Popular Australian Reads 2023

What great Australian authors have you discovered this year?

There is nothing we like better here at City of Parramatta Libraries than discussing and recommending Australian authors to our community of readers. Below is just a small selection of some of our current favourites.

Enjoy!

Seven days by Fleur Ferries

Winner of Best Young Adult novel, 2023 Davitt Awards.

When Ben is dumped with his country relatives for the holidays, he starts counting down the days until it is over, loathing every second.

However, Ben’s stay takes a sharp turn when he comes across his great-great grandfather’s journal – the final entry being from one hundred years ago, right after he was shot. With his cousin, Josh, Ben starts unravelling mysteries, lies and shocking crimes. Can the two boys beat the odds to resolve a century of bad blood between two families?

Fleur Ferries diverse background as a Paramedic and Police Officer has provided a unique narrative into current society.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/seven-days-9781761043352

Stone town by Margaret Hickey

With its gold-rush history long in the past, Stone Town has seen better days. And it’s now in the headlines for all the wrong reasons . . .

When three teenagers stumble upon a body in dense bushland one rainy Friday night, Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti’s hopes for a quiet posting in his old home town are shattered. The victim is Aidan Sleeth, a property developer, whose controversial plan to buy up local land means few are surprised he ended up dead.

However, his gruesome murder is overshadowed by a mystery consuming the entire nation: the disappearance of Detective Sergeant Natalie Whitsed.

Natalie had been investigating the celebrity wife of crime boss Tony ‘The Hook’ Scopelliti when she vanished. What did she uncover? Has it cost her her life? And why are the two Homicide detectives, sent from the city to run the Sleeth case, so obsessed with Natalie’s fate?

Following a late-night call from his former boss, Mark is sure of one thing: he’s now in the middle of a deadly game . . .

Margaret Hickey is a playwright & author who has a strong interest in rural communities.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/stone-town-9781761048692

The all of it by Cadance Bell

Seven years ago, Ben was loveless, overweight, in debt and living in his parents’ rumpus room, trying to find a way to quietly die. Days passed by in a haze of marijuana smoke and self-loathing. Then, one day, Ben decided not to die. He decided to change everything – starting with the Ben bit. Becoming Cadance would be more than a gender transition. It would be a transition in every way. It would mean leaving behind a rural Mudgee childhood filled with Frogger, hot chips, Godliness, and a forbidden love of Sarah Parker’s My Little Pony; and the violence, drugs and secrecy that plagued her twenties. Choosing to live was just the beginning; what mattered was how she existed.

Cadance Bell is a storyteller whose various pieces have appeared in The Guardian, popular blogs – ‘Rainbow Roo’ and ‘I miss pockets’. Documentaries to explore include ‘Rainbow Passage’ and ‘Who I am’. Candances’ hobbies and interests include playing Pokemon Go and eating burritos.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-all-of-it-9781761045028

Believe by Sam Frost

Believe a mental health initiative created by Sam Frost and supported by her sister Krister is an online community forum inclusive to everyone focussing on mental health subjects as depression, anxiety, unhealthy relationships and dealing with the challenges of social media.

Believe has progressed from an online community forum into a great book!

In Believe, Sam shares her own experiences navigating dark mental health periods and, alongside Kristine’s own insights, offers warm, gentle inspiration and tips to help you come through to the other side of your own. Believe is a personal story, a battle cry and a reassurance for the many of Sam’s fans who have struggled as she has.

https://www.believebysamfrost.com/about

https://www.hachette.com.au/book/believe

Book Review Lying Beside You Michael Robotham

Lying Beside You

Michael Robotham

Summary

Two missing women. One witness. So many lies…

Twenty years ago, Cyrus Haven’s family was murdered. Only he and his brother survived. Cyrus because he hid. Elias because he was the killer.

Now Elias is being released from a secure psychiatric hospital and Cyrus, a forensic psychologist, must decide if he can forgive the man who destroyed his childhood.

As he prepares for the homecoming, Cyrus is called to a crime scene in Nottingham. A man is dead and his daughter is missing. Then a second woman is abducted. The only witness is Evie Cormac, a troubled teenager with an incredible gift: she can tell when you are lying.

Both missing women have dark secrets that Cyrus must unravel to find them – and he and Evie know better than anybody how the past can come back to haunt you . . .

Comments

This book is the third in a series of psychological thrillers featuring Cyrus Haven, who is a criminal Forensic Psychologist, and it reads well as a stand-alone story. It is a ‘whodunit’ with interesting, interweaving plot lines. We all found this to be a page turner with engaging and quirky characters, most of them with traumatic pasts. The writing style was clear and comprehensible and the use of character names for chapter headings did not interfere with the flow of the storytelling.

Evie and her minder Cyrus are the main proponents but all the other characters have a purpose and add interest to the satisfying plot. After many false leads and an eventual terrifying stand-off, there is a ‘twist in the tale’ ending.

Every member of our Bookclub enjoyed this story and some obtained books 1 & 2 to read the backstories. We are all looking forward to reading book 4.

8/10

Read by Dundas Readers

Book Review Silver

Chris Hammer

Synopsis

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

Comments

A page-turning thrilling crime novel set on the NSW East Coast of Australia, where Chris Hammers’ character Martin, from his previous book, Scrublands, grew up. His partner Mandy, inherits a house in the same town, prompting their move. They attempt to start a new life together, but when Martin arrives, he finds the dead body of a childhood friend. And Mandy seems to be the main suspect!

This clever style of writing draws the reader in from the start, wanting to know who did it! However, in order for Martin to solve the mystery he must confront his past. We meet a plethora of characters along the way, people that Martin had grown up with and people who have arrived while he was away being an award-winning journalist. All of which, kept us turning pages, eager to find more clues. We feel the ending may have been a little over thought; got a little confusing around the second murder. However, we still really enjoyed this book.   Another great holiday read for us!

Rating – 8/10

Read by Cultcha Club

Book Review A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler

Summary

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

Comments

Many of our readers really enjoyed this book while some were disappointed by the structure of the story. There was real division within our readers with this structural format.

The story centres around three generations of the Whitshank family and the house in which they live in Baltimore. The Whitshanks are an average family and the house itself is presented as a real character in the book. Each generation’s connection to the house is quite well detailed and each of the key inhabitant’s special feelings toward the house outlined.

Most readers agreed the book is well written. The author’s use of dialogue was excellent and the attention to descriptive character detail all throughout the book was very good. Some readers were transported easily to the time and place in the story while other readers found the abrupt transitions in time confusing and irritating, distracting them from the story line.

Some readers also found the story line laboured on and on at times and was really not taking them to anywhere that they felt was interesting.

There was also a feeling by many that the story had an anticlimactic ending with some readers feeling unfulfilled by the story.

There is definite humour frequently throughout the book and moments that are emotionally very touching. There is also one very big shock incident in the middle of the book that none of us saw coming.

For those readers who had read Anne Tyler before it was a good book but not her best.

Many readers however did enjoy the story, the characters involved and the descriptive skill of the writer.

A recommended read.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Summary

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

From the publisher

Comments

As a group, we had not read much historical fiction, or knew very much about the role female spies had played in WW1 and WWII. However,  we were impressed and enjoyed the history lesson! We quite liked The Alice Network.  We love a story told from different points of views, through alternating chapters.  In this case, moving back and forth between Eve during the war, and Charlie, after the war as she searched for her lost cousin.  While we loved Eve’s story, riveted and turning pages quickly to get back to her side of the story; we struggled a little with Charlie.  We didn’t connect as well with her, however, we loved the small cast of supporting characters. We were amazed to learn at the end that some characters had been based on real people and that some of these events had actually happened. Overall, we would recommend this one for anyone who loves a historical fiction read. 

Read by Cultcha Club