First up, the quick answer to how I’ve been getting so much reading done lately: I’ve been doing a lot less writing. Sad but true, perhaps. A fellow new-ish mother commented last month that she couldn’t understand how I’d had time to read four books in a month – well, this month I’ve scarily doubled that, and one of my secrets is that I cook with a book in my other hand (and not a cook book!). It also helped this month that we had a five-day weekend with the Easter and Anzac Day holidays. But anyway, without further ado, my April reading list is as follows:
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan is a cross between comedy and crime, lots of fun and with a few interesting plot twists. I think it’s the first in an ongoing series, although I probably didn’t enjoy it quite enough to grab the next one.
- The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins, another non-fiction (but well-written) addition to my list. Scary stuff about the pressure teenagers are under to succeed in high school and college life in the United States.
- Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta – yes, I had to keep reading her stuff after loving Looking for Alibrandi last month. This YA novel was good, but not great – nowhere near as powerful as her debut.
- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood; I haven’t read any of her stuff for ages but since I’ve been following her on Twitter (she’s a real addict – @MargaretAtwood) I felt the need. This was very well written but a little depressing, perhaps.
- The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, again. This is her newest, and involves the same characters as Saving Francesca, but five years on (and it stands alone as a novel). Heaps better than Saving Francesca in my opinion, excellent in fact, although definitely for the older end of YA or even just for fully-grown adults like me! Great Aussie slice of life.
- What is Left Over, After by Natasha Lester, a local writer who I met at the Perth Writers Festival. This novel won the TAG Hungerford award and I can see why it beat mine. A million times better! It’s got a great storyline about a woman suffering from a tragic loss and much of it is set in the south-west of WA.
- Land’s Edge by Tim Winton – it’s a memoir, rather than a novel, but is typical Winton – quite mesmerising, especially for a fellow West Aussie like me who can picture the beaches and coastlines he’s talking about. I learnt we grew up in the same Perth suburb, and am hoping that’s a Lucky Thing! My only criticism is it was a little on the short side.
- Dead Line by Stella Rimington – another in her Liz Carlyle spy series, and yes the only spy author I read – but she’s authentic! And lovely! And I saw her at the Perth Writers Festival a few years ago. I’ve even got another of hers on my to-read pile right now.
The Piper’s Son was excellent and was looking set to make Melina Marchetta the twice-in-a-row winner of my book of the month award but then circumstances had me picking up Natasha Lester’s book from my “read-sometime” pile (all my due-back-soon library books were at the far end of the house and I didn’t want to wake up my little boy by retrieving one). What is Left Over, After then won me over – beautiful characters, a captivating and relevant storyline and a local setting, and great writing. I’m not just saying that because Natasha might read this!
And finally, let me give you my monthly writing update. I’m hoping that voracious reading is a precursor to unstoppable writing; but I actually have made some progress, getting out my third novel idea (the one I refer to as “the Trans-Siberian one”) and doing some really detailed outlining. It seems that with each novel, my planning process gets more and more detailed and I think and hope that will lead to a better quality output! I also think it’s more necessary as I’m needing to write in short, interrupted bursts (thanks to life with the small boy) rather than the long, luxurious days of my first novel manuscript where I could easily write for a few hours at a time without even shifting the position of my bottom. (Hmm, no wonder I need so many physio visits now.) It’s early days but the planning is exciting me, and the idea of writing when I actually know what to write is exciting me too, because I’m hoping that will give me more brain space to make the writing beautiful. Fingers crossed.