As Lisa Bu adjusted to a new life in the United States she turned to books to expand her mind and create a new path for herself. She shares her unique approach to reading in this lovely, personal talk about the magic of books.
Better Off Dead is a gripping mystery and a host of evil new enemies who are soon going to learn . . . they’d be better off dead.
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.
This one is for the interior lovers and colour enthusiasts. Vivid: Style in Colour is an interiors book celebrating the influence of colour in the world of design and our everyday lives. Click through to pre-order a copy now.
The second novel in the record-breaking bestselling Thursday Murder Club series is ready to pre-order: The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.
Winter is inching closer and in an effort to help with your hibernation during those chilly days we have gathered up the best selling books in Australia to pop onto your bookshelves and read this Winter.
So make yourself a cup of hot cocoa and settle in, you’re going to enjoy this list. If you have any recommendations, we’d also love to hear from you. Be sure to follow us on social media (our facebook link is here, instagram is here, and twitter is here), we also have a newsletter that you can subscribe to by logging into your account here, and of course, feel feel free to comment below.
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz
Dead girls don’t usually get to tell their story, but Alice Lee has always been a different type of girl. When she arrives in New York on her eighteenth birthday, carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen Leica in her bag, Alice is a plucky teenager looking to start a new life away from her dark past. Now she’s ‘Jane Doe’, ‘Riverside Jane’, an unidentified body on a slab at City Morgue. Newspaper headlines briefly report that ‘the body was discovered by a jogger’. Ruby Jones is a lonely Australian woman trying to put distance between herself and a destructive relationship back home, and is struggling in the aftermath of being the person to find Alice’s body. When she encounters Death Club, a small group of misfits who meet at bars around the city to discuss death and dying, she finds a safe space to explore her increasing obsession with the girl and her unidentified killer. Alice, seemingly stuck between life and death, narrates Ruby’s story, hoping that this woman will help her come to terms with what happened and assist in identifying her body. From this first devastating encounter, an enduring connection between the two women is formed. One that will eventually lead to the man who murdered Alice …
Turns Out, I’m Fine by Judith Lucy
Judith Lucy was just Great! Sure, the last remaining member of her immediate family had died, she was menopausal, she suspected her career was in the shitter and it seemed like the world was going to hell in a handbasket – but she was about to move in with the love of her life! Everything would work out because SHE HAD A MAN. Then, in the space of twenty-four hours, her relationship came apart and so did she. A broken heart became the catalyst for a complete existential melt down. She was nearly fifty, suddenly alone and unsure about every aspect of her life. How had this happened? Should she blame one of her four parents? What part had the comedy world played and was her disastrous history with men about more than just bad taste? In her most candid and insightful book yet, Judith figures out what went wrong and then turns her attention to finding out what her life might look like if it went right. She tries everything from dating a tree to getting a portrait of her vulva done to swimming with a whale shark. Thanks to a series of revelations and a slight drowning experience, Judith slowly starts to realise that her life is still full of possibilities and despite death, heartache and a dry vagina it turns out … she’s fine.
Accidental Weatherman by Sam Mac
The Accidental Weatherman is the story of what happens when a hilarious Adelaide boy who knows nothing about meteorology scores the coveted weatherman gig on the highest rating breakfast TV show in Australia. As the Sunrise weatherman, Sam Mac has bungee jumped, swum with sharks, got his cat on the cover of Pussweek magazine, taken his mum to the Logies when he was nominated for gold, stripped naked for The Real Full Monty and even recorded a song with The Wiggles. But, ultimately, his job is about people – from primary schoolers to pensioners, Sam’s gift is how he connects with them all. He uses heart and humour in his role on Sunrise to introduce viewers to the true characters of Australia. He prides himself on bringing awareness to causes such as mental health and animal rescue, and on championing underdogs who might need a hand up or a shout out. His genuine nature and open-book approach to social media has won him hundreds of thousands of fans along the way – although even he would admit that many of them only like him for his cat Coco (who is rapidly catching up to him in Instagram followers). After presenting more than 25 000 minutes of live TV in over 800 different Australian towns, Sam really has seen the absolute best of Australia, and it’s brought out the best in him.
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.
The Duke and I : Bridgerton Book 1 by Julia Quinn
Bridgerton is a period drama like no other and was a massive hit on tv. Like all great movies and series, it started with a humble book.
By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend’s sister—the lovely and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But the two of them know the truth—it’s all an elaborate ruse to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.
But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it’s hard to remember that their courtship is a sham. Maybe it’s his devilish smile, certainly it’s the way his eyes seem to burn every time he looks at her . . . but somehow Daphne is falling for the dashing duke . . . for real! And now she must do the impossible and convince the handsome rogue that their clever little scheme deserves a slight alteration, and that nothing makes quite as much sense as falling in love.
Can’t get enough? You can get the whole set of Bridgerton books here.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Who said old age has to be dull? In a peaceful retirement village off the A21 in Kent, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings. But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be octogenarians, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? A page-turning murder mystery in the tradition of Christie, and a joyful, laugh-out-loud celebration of modern Britishness and the power of friendship, The Thursday Murder Club is a true classic in the making.
The second book in this series is also out. You can find more about it here.