Marianne de Pierres: Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Marianne de Pierres

author of Burn BrightAngel Arias
and The Sentients of Orion series

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…


Faithful Place

by Tana French

Marianne de Pierres: Tana French is a relatively new Irish crime writer with only three novels released to date. With each book she goes from strength to strength, and this, her third novel delivers superior characterisation and sense of place. I know I’m on a good thing when I can’t wait to get into bed at night to read the next few chapters. This novel is told from previously minor character, undercover detective Frank Mackey’s, point of view. French’s plots tend to move slowly but are totally engrossing. Brilliant!

Blurb: A compelling psychological mystery from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.

The course of Frank Mackey’s life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He’s cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie’s suitcase has been found.

Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he reevaluate everything he believes to Continue reading

Adriana Koulias : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Adriana Koulias

author of The Sixth Key, The Seal and Temple of the Grail

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…


The Painter of Battles

By Arturo Perez Reverte

Adriana: A retired war photographer lives in a crumbling tower by the sea. He is spending his last days trying to depict on the tower’s interior wall a vast circular mural of war in which landscapes and history fuse together to create a vision of a man made a hell.

When a stranger arrives unannounced the two men begin a long conversation that reveals, not only the reason for the stranger’s visit, but also the motive behind the painter’s obsession.

Blurb: A compelling tale of art, love and war… Continue reading

H. J. (Holly) Harper : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

H. J. (Holly) Harper

author of the Star League series

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…


The Fear

By Charlie Higson

Holly Harper: The third in Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series, this is the zombie apocalypse at its best. A huge cast of characters means you never know who’s safe and who isn’t.

The Blurb:

HE DOESN’T KNOW IT, BUT DOGNUT IS ABOUT TO SET OFF A CHAIN OF EVENTS THAT WILL AFFECT EVERY KID IN THE CITY.

The sickness struck everyone over the age of fourteen.

Mothers and fathers, older brothers, sisters and best friends. No one escaped its touch. And now children across London are being hunted by ferocious grown-ups . . . Continue reading

Caroline Overington : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Caroline Overington

author of Matilda is Missing,
I Came To Say Goodbye

and Ghost Child

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…



The Spare Room

by Helen Garner

Blurb: Helen lovingly prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola. She is coming to visit for three weeks, to receive treatment she believes will cure her cancer.

From the moment Nicola staggers off the plane, gaunt and hoarse but still somehow grand, Helen becomes her nurse, her guardian angel and her stony judge.

The Spare Room tells a story of compassion, humour and rage. The two women—one sceptical, one stubbornly serene—negotiate an unmapped path through Nicola’s bizarre therapy, stumbling towards the novel’s terrible and transcendent finale.

‘A perfect novel, imbued with all Garner’s usual clear-eyed grace but with some other magnificent dimension that hides between the lines of her simple conversational voice. How is it that she can enter this heart-breaking territory—the dying friend who comes to stay—and make it not only bearable, but glorious, and funny? There is no answer except: Helen Garner is a great writer; The Spare Room is a great book.’ Peter Carey

BUY



Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by John Berendt

Blurb: Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.

These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.

BUY



The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Blurb: ‘Mary is a tough feisty character, who manages to turn a whole household, and the lives of those in it, completely upside down… The book is brim full of magic and joy’  – Sunday Telegraph.

Mary Lennox is an orphan who is sent to live with her uncle at gloomy Misselthwaite Manor. Neglected and lonely, she begins to explore her new home and learns of a secret garden that her uncle has forbidden anyone to enter.

A friendly robin shows Mary the key to the garden and she discovers a world she could never have imagined…

The Secret Garden has enchanted generations of children and adults alike.

BUY



Blood Meridian

by Cormac McCarthy

Blurb: Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West.

Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

‘McCarthy’s achievement is to establish a new mythology which is as potent and vivid as that of the movies, yet one which has absolutely the opposite effect …He is a great writer’ – “Independent”.

‘I have rarely encountered anything as powerful, as unsettling, or as memorable as Blood Meridian …A nightmare odyssey’ – “Evening Standard”.

‘His masterpiece …The book reads like a conflation of the “Inferno”, “The Iliad” and “Moby Dick”. I can only declare that “Blood Meridian” is unlike anything I have read in recent years, and seems to me an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement’ – John Banville.

BUY



The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

A magical love story set to be the publishing sensation of 2011

Blurb: In 1886 a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, the Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. There are contortionists, performing cats, carousels and illusionists – all the trappings of an ordinary circus. But this is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. And who is the sinister man in the grey suit who watches over it all? Behind the scenes a dangerous game is being played out by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who, at the behest of their masters, are forced to test the very limits of the imagination – and of love.

A feast for the senses, a fin-de-siècle fantasia of magic and mischief, and the most original love story since The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Night Circus is an extraordinary blend of fantasy and reality. It will dazzle readers young and old with its virtuoso performance, and who knows, they might not want to leave the world it creates.

BUY


I reviewed Caroline’s new novel Matilda is Missing recently – here is a taste of that review:

I read Matilda is Missing in a few days. I was hooked within pages and found myself reading well into the night. I would pick it up in between times, too, snatching bite sized portions of the story while I was rushing to get ready in the morning – while the kettle boiled, before the toaster popped and while the kids printed off last night’s homework.

What surprised me most about my reading of Matilda is Missing was that I was reading it at all. If I were flicking through a newspaper or reading a magazine and I came across a story about the family court, or a grandparent’s right to access their grandchildren, or equal rights for fathers in divorce cases, I wouldn’t read beyond the headlines.

But I read Matilda is Missing.

I picked it up on a whim, curious to see what all the fuss was about (The success of Overington’s last novel, I Came to Say Goodbye, has the book world salivating over the sales potential of Matilda is Missing). I do that a lot. I pick up review copies here in the office and flick through a few pages, read a bit and then generally drop the book back on the pile. We have so many books to review. You can’t read them all. Read the full review…

Kylie Ladd : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Kylie Ladd

author of Last Summer

and After the Fall

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…



Caribou Island

by David Vann

An Alaskan Revolutionary Road, Caribou Island from David Vann, bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Legend of a Suicide, is a devastating novel about a marriage, a couple blighted by past shadows and the weight of expectation, of themselves and of each other.

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unravelling.

Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary’s old dream, they’re hauling logs out to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to patch together the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.

Across the water on the mainland, Irene and Gary’s grown daughter, Rhoda is starting her own life. She fantasizes about the perfect wedding day, whilst her betrothed, Jim the dentist, wonders about the possibility of an altogether different future.

Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest in its depiction of love and disappointment, David Vann’s first novel confirms him as one of America’s most dazzling writers of fiction.

BUY



The Life

by Malcolm Knox

Daring, dazzling, funny and heartbreaking, this is a story about fame and ambition, surfing and pine-lime Splices … a superbly written and ambitious novel by one of Australia’s rising stars. The Life will simply blow you away.

He looked into the Pacific and the Pacific looked back into him.

The Life tells the story of former-world-champion Australian surfer, Dennis Keith, from inside the very heart of the fame and madness that is ‘The Life’.

Now bloated and paranoid, former Australian surfing legend Dennis Keith is holed up in his mother’s retirement village, shuffling to the shop for a Pine-Lime Splice every day, barely existing behind his aviator sunnies and crazy OCD rules, and trying not to think about the waves he’d made his own and the breaks he once ruled like a god. Years before he’d been robbed of the world title that had his name on it – and then drugs, his brother, and the disappearance and murder of his girlfriend and had done the rest. Out of the blue, a young would-be biographer comes knocking and stirs up memories Dennis thought he’d buried. It takes Dennis a while to realise that she’s not there to write his story at all.

Daring, ambitious, dazzling, The Life is also as real as it gets – a searing, beautiful novel about fame and ambition and the price that must sometimes be paid for reaching too high.

BUY



Dog Boy

by Eva Hornung

Abandoned in a big city at the onset of winter, a hungry four-year-old boy follows a stray dog to her lair. There in the rich smelly darkness, in the rub of hair, claws and teeth, he joins four puppies suckling at their mother’s teats. And so begins Romochka’s life as a dog.

Weak and hairless, with his useless nose and blunt little teeth, Romochka is ashamed of what a poor dog he makes. But learning how to be something else…that’s a skill a human can master. Fortunately–because one day Romochka will have to learn how to be a boy.

The story of the child raised by beasts is timeless. But in Dog Boy Eva Hornung has created such a vivid and original telling, so viscerally convincing, that it becomes not just new but definitive:

Yes, this is how it would be.

BUY



Animal People

by Charlotte Wood

A sharply observed, 24-hour urban love story that follows Stephen Connolly – a character from the bestselling novel The Children – through one of the worst days of his life. The day he has decided to dump his girlfriend.

On a stiflingly hot December day, Stephen has decided it’s time to break up with his girlfriend Fiona. He’s 39, aimless and unfulfilled, he’s without a clue working out how to make his life better. All he has are his instincts – and unfortunately they might just be his downfall . . .

As he makes his way through the pitiless city and the hours of a single day, Stephen must fend off his demanding family, endure another shift of his dead-end job at the zoo (including an excruciating teambuilding event), face up to Fiona’s aggressive ex-husband and the hysteria of a children’s birthday party that goes terribly wrong. As an ordinary day develops into an existential crisis, Stephen begins to understand – perhaps too late – that love is not a trap, and only he can free himself.

Hilarious, tender and heartbreaking, Animal People is a portrait of urban life, a meditation on the conflicted nature of human-animal relationships, and a masterpiece of storytelling.

Animal People invites readers to question the way we think about animals – what makes an ‘animal person’? What value do we, as a society, place on the lives of creatures? Do we brutalise our pets even as we love them? What’s wrong with anthropomorphism anyway? Filled with challenging ideas and shocks of recognition and revelation, Animal People shows a writer of great depth and compassion at work.

BUY



Daughters In Law

by Joanna Trollope

Rachel has always loved being at the centre of her large family. She has fiercely devoted herself to her three sons all their lives,and continues to do so even now they are all grown up. They are, of course, devoted to her – she and Anthony, their father, hold the family together at their big, beautiful, ramshackle house near the wide, bird-haunted coast of Suffolk.

But when Luke, her youngest, gets married, Rachel finds that control is slipping away. Other people seem to be becoming more important to her children than she is, and she can no longer rely on her role as undisputed matriarch. A power struggle develops which can only end in unhappiness; her three daughters-in-law want to do things their own way, and so, to her grief, do her sons…

BUY


Earlier in the year I read and reviewed Kylie’s latest novel, Last Summer – here is a taste of that review…

By the simple act of telling a story a good book can carry a light into the dark and unexamined corners of a reader’s life. The darkest of these unexamined corners is occupied by the single irrefutable truth of our existence, death. Left in the shadows this stark fact can take on all of the attributes of a nightmarish spectre. Left unexamined we may be left entirely unprepared when death intrudes upon our own lives. Something it will do, eventually.

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd, begins with the sudden death of Rory Buchanan, captain of the local cricket team, a man in the prime of his life. We immediately enter the lives of those Rory left behind – his wife, Colleen, his sister, Kelly, her husband, Joe, and Rory’s friends and team-mates, Nick, James and Pete, and their wives, Laine, Anita and Trinity as they, in their various ways, cope with Rory’s death and face up to the fact that life does, and will, go on without him.

Last Summer is told from the points of view of these nine characters with full chapters from one point of view only. This method of storytelling requires strong characterisation so that each individual point of view provides a unique perspective on the events. By choosing suburban Melbourne as her setting, and the cricket club as her focal point, Ladd has made things difficult for herself. There is much that is necessarily shared by all of these nine characters. They are all white, they are all moderately well off, they are all around the same age and they all have some connection to the game of cricket. This seeming difficulty turns out to be one of the novel’s strengths. Click here to read more…

Charlotte Wood : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Charlotte Wood

author of Animal People,
The Children
and more…

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are… Continue reading

Jessica Rudd: Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Jessica Rudd

author of Campaign Ruby
and Ruby Blues,

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…


The Novel in the Viola

by Natasha Solomons

The tale of an immigrant’s experiences in England, Natasha Solomons describes a story of the sea, of love lost and found, and of a novel hidden inside a viola.

When they started coming for people like us, I was forced to swap my life of champagne and glittering parties in bohemian Vienna for the cap and apron of a parlour maid in a country house on the Dorset coast.

I knew nothing about England, except that I wouldn’t like it. But then, clutching a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household management that I could barely read, I saw Tyneford for the first time. That great house on the bay, where servants polished the silver and served drinks on the lawn, where Kit caused an outrage by dancing with me, where Mr Rivers read the letter on the beach that changed everything.

And now the house and that world is gone. All that remains is my story of the sea, of love lost and found, and of a novel hidden inside a viola.

Buy…


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A celebration of literature, love, and the power of the human spirit, this warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining novel is the story of an English author living in the shadow of World War II and the writing project that will dramatically change her life. An international bestseller now in paperback.

A moving tale of post-war friendship, love and books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a captivating and completely irresistible novel of enormous depth and heart.

It’s 1946, and as Juliet Ashton sits at her desk in her Chelsea flat, she is stumped. A writer of witty newspaper columns during the war, she can’t think of what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance he’s acquired a book Juliet once owned – and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence.

Dawsey is a member of the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and it’s not long before the rest of the members write to Juliet – including the gawky Isola, who makes home-made potions, Eben, the fisherman who loves Shakespeare, and Will Thisbee, rag-and-bone man and chef of the famous potato peel pie. As letters fly back and forth, Juliet comes to know the extraordinary personalities of the Society and their lives under the German occupation of the island. Entranced by their stories, Juliet decides to visit the island to meet them properly – and unwittingly turns her life upside down.

Gloriously honest, enchanting and funny, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is sure to win your heart.

Buy…


Will Grayson, Will Grayson

by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson:

What if your oldest, wildest, only best friend started writing a musical about your life…and it made you look like a joke?

What if the girl you didn’t think you were interested in started being interested in you?

And who is this other guy called Will Grayson?

The other Will Grayson:

What if you are technically depressed? What if you’re in love with someone you’ve never met?

And what’s the story with the guy walking around with your name?

Praise for Will Grayson, Will Grayson:

‘I don’t know who or what I loved most about the Wills and their world, but this is one of my top three reads of the year. It has everything I devour in a novel: heart, humour and dialogue I’d kill to have written.’  Melina Marchetta

Buy…


Fall Girl

by Toni Jordan

‘The secret to having people give you money is to act as though you don’t want it.’

Meet Ella Canfield, highly qualified evolutionary biologist. Attractive, if a little serious-looking in those heavy glasses—but then she’s about to put her career on the line. Dr Canfield is seeking funding for a highly unorthodox research project. She wants to prove that an extinct animal still roams in one of Australia’s most popular national parks.

Meet Daniel Metcalf, good-looking, expensively dishevelled millionaire. Quite witty but far too rich to be taken seriously. He heads the Metcalf Trust, which donates money to offbeat scientific research projects. He has a personal interest in animals that don’t exist.

Problem number one: There is no such person as Dr Ella Canfield.

Problem number two: Della Gilmore, professional con artist, has never met anyone like Daniel Metcalf before.

Someone is going to take a fall.

A sparkling, sexy read from the author of Addition, Fall Girl is a story about passion and loyalty, deceit and integrity, and the importance of believing in things that don’t exist.

Buy…


The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver . . .

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another.

Each is in a search of a truth.

And together they have an extraordinary story to tell . . .

Buy…



Recently…

The Booktopia Book Guru asked

Jessica Rudd

author of  Campaign Ruby
and now, Ruby Blues

Ten Terrifying Questions

 —————————

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Canberra and moved to China when I was twelve days old. I went to Morningside State School in Brisbane and then Girls’ Grammar. My house colours were always ugly—yellow and maroon.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be a mediator because I felt smart for knowing what it meant. When I was eighteen I liked writing but thought I was pretty average at it so I enrolled in law school. I’m not thirty yet.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I would be the last of my school friends to marry. I think I was the first.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer? Read More….

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