About my 2019 Reading Challenge

This year I have decided to reduce the number of books on my challenge and instead of 104 my challenge is 80.  For part of my challenge I would like to read as many books as I can from the previous winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 1957, the first winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced: Patrick White, for his novel Voss. Over the years, the prize has been awarded to novels describing life in suburbia, compulsive gamblers, Australians abroad – but always true to the terms of Miles Franklin’s will: ‘[the] prize shall be awarded for the Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases …’.

I have read a few of them already but I will now endeavour to read some of the remaining books on the list.  Those I have read are:

All that I am by Anna Funder

Truth by Peter Temple

The ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger Mcdonald

Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

The Well by Elizabeth Jolley

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Bring Larks and Heroes by Thomas Keneally

There are 47 books on the list so I still have a few I can choose from.  I think I will start with Voss by Patrick White as I have a copy here at home.

What a golden book this was.

This is a must read book.

“With their father, there’s always a catch . . .

Colt Jenson and his younger brother Bastian have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts – toys, bikes, all that glitters most – and makes them the envy of the neighbourhood.

To Freya Kiley and the other local kids, the Jensons are a family from a magazine, and Rex a hero – successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he’s an impossible figure in a different way: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives?”

Sonya Hartnett has been able to capture the lives of young boys in Australia.  She is able to portray them so realistically I could imagine the events happening by the language the boys used and the vivid descriptions of their actions. The portrayal of the strong female adolescent was also so realistic and the antithesis of the two seemingly weak mothers.

This book was long listed for the Stella prize in 2015 and this is what the judges had to say about the novel.

The Dry

After reading Force of Nature I was encouraged by my reading group to read Jane Harper’s first novel The Dry.  My sister also encouraged me to read it as she had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

I was able to pick up a copy cheaply at Kmart and I would have read it in a day except I had to leave for Melbourne for our bike ride.  I finished the last few pages when we were in Melbourne.

It was a great read.  One of those books that you don’t want to put down.  I found I enjoyed it much more than Force of Nature as Falk, the character who was doing the investigating, played a far more significant part in this book compared to Force of Nature.

‘One of the most stunning debuts I’ve ever read…Read it!’ David Baldacci  That is a recommendation to feel proud of.

My April reads

I have been busily reading this month so here are the books I have read.

Coffin Road was another Hebridean thriller by Peter May.  I will need to look out for more of his books.  I picked this one up at the secondhand book sale.  Very atmospheric writing.

Promise by Sarah Armstrong, for some reason made me think of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkis.  The link was probably the moral issues and legal issues that were presented here.  The story is set in Sydney and the hinterland of Nimbin. A very thought provoking tale with the moral dilemma that was the focus of the story.  How far should a person go to protect the safety of a child?  I kept wondering what I would do in the situation.

You can listen to an interview with Sarah Armstrong here.

The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly was set in Sydney around the time of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Lots of historical research has gone into this book and it reminded me of the Rowland Sinclair series of books by Sulari Gentill

“Against the glittering backdrop of Sydney Harbour, The Blue Mile tells of the cruelties of poverty, the wild gamble a city took to build a wonder of the world, and the risks the truly brave will take for a chance at life.”

The book was a romance but the historical aspects made it an enjoyable read.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore didn’t disappoint.  I loved The Siege and this was equally as good.  This is a spy novel but not one with a complex plot.  You can read an excellent review here.

“It is set at the heart of the Cold War in November, 1960. Simon and Lily Carrington live in North London. Simon works at the Admiralty, keeps his head down and has a relatively ordinary life. However, this is turned upside down when he is accused of espionage.”

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga was all about the fanatic love of cricket in India and the pressure that is put on two brothers to succeed in the cricket arena.  It was also an enjoyable read as it provided aspects of life in Mumbai along with the cricket focus. There is an excellent review here.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books and would recommend each one.  It was a mixture of genres this month, not my usual crime fiction.

According to Goodreads I am two reads behind in my Reading Challenge so I need to catch up.  At the moment I am reading Jack Maggs by Peter Carey.






My latest reading is varied

I have just finished reading A Working Class Boy by Jimmy Barnes. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect in this book but I was certainly surprised by the amount of violence he endured as a child.  He is someone who has shown remarkable resilience to overcome all that was thrown at him during his childhood.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock’n’roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have.

I hadn’t realised when I borrowed the book that it was only the story of his childhood and I kept thinking that he would soon get to when he started his musical career. . . .that didn’t happen.  This book is solely the story of his childhood and I will now need to read Working Class Man, the second instalment of his autobiography, when it is released in October 2017, to read about his musical career.

The second book I read was Honolulu by Alan Brennert. I bought this book at the airport in Honolulu as I had finished my previous book while in Hawaii.

Honolulu is the rich, unforgettable story of a young “picture bride” who journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life.

Instead of the affluent young husband and chance at an education that she has been promised, she is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on his new wife. Renaming herself Jin, she makes her own way in this strange land, finding both opportunity and prejudice. With the help of three of her fellow picture brides, Jin prospers along with her adopted city, now growing from a small territorial capital into the great multicultural city it is today.  But paradise has its dark side, whether it’s the daily struggle for survival in Honolulu’s tenements, or a crime that will become the most infamous in the islands’ history…

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction about mail-order-brides from Korea in the 1920’s. I loved the fact that many aspects of the story were based on actual events that had taken place in Honolulu.  This book certainly gave me an insight into the background of how Honolulu is as it is today.  It was also pleasing to be able to recognise places named in the novel.

I have just bought Molokai which was the first Hawaii book by this author.  I will let you know how I like it when I am finished.

A fictional woman or fictional women?

I have recently finished reading a non-fiction book by the crime-fiction writer Tara Moss. She has written several crime-fiction novels and is a successful writer of fiction.  I have read several of her crime fiction novels and I have now read her first non-fiction book which is called The Fictional Woman.

Fictional woman

Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time, including ‘author’, ‘model’, ‘gold-digger’, ‘commentator’, ‘inspiration’, ‘dumb blonde’, ‘feminist’ and ‘mother’, among many others. Now, in her first work of non-fiction, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women. She traces key moments in her life – from small-town tomboy in Canada, to international fashion model in the 90s, to bestselling author taking a polygraph test in 2002 to prove she writes her own work – and weaves her own experiences into a broader look at everyday sexism and issues surrounding the under representation of women, modern motherhood, body image and the portrayal of women in politics, entertainment, advertising and the media. Deeply personal and revealing, this is more than just Tara Moss’s own story. At once insightful, challenging and entertaining, she asks how we can change the old fictions, one woman at a time.

(Tara Moss website)

While reading this book I kept thinking that aspects of this book would be excellent for discussion topics in high school. It raises many issues that require exploration in depth, particularly the way women are portrayed in the media.

Catherine Keenan (ABC The Drum)  “A nimbly argued, statistic-laden exploration of the various labels we give women and the impact this has on their lives.”

I would consider this book a MUST READ for all women but it would also be an excellent read for men.