I was late joining the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013, not starting until May, but I signed on for the Franklin level anyway — to read ten books written by female Australian authors and review at least six of them — and managed to complete it. I thought that would allow me room to omit from review a book that I didn’t like. In fact, each one was delightful and I reviewed all ten.

How I read has changed over the past couple of years. Before I started writing my novel, I read for enjoyment and for the story. If I loved a book, I devoured it, skimming over the boring bits, reading it as quickly as possible so I could find out what happened. I knew what I liked, but I didn’t think much about why I liked it.

Now when I read, it takes me longer. I study a book, asking myself what it is about this book, or this writing, that I like. What is it about that character that I like? I look at the book’s structure, the tricks the author has used, I relish the prose. I scribble all through it, and sticky notes fly from its pages. I want to learn from it.

So it has been with the books I’ve read for this challenge. From them I’ve learned valuable writing lessons. Each of them have contained real characters, flawed people who could have been plucked from everyday life. Each of the books has had a subtext so the story was not spelled out for the reader, but the reader could work out for themselves what was really happening.

Here’s a list of the books I read and reviewed:

Contemporary fiction (click on the title to read the review):

Elsewhere in Success by Iris Lavell
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith
Fractured by Dawn Barker
What is Left Over, After by Natasha Lester

I also covered a few in the historical fiction genre:

Elemental by Amanda Curtin
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Finding Jasper by Lynne Leonhardt


A couple of memoirs:

Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy
When We Remember They Call Us Liars by Suzanne Covich


And a short story collection:

An Unknown Sky by Susan Midalia


I read a few other books this year by writers other than Aussie females so, obviously, I can’t include them here! These included the short story collections, Kid on the Karaoke Stage (Fremantle Press 2011) and Knitting and Other Stories (Margaret River Press 2013), as well as Eyrie by Tim Winton.


I’ve just finished the quirky and touching Sea Dog Hotel by Marlish Glorie and plan to review that shortly. At the moment, I’m reading a short novel, Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett — so stay tuned!


I’ve signed up for the 2014 AWW Challenge at the same level — read ten and review six. I look forward to reading more beautiful works by this country’s fantastic female authors.