WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING #16?

When I was a university student, the first thing I did in semester breaks was go to the library. On the way home from exams, even.

I would load up on fiction books, as many as I could borrow, and then, when the kids were in bed, I’d devour those books. And a week later, I’d go back for more.

Now that I’ve stepped back from my former publishing life to reconnect with the Muse, I’ve enjoyed having the time to curl up with books even more.

For a while, reading was the way I put myself to sleep at night … I can’t sleep unless I read for a while. But that made it more of a routine, instead of the pleasure I know it to be.

So, now, if you visit my house, you might find a book left on the lounge, another on a table, and another beside the bed. I’m snatching little moments to read for pleasure and loving it.

So, what have I been reading? Here’s a snapshot,

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell is one of the books I’ve most been looking forward to this year. And it was everything I wanted – atmospheric, mysterious, emotive and elegant. Yes, there’s an elegance to the way Hannah writes, an elegance that’s infused in the setting, the characters, the prose and the storyline.

The dual timelines are handled beautifully and readers are swept into the lives of two women, two caged beauties who are trapped by their past. Other characters are similarly trapped by their pasts and their actions are sometimes abhorrent, leaving the readers to wonder why the women don’t fly free. But that is, after all, the message of the book, brilliantly underlined by the estate’s peacocks, who could fly (not far) but choose to stay.

I loved this almost gothic-style book, with its crumbling house of secrets, and I’m thrilled by the return of Richell to the world of storytelling. I sense that there are many more stories to come. My copy was courtesy of Hachette.

Another book I’ve been eagerly awaiting was Finding Your Creative Mojo by Josh Langley.Reading this short, snappy book felt like I had a life coach in my head: “You go, girl!”, “You’ve got this!” and “You can do it!”.

Josh Langley writes from the perspective of someone who’s found his creative mojo and is going for it every way he can. I enjoyed the self-deprecating humour, the insights into his own challenges and doubts, mostly, the gentle and firm way (yes, it’s a paradox but it’s true) he coaxes people into believing in themselves.

As someone trying to live the creative life, but struggling with self-doubt and perfectionism now and then, this was a refreshing reminder to stop comparing and just BE my creative self. My copy was courtesy of the author. Buy it here.

The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George enthralled me from start to finish. I loved the landscape (a character in itself) the story of finding oneself late in life, the fabulous cast of eccentric characters … did I mention the succulent food descriptions? Most of all, it opened my eyes to Brittany, a place that’s now on my must-visit list. Oh, and there are recipes in the back – I tried the salted caramel ice-cream recipe and aside from having to figure out some of the steps that were lost in translation, the ice-cream was a salivating success!

I laughed and cried and laughed again – and now I’ve ordered a copy of this book as a keeper (I borrowed the book from the library).

One of the much-hyped books this year has been psychological suspense thriller The Nowhere Child by Christian White. The book was the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and has been raved about for its intriguing premise (a child kidnapped in the US turns up years later in Australia). I was quickly drawn into the book and found myself caught up in the mystery of what happened to Sammy, the missing toddler, and how she became Kimberley on the other side of the world. The story jumps back and forth between timelines and offers multiple perspectives, and for the most part, keeps the reader guessing. Thanks to the author’s screenwriting background there is a cinematic feel to the story and as I read, I couldn’t help imagining it as a film … and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s in this book’s future.

An impressive debut and a page-turner – one for fans of psychological suspense. My copy was a loan from the library.

I’m slowly acquainting myself with Angela Carter’s writing, and when I saw The Magic Toyshop in a Sydney bookshop, I had to have it. This dark and sinister gothic-magical realism fusion bursts with beautiful prose and break-the-rules narrative. It’s imaginative, it’s compelling, it doesn’t shy from taboos … it captivated me. It starts with a very gothic premise – orphans are whisked away to a strange, hard life – but becomes more of a coming of age story that’s more horror. Yes, it’s disturbing at times, like a nightmare on a stormy night, but Carter’s fascination with the eerie is rubbing off on me and now I want to read more.

If I tell You by Alicia Tuckerman is a heartfelt coming-of-age YA read that highlights small-town prejudice, belonging, familial relationships, and burgeoning sexuality. The setting is distinctively Aussie – there was a familiarity to it that made me feel like a spectator in the small town, like these were people I’d seen before. Alicia’s assured writing highlights the insecurity of her seventeen-year-old protagonist; she deftly brings out Alex’s fear, confusion and indecision as her relationship with the enigmatic Phoenix blossoms – for this is a town where girls don’t go out with girls. But this is no fluffy romance – it’s got an emotional twist that many readers won’t see coming. This book won’t hit the spot for everyone, but to me, it comes from the heart – it feels like the story Alicia had to tell.

So that’s my snapshot. Other books I’ve read have included Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter (which for some reason, didn’t grab me as much as her earlier works), Half Moon Lake by Kirsten Alexander … and many more!

What have you been reading lately? What have you enjoyed or not enjoyed?

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Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

2 Responses

  1. I really liked Alicia’s book. I think I’m the only person that thought Christian Whites book was just OK

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