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Books

What to read in June, according to The Weekly: Wake, Take My Hand and more great reads

What's better than a good book on a winter weekend?

By Juliet Rieden and Katie Ekberg
Stuck without a good book to read this month? The Weekly has you sorted with these nine recommendations for June.
Starting out with our top pick, Wake by Shelley Burr, we have something for every kind of reader, from romance to crime.
So settle in with one of these great reads, all available through Booktopia.

Wake by Shelley Burr, Hachette

In the heady rush of Aussie crime thrillers flooding the bookstores, Shelley Burr's Wake is blazing its own trail. For this gripping drama boasts all the energy of a true-crime podcast with a cast of wounded characters you desperately want to protect.
The action takes place in rural NSW, in a tiny outback town where farm life has been decimated by drought. Nannine is notorious, though, for a very different reason. It was here almost 20 years ago that nine-year-old Evelyn McCreery went missing, vanishing from her house one night seemingly without a trace. Her twin sister has lived in the shadow of Evie's presumed abduction and murder ever since and when a private investigator turns up wanting to dig around, she is understandably sceptical. But Lane Holland has a record of solving cold cases and there's something about him. Soon Mina finds herself letting him in, hoping he might be able to find her sister.
In a complex and tightly wrought plot, Lane tries to crack not one but two disappearances of young girls, all the time playing his own cards close to his chest. The subsequent tale pulsates with intrigue, something Shelley Burr worked hard to achieve.
"You need to hold a rope at two points to put tension on it," she explains. "In a story, those two points are how much the reader wants to see the characters safe and happy, and the danger the story puts them in. If the reader doesn't care about the characters, it doesn't matter how high you ratchet up the danger, there's no tension. The rope just flaps about."
As for the plot, Shelley says it was inspired by the curious phenomenon of true-crime bloggers. "I went through a period of fascination with unsolved crime forums," notes Shelley. "There are people on there who are deeply empathetic, trying to bring attention to forgotten cases and John/Jane Does. But it also creates an environment where people lose touch with the fact that they are talking about real people, especially when it comes to the surviving relatives and friends of victims. I read one particularly invasive comment digging into the life of a victim's brother, and Mina was born from the spark of horror I felt."
The starkness of Shelley's prose echoes the parched land, while her atmospheric descriptions draw you in to a town that quickly feels so familiar you could walk into the pub, pull up a stool and order a beer. The result is a yarn that feels so plausible and terrifying it stays with you. This is a plot ripe for TV adaptation.

Sheilas by Eliza Reilly, Pan Macmillan

A bushranger, a pilot and a WWII spy are among the "badass women" Reilly musters for this whip-cracking line-up of girls who shot through the glass ceiling. Over 120 years ago Sydney sheila Annette Kellerman was born with a debilitating bone condition and told she faced a life in a wheelchair. But her dad nailed down a doctor who suggested swimming. Out of her steel braces, the "Diving Venus" even performed her underwater ballet in front of royalty in London – the night the women's one-piece swimming suit made its debut; her men's bathers deemed too risqué. In America "She was all, 'Dad, here's an idea, what about I throw myself off some high things for money?' as she dove out of a stone tower into raging seas." Gorgeous hardback keepsake.

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal, Little Brown

Set in the sprawling luxury mansions outside Paris, where au pairs are treated as family members. Geraldine is director of the au pair language school program, but numbers have dropped since the 2015 terrorist attack. The book opens with the arrest of Alena, accused of killing her charge, Julien, his body lying under a sheet as it is carried into the ambulance. A police officer questions caring Geraldine, who invites homesick students to stay at her apartment. Alena and Lou were both at her place when the alleged crime happened. Confident Lou voiced, "Maybe Geraldine could rescue the children from their parents." Alena adds, "Where are the parents when we're seeing all the ways they [the kids] are completely messed up?"

Remember Me by Charity Norman, Allen & Unwin

Twenty-five years ago, bushwalker Dr Leah Parata, 26, went hiking in challenging terrain near her home in Tawanui, New Zealand. She disappeared off the face of this breathtaking part of the world. The last person to see her was neighbour Emily Kirkland, 21. Leah's mother, Raewyn, was the school bus driver, and has been caring for Dr Felix Kirkland, who has advanced Alzheimer's. Emily returns from her London home to help. She is shocked to see "Feed dogs" notes, watch distressed Dad cut the heads off his prize roses. But when she discovers a box containing sultry photographs of Leah and devoted letters to father Felix from "L", a can of worms opens up. Tightly constructed with a tender heart.

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews, Raven Books

Stunning debut. Norfolk, 1643, and soldier Thomas Treadwater is home from civil war, summonsed by sister Esther, 16. She has accused a maid of improper behaviour with their widowed father – "We are under attack by ungodly evil," she says.Maid Chrissa is taken to prison and accused of witchcraft and examined by a midwife to "see if her body has signs of communing with imps or the devil". When Esther starts cackling and talking in tongues, Tom tries to sedate the "Non-Esther" drowning out his sweet sister. Esther's origins are the stuff of myths. Sixteen years ago a baby was rescued from a shipwreck – the boat was lifted 20 feet by a sea monster with a head "like a rattlesnake's" – and taken in by Tom's father.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson, Hachette

Based on the real-life secret library that ran beneath London's disused Bethnal Green underground station which was a half-completed stop when war broke out. Open from 5.30-8pm every day, doors were locked when the air-raid siren sounded – captive audiences down below. Fictional characters Clara and Ruby run the community service, which houses a theatre, nursery, bunk beds and a cafe. East Enders defied Churchill's orders not to shelter in tube stations – though at 78 feet below ground, Bethnal Green was really safe, dubbed the "Iron Lung". But countless books were destroyed in 1940 when a bomb hit the library. One of the most rewarding resistance stories of the war.

The Promise by Damon Galgut, Chatto & Windus

This literary tour-de-force injects an epic family saga spanning three generations with razor-sharp observations on the failings of post-apartheid South Africa. At its heart is a promise which is given and then broken with devastating results. Rachel Swart is on her death bed when she asks her husband to give their black maid, Salome, the deeds to the small house she lives in on the family farm, as recognition of her unfailing service. It was Salome who cared for Rachel, taking on the dirty jobs the family couldn't or wouldn't face. Manie agrees but reneges on his promise, along with two of their three children. As grief engulfs them all Damon Galgut flits among his characters, embodying each to tell their stories with mesmerising results.

The Mother by Jane Caro, Allen & Unwin

Jane Caro is a firebrand on issues facing women so it's no surprise that her first foray into novel writing tackles domestic abuse. But don't expect a polemic, this is a clever domestic noir with a plot that keeps you guessing. At the centre is North Shore real estate agent Miriam Duffy who is feeling bereft when her recently wed youngest daughter Ally stops contacting her. They used to talk most days. Is Miriam being needy or is something up? As she delves further Miriam realises they don't know new son-in-law Nick at all and what she starts to uncover she doesn't like. The shocks come thick and fast, as love, loss and empathy combine with explosive effect. Most of all, these are people we can all recognise – friends, family, neighbours.Thought-provoking reading.

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin, HarperCollins

A ton of reasons to love this high society season debut, which begins in conniving Kitty Talbot's cottage home in Dorset, 1818. Eldest of five sisters, Kitty must fortune-hunt when her fiancé drops her for a prettier catch. Her late mother arranged the match before she died, now father has died too. The "unredeemable cad" wants a political career, which he could hardly do "married to someone like you". But, not for the penniless reasons Kitty assumes. She's concealed Mama's youthful demimonde in London with actress "Aunt" Dorothy who, at 45, dyed her flame-red hair brown, morphing to respectable widow, "spending days in houses she had only spent evenings". Is the Talbot courtesan scandal out? Bookish sister Cecily recoils. Under Dorothy's wing in London, haut ton Archibald de Lacy drools over Kitty from his theatre box. Dashing brother Lord Radcliffe steps in, a fencing match for wily Kitty. Sage, sassy, word perfect.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Hachette

Loosely based on the real-life 1973 case of Minnie Lee and Mary Alice Relf, 12 and 14, sterilised without their consent in Alabama. Their social worker blew the whistle and the case went to court and won – a pivotal moment in reproductive injustice among poor, black minors. Their mother could not read or write, and signed an "X" not knowing what she was consenting to. In this exploration of the ramifications, Erica, 13, and India, 11, live in a shanty cabin with their widowed father and grandmother. Our protagonist, nurse Civil Townsend, daughter of a doctor, works at Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. From a moneyed background, she has a car, so is assigned to this remote family. She had an abortion at 23; just starting her career. She buys the sisters clean clothes, takes them home for baths, eventually securing them a three-bedroom home. This beautiful book is both an elegy to the girls she came to love as family, and a letter to Anne, 23, the girl from the care system, who Dr. Civil adopted at 48.

A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness, Thames & Hudson

Eighteenth-century Tuscan farmhouse Arniano was bought and restored by an English couple in the 1980s. Their daughter, Amber Guinness, discovered her passion for cooking there and set up a painting school. Stunning photography and mouth-watering recipes.
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