Hello and welcome to the very first Bron’s Book Stack post! I’m Bron and I’m looking forward to sharing my latest and favourite reads with you here each month.
I mostly read fiction, young adult fiction, and LOTS of picture books (my 4-year-old daughter is a book worm too!), and I read across a mix of genres including contemporary/literary fiction, sci-fi and fantasy. While I mostly read relatively new releases I am trying to catch up on some classics too.
I thought I would start by telling you a bit about some of my favourite books that I have read in the past 6 months or so. I had planned to pick two each from my three most-read categories, but there’s a bonus one there since my daughter and I couldn’t agree on which one to pick (I think you’ll see why!)
Possibly my absolute favourite book for the year so far has been Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I am a relative new comer to du Maurier’s work – I read (and loved) My Cousin Rachel last year before seeing the film and am now trying to decide which of her books to read next. It is kind of hard to write about Rebecca, since it is such a favourite to so many people and I always feel like all the things have been said already!
I think one of the things I love about both this and My Cousin Rachel is that the writing describes everything so perfectly it is almost as though I am seeing it happen in front of me, but I never ever feel like anything is over-described, or that the details become tedious. It is kind of magical!
Next is The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Australian author Sophie Green. Initially what drew me to this one was that it is about a book club – who doesn’t love books about books? On reading it I realised how much I love books about ‘ordinary’ women’s lives. About our friendships – how we support each other and the secrets we share and keep – and our identities and how those change throughout our lives.
This was a perfect example of a story that examines these themes. It is set in 1978 in the Northern Territory, and I loved that the five women at the centre of the story are very different from each other and in completely different stages of their lives. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club has become a bit of a go-to recommendation for me – I’ve bought copies for at least 4 friends and loaned my own copy to a bunch more.
Until recently I would have said that young adult (YA) fantasy fiction was my absolute favourite thing to read. This year I’ve been trying to read more YA by Australian authors and have found myself really loving contemporary YA fiction. Two of the best I’ve read this year are Untidy Towns by Kate O’Donnell and P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry-Jones.
I picked up Untidy Towns after it was long-listed for the Australian Book Industry Awards (for Book of the Year for Older Children) and fell in love with the rural setting and authentic characters right away. As is often the case in YA, this is a coming of age story for 17-year-old protagonist Addie, who doesn’t know what she wants to do except that she is tired of the external pressure of other people’s expectations on her. This was a lovely, comfortable, relatable read, which – even though it isn’t action-driven – I couldn’t put down. It has become one of my favourite books to recommend to people who think they don’t like reading YA.
P is for Pearl also has a 17-year old protagonist – Gwen – who feels kind of lost. We know that some awful things have happened to her family in the past – including losing her mum – but nobody talks about them. Throughout the story we see Gwen open up and start to confront these issues. It took me a chapter or two for me to get into this one, but the gorgeous writing won me over. It has a literary, dreamy kind of feel, that sometimes made me feel like we were drifting towards fantasy. This was Henry-Jones first YA book, but she does have two other novels that I’m keen to check out!
And now onto picture books! This was super hard to narrow down because there are so many amazing picture books out there! I think my favourite picture book so far this year has been Some Girls by Nelly Thomas, with illustrations by Sarah Dunk.
Some Girls is about how all girls can be whatever they want. All girls can have whatever clothes and hair and interests they like and, while everyone is good at different things all girls are really good at something. Apart from the fantastic message in this one, I absolutely adore the illustrations. It is really important to me when we read picture books together that the characters in them don’t all look like our family. The diversity in Some Girls is brilliant, including girls from different racial and religious backgrounds, as well as a girl in a wheelchair, a girl with a prosthetic leg, and more. I think it is absolutely gorgeous.
Now, where we had a disagreement was on our favourite picture book for this month, although both are by the same authors. Room on Our Rock and Are You My Bottom are both written by Kate and Jol Temple, and illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton and Ronojoy Ghosh, respectively.
Both are beautiful books with wonderful illustrations. Room on Our Rock was my favourite – it is super clever in that it can be read forwards: “There’s no room on our rock so it’s ridiculous to say there’s space for plenty more” OR can be read from back to front “There’s space for plenty more so it’s ridiculous to say there’s no room on our rock”, and so on.
I love that it encourages empathy and and a welcoming attitude to others in a way that young children can understand. My daughter on the other hand, whilst she did enjoy Room on Our Rock, preferred Are You My Bottom because, well, bottoms! It is a super cute story about a young panda who loses his bottom and goes searching to find it. It is the latest favourite for bed time, and with such lovely illustrations and text that is fun and easy to read out-loud, so I can see why she loves it so much.
So, that’s my stack of books for this month! I’m currently reading a brand-new fantasy novel called City of Lies by local Canberra author Sam Hawke. It is about poisonings and power and feels kind of epic and gritty. I hope you’ll pop back next month to see if it makes my favourites stack!