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Happy New Year, and my AWW 2014 wrap-up

aww-badge-2015-200x300HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope 2015 has started well for you all. I’m feeling refreshed after a couple of restful weeks with my husband and daughters. It was as relaxing as life with a 5 year old and 1 year old gets!

The second half of 2014 was hectic. I finished my novel, signed a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster, and applied for and was awarded a PhD scholarship. In my personal life we had a really bad winter for illness, and my one year old went from one thing to another for about four months. Luckily she was better by the time our family came to visit, and we had a wonderful few weeks exploring Hong Kong and Australia with our loved ones.

So, what does 2015 hold for me? Lots of writing, I hope – and lots of reading, if I’m lucky! To that end, I will sign up once again for the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2015, and I will aim for the Franklin level, which means reading 10 books by Australian women writers. This challenge is open to anyone, so click on the link to join in!

And now it’s confession time. I also signed up for the Franklin level last year, and when I tallied up I have only read eight. Aargh! What’s more, I read most of them in the first few months of the year, before life intervened. The good news is I enjoyed every single one of them. Here they are:

 

Charlie Whisky Foxtrot and The Ark by Annabel Smith.

In 2014 I read two completely different books by the same author – which immediately underlines just how talented Annabel is.

Charlie Whisky Foxtrot is the story of two brothers who have lost one another, until Whisky has an accident that leaves him in a coma, and Charlie is forced to re-examine how and why their relationship has become so complex. Annabel’s use of the phonetic alphabet to thematically underpin each chapter is inspired, her writing is brilliant, and this novel won her a MUBA nomination.

Inventing The Ark allowed Annabel to play with narrative form even further – it’s a dystopian, epistolary novel with interactive components! A team of scientists and their families have retreated to a bunker known as The Ark – caretakers of five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. As oil supplies dwindle and anarchy creeps into the world, their leader locks the doors – a decision that sparks tension and distrust, and soon everyone fears they are held captive alongside their enemy. The claustrophobic world Annabel creates is compelling, and the character studies are fascinating.

 

The Mistake by Wendy James

I love Wendy’s writing. I was completely engrossed in this family story, and I admired how Wendy was able to maintain sympathy for a character whose child has disappeared, possibly through her own wrongdoing. What I loved most was that you don’t know what has happened until the very last page – the ending left a shiver down my spine. Fabulous!

 

Into My Arms by Kylie Ladd

Kylie is brilliant at character studies and family stories, and this book has at its heart a terrible predicament that is sensitively handled to make this an engrossing read.

 

Back Again by Susan May

I loved Susan’s short story ‘The War Veteran’, which was part of the From the Indie Side anthology that included my own short story ‘Cipher’. With Back Again, Susan has cleverly developed another short story into a full-length novel. Back Again is the story of a mother who is forced to relive the day she loses her child again and again, until she can figure out how to change fate. It’s a unique time-twisting thriller, and packs an emotional punch.

 

Wave Length by A J Betts

The story of a young boy determined to ace his exams and get into uni. This wonderful novel explores the nature of family, ambition, perceptions of aging, finding meaning and purpose in life, and a whole lot more. I absolutely loved it.

 

Have You Seen Ally Queen? by Deb Fitzpatrick

A great companion read to Wave Length! Ally Queen is uprooted from city life and taken to live in the country with her parents and younger brother. It means a new high school, a new house, and new friends – and she is not happy about any of it! While she is defiantly struggling with the changes this has wrought upon her life, her mother suffers from a nervous breakdown – but amongst the turmoil, a new friend offers her the chance to see life a little differently. A great coming-of-age book about identity, fitting in, and the realities of family life.

 

True Spirit by Jessica Watson

I seem to have read quite a bit about teenagers this year – perhaps subconsciously preparing for some Young Adult fiction writing! I picked up this one because I wanted an insight into what could make a sixteen-year-old girl decide to sail solo around the world. I was captivated by the insights into sailing and the ups and downs of her journey. I’m awed by Jessica’s strength and self-reliance. In the book she talks at length about the support of her parents. I only hope I can offer something similar to my girls to help them pursue their dreams – especially if they are slightly terrifying ones!

 

So there’s my eight. I’m off to a good start this year towards achieving Franklin as I’m absorbed in Dawn Barker’s Let Her Go. There’s a definite bias towards Western Australian authors in my 2014 round-up, and I hope to continue that focus this year. Buying local is a great idea, and not just for groceries. Many authors have trouble earning a decent living, just as many readers have trouble affording lots of books! If you alternate between the library and the bookshops, please consider supporting your talented local authors by seeking them out, buying their books and helping to build their profile. And if you can’t afford that, then the authors you love will all be grateful if you take time to post a glowing review on Amazon, GoodReads, Booktopia, Fishpond, and anywhere else you can think of!

I’ll have more for you soon on the release date of The Spirit Road. Meanwhile, I’m about to get busy writing the next one.

Wishing you all a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2015.

Sara x