is about to expose all the dark, dirty secrets of Vanishing Falls…

Deep within the lush Tasmanian rainforest is the remote town of Vanishing Falls, a place with a storied past. The town’s showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its Calendar House, currently occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner; his wife, Celia; and their four daughters. The elaborate, eccentrically designed mansion houses one masterpiece and 52 rooms and Celia Lily isn’t in any of them. She has vanished without a trace….

Joelle Smithton knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she’s simple-minded. It’s true that Joelle’s brain works a little differently, a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But Joelle sees far more than most people realise, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia’s husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters whom he’s desperate to keep hidden. He’s not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle’s own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.

Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past…

The Chase by Candice Fox

Candice Fox has been described one of Australia’s finest new generation crime writers and her latest novel is another thrilling ride, as a mass prison breakout lets loose 650 of the country’s most dangerous prisoners. 

‘Are you listening, Warden?’ ‘What do you want?’ ‘I want you to let them out.’ ‘Which inmates are we talking about?’ ‘All of them.’ When 650 of the world’s most violent human beings pour out from Pronghorn Correctional Facility into the Nevada Desert, the biggest manhunt in US history begins. But for John Kradle, this is his one chance to prove his innocence, twenty-six years after the murder of his wife and child. He just needs to stay one step ahead of the teams of law enforcement officers he knows will be chasing the escapees down. Death Row Supervisor turned fugitive-hunter Celine Osbourne is single-minded in her mission to catch Kradle. She has very personal reasons for hating him, and she knows exactly where he’s heading

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs

This is the lastest title in the Temperance Brennan series. A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past. On the way to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice, and comfort, of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan. Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable. Shockingly, Tempe eventually discovers that not only are the victims in both grisly murder cases related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause.

The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin

Okay, so perhaps crime can occur on a beach

On the evening of September 22, 1998, three teenage girls venture out for a night of mischief in the coastal town of Blairgowrie. But only two return . . . For over twenty years the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Cecilia May remains a baffling cold case until human bones are discovered on an isolated beach. Now it’s up to Detective Emmett Corban and his team to dig up decades of trauma, and find the missing piece of an investigation that’s as complex as it is tragic. Does the answer lie with the only suspect, a registered sex offender who confessed, then immediately provided a rock-solid alibi? Or with the two teen survivors, neither of whom can keep their story straight? But the police aren’t the only ones hunting for the truth- someone else has arrived in the seaside town. And she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to find her own version of justice…

Enjoy!