five favourites for 2013

Okay. Look. Yes, I know I said in my previous post that I wasn’t going to do this…but I couldn’t help myself.

I might not have read or written much this year – but that doesn’t alter the fact that some great books came my way in 2013. So, with nothing to do on New Year’s Eve other than ordering takeaway and watching Sherlock on DVD, I thought I’d put together a last-minute post and ramble a little about five of my favourite books for the year. Grab a seat!

(Due to my…ahem…near complete lack of reviews for the books I’m about to mention, I’ll post a link with each book where you can find out more. Then, ideally, purchase a copy to add to your 2014 reading list!)

Ready? Let’s get started.

seaheartsSea Hearts ~ Margo Lanagan

This book. It’s a bad influence. It made me want to run to the ocean and throw myself into the waves; feel the squelch of sand between my toes and take sanctuary from the biting cold of the wind in the warm, salty water – but all that would have meant I’d have had to stop reading Sea Hearts. And there was absolutely no chance of that happening. I wasn’t putting this book down for anyone.

Sea Hearts enchanted me completely. And I’m not the only one. Take a look at this year’s Meanjin Tournament of Books!

Click here to find out more about Sea Hearts

if_nobody_speaks_of_remarkable_things If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things ~ Jon McGregor

Completely irresistible. From the first sentence to the last, I was utterly hooked. Reading this book is the literary equivalent of stuffing your face with chocolate mud cake. It’s dense and lavish and delicious. But at the same time, there’s a rawness about Remarkable Things that will catch you unaware; it will overwhelm you. It’s sad and sweet and almost impossibly intricate. It burns with an intensity that hurts – but in the best possible way.

Click here to find out more about If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

rosieThe Rosie Project ~ Graeme Simsion

Yes, The Rosie Project. I know – it was everywhere this year.

You know what? This book is everywhere because it’s actually really good. Popularity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Rosie Project is simply delightful. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to love Don.

Sequel, please.

Click here to find out more about The Rosie Project

darknessDarkness on the Edge of Town ~ Jessie Cole

From a book that was everywhere, to a book that’s slipped by with little fanfare (as Elizabeth Lhuede has already pointed out). Which is a shame, because it’s such a tense, thrilling read. And that ending! I still haven’t recovered.

My first New Year’s Resolution is to review this book. I will I will I will. But the thing with writing reviews is that sometimes, the books you desperately want to tell the world about aren’t always the books that are easy to write about, for whatever reason.

Click here to find out more about Darkness on the Edge of Town

girl just_a_girl ~ Kirsten Krauth – reviewed here

I was nothing like Krauth’s Layla when I was fourteen. I read lots of books – usually ones about dragons and wizards and spent most of my time listening to unbelievably awful pop music. I was still a child. Layla and I have nothing in common. But still, there’s a connection. Or is it just that I’ve become one of those sad thirty-somethings who thinks they still have what it takes to get Kids These Days? Who knows.

After reading just_a_girl, I’m unable to forget Layla. She’s left a piece of herself behind. I commute from Western Sydney to the city every day and I see echoes of her. The closing image of just_a_girl left me with a chill that’s settled into my bones. I find myself wondering about Layla all the time – and wishing her a little warmth.

Click here to find out more about just_a_girl

Honourable mentions? Don’t mind if I do! I loved all the short story collections I’ve read this year. Ryan O’Neill’s Weight of a Human Heart, Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire, White Light by Mark O’Flynn (reviewed here!) – all brilliant.

Another exciting collection of short stories – The Great Unknown – is next on my reading list, and I’m really looking forward to getting into it.

In fact, my To Read pile is getting seriously out of control. I’d better get on to that tomorrow.

That’s it for me for this year. Another year of literary adventure beckons.

Happy new year – and even happier reading!

Michelle

stellaaaaa!!! and other awards

notebookSo. Once again, I find myself struggling to find the time to keep up with blogging, reading, writing and my full-time job. Blah blah blah, the usual. It’s becoming abundantly clear that I’m going to have to take a step back from something. A little hint – it’s not going to be blogging, reading or writing…

Anyway. I wanted to write a very quick update to my previous review.

When I really love a book, it makes me very happy to see that book receive the recognition it so deserves. Hence, I was very pleased to see that Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds was named on the longlist for the inaugural Stella Prize. The shortlist will be announced at midday this Wednesday, and I’ll be online for the announcement, holding my breath.

(Edited to add: and here’s the Stella shortlistMateship with Birds made it! Brilliant!)

In the meantime, I’m reading a few other books from the longlist. I’m completely, utterly mesmerised by Amy Espeseth’s Sufficient Grace right now, and Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts is next on my Australian Women Writers reading list. After that, I’m reading Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire.

As pleased as I was to see Mateship with Birds on the Stella longlist, I was overjoyed when it made the longlist for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction. And another of my favourite books of last year, Zadie Smith’s NW is also nominated. Many of the titles on the longlist are new to me but it’s such an exciting list. If only the pile of books I want to read wasn’t already so large it requires its own postcode, I’d read them all.

As a quick aside, I’m completely thrilled that my review of Mateship with Birds was selected as one of three winners of the Scribe Books Giveaway over on the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog. Thank you so much to the judge Annabel Smith, to Danielle, who was kind enough to nominate my review, to Elizabeth Lhuede – and huge congratulations to the other two winning reviewers.

Also on the subject of awards, Jessie Cole’s amazing debut novel Darkness on the Edge of Town made it to the shortlist of the ALS Gold Medal today, Brilliant news! I’ll be reviewing Darkness as soon as I can find the time – err, see the first sentence of this post.

And finally – the Miles Franklin Award longlist will be announced next week and it looks like exciting things are gearing up over at the Miles Franklin website.

Okay. Back to writing…

sunset