Are you a one-book-at-a-time reader? Or a multi-tasking reader? I’m both – depending on my mood, although I often have one fiction and one non-fiction on the go. My reading mix has been eclectic lately – a mish-mash of genres, depending on what’s on my shelf or what comes into my mailbox and catches my attention. Here are five books I’ve read over the past month.

A tale of new starts and old secrets, ancient wisdom and new ways, The Secrets We Keep is a clever debut from Shirley Patton. Set in the goldmining town of Kalgoorlie in the 1980s, Patton paints a picture of a harsh and yet not unforgiving place, one where healing can happen among the red dust and dry land – a place of contrasts. And she also firmly establishes the social realities of the time for women, Aboriginals, relationships and politics.

Her descriptive writing is spot on, evoking sense of place as much as character, and it’s easy to get caught up in what matters to the characters as they stand up for their own rights as well as those of others. What stood out was that the simple “fresh start” theme was taken in a new, complex and bittersweet direction that kept me compelled to the end.

Thanks to Harlequin for sending me a copy.

Kelly Rimmer’s Before I Let You Go hooked me with its story of two sisters and one impossible choice – it was one of those books that once you get to a certain point, you have to keep on reading. And it’s also one of those books that makes you think about what you would do in this situation, while asking you to consider another point of view, or at least, understand how people can find themselves in the situations they do. It’s about compassion as much as it is looking at how our behaviour can enable others.

Bittersweet, moving and thought-provoking, Before I Let You Go is one of those books that’s filled with great talking points … and that’s the kind of book I enjoy. The title is also clever, because it can be interpreted from both sisters’ viewpoints.

Thanks to Hachette for sending me a copy.

Sometimes a book knocks you off your feet and into a completely alien environment – no, I’m not talking sci-fi, but Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Lebs. I grew up in Sydney in the same timeframe as this book, but Ahmad’s Sydney is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The writing – three separate and yet lined vignettes – is confronting and raw and insightful all at once; reading it had me feeling disturbed, challenged and interested all at once. While the final vignette has been criticised for not quite fitting, I think that was the point – the intended message was about accepting who you are and not trying to be someone you’re not. To me, that came across loud and clear.

I can’t say I enjoyed it because books like this are rarely “enjoyable” in the way I would use the word, but I did learn something and that insight through different eyes led to further discussion … which is good.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy.

Making Peace, Fiona McCallum’s sequel to Finding Hannah, is a tender, heartfelt story about friendships (new and old) and making peace with the past. In the mood for something comforting to curl up on the lounge with, this story hit the spot. Although it can be read as standalone story, it works best if you read it after Finding Hannah because you see Hannah’s continued growth in the face of pain – and she learns that she doesn’t have to fix everyone to be a good person. A gentle reminder about kindness and the benefit of good friends (and a cat or three), without quite reaching the tear-jerking heights of Finding Hannah, this book is the perfect curler-upper. Just make sure you have chocolate or your fave drink on hand so you can settle down for a long, uninterrupted read.

Thanks to Harlequin for sending me a copy.

Isn’t the cover of Holly Ringland’s debut The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart gorgeous? The inside is just as lovely, too – it’s beautifully designed. There’s been a lot of hype about this book so I was looking forward to reading it for myself, and the idea of women living and healing together through working with flowers/nature really appealed. I also have a thing for flowers, especially native wildflowers, so I was particularly drawn to the descriptions at the start of each chapter.

Ringland has a gift for description and at times, her writing is evocative and vivid – those moments jumped out and I nodded the way a writer does when they’re taken with someone’s turn of phrase (and wish they thought of it first). However, it wasn’t consistently so, and the abrupt time-shifts from Alice the child to Alice the eighteen-year-old to Alice the twenty-something took me out of the story, which was a shame. And while the writing certainly has its evocative moments, especially in terms of setting, it didn’t quite hit the spot emotionally in the second half. There’s a lot of heart and love in this book but sometimes I just didn’t feel it even though I knew it was there. I wanted to feel more. Ever feel like that when you’re reading?

What else have I been reading? I’m back to reading more fairy tales – just read a funny one called The Troll Bride and I picked up a copy of Firebird by Mercedes Lackey at the library (it’s the fairy tale of the month for the Australian Fairy Tale Society) Oh, I have also finished Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif, which was illuminating, saddening and hopeful all at once. Definitely a must read!

What about you? What’s on your bedside table?




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