Having enjoyed your second publication, Sincerely, arising from the literary stage show conceived by Marieke Hardy...more To the Women (and men) of Letters,
Having enjoyed your second publication, Sincerely, arising from the literary stage show conceived by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, I was delighted for the opportunity to read this third curated collected, titled Yours Truly.
I was pleased to see such an eclectic group of female and male contributors, 80 altogether, including journalist, Jenifer Byrne, comedienne, Corinne Grant, author, Toni Jordan, cricket legend, Merv Hughes, Spiderbait drummer, Kram and radio/TV funny man, Hamish Blake. There were a few names I didn't recognise and though helpfully you provide a brief bio of each at the back of the book, I would still prefer the information included at the end of each letter.
I enjoy the way in which the tone of the letters veer from the intimate and serious to the irreverent and comedic. It ensures the collection holds my interest and makes for a comfortable read through, though it would also be easy for a reader to dip in and out of at will. I enjoyed all of the letters but there were several that stood out for me including Annabel Crabb's secret betrayal of Marieke Hardy, Zora Sanders petty crime confession, Tracey Spicer's letter to Mr Misogynist, William McInnes ode to Wendy, the speed skater who changed his life, and Dani Valent's missive to her daughter.
What I also like about the Letter's collection is the way in which they make me think about how I would respond to the topics. What secret would I share? What petty crime would I confess? What unfinished business would I address and, of course, which woman has changed my life?
I have enjoyed the time I spent with this celebration of the lost art of letter writing and its collection of 'cathartic confessions, passionate declarations and vivid recollections'. Thank you, women (and men) of letters for sharing with me.
Happy Eva After is a quirky British comedy about marriage, parenthood, ambition, communication and the lack thereof. Sebastian Pink is an unassuming E...more Happy Eva After is a quirky British comedy about marriage, parenthood, ambition, communication and the lack thereof. Sebastian Pink is an unassuming ESL teacher at The Future Perfect language school in London. Largely content to walk the dog, challenge himself with cryptic crosswords, have the occasional pint with a friend and tend to his allotment, when his workaholic wife expresses a desire to have a baby. Sebastian is ambivalent and allows himself to become distracted by the enigmatic and beautiful, Eva, a young Czech woman, studying English while working as an au pair.
In part a comedy of errors, prompted by Sebastian's imagination, including prophetic crossword clues, and the nuance of language lost in translation, Happy Eva After is an entertaining novel which also touches on serious themes such as the exploitation of foreign labour and the 'outsourcing' of parenthood.
Sebastian is an ordinary married, middle class gent, approaching middle age when her first meets Eva. He is an earnest sort of man, a bit of a nerd, but thoroughly endearing. He loves his wife, despite their many differences, though he worries his lack of ambition and easy going nature suffers by comparison, and the idea of fatherhood has him both excited and apprehensive. Sebastian's concern for Eva is somewhere between paternal and carnal but genuine nevertheless, he misinterprets a scene he witnesses between Eva and her employer which has him worried Eva is being sexually exploited and he becomes determined to somehow rescue her.
The humour is very British (is that a thing? I think it's a thing), often dry and sardonic, occasionally slipping into something outrageously silly. Readers should enjoy the word play heralded by chapter headings relating to the rules of grammar and the use, and abuse, of the English language by Sebastian's students which had me sniggering far more than is probably politically correct.
An impressive debut from Chris Harrison, Happy Eva After is a witty and intelligent novel which I found engaging and entertaining. (less)
Through the Farm Gate: A Life on the Land is a memoir by Angela Goode, journalist, farmer and mother. Despite the excitement of her city life, Angela...more Through the Farm Gate: A Life on the Land is a memoir by Angela Goode, journalist, farmer and mother. Despite the excitement of her city life, Angela willingly gives it up when she meets and marries cattle breeder, Charlie Goode. She had always yearned to live on a farm after spending many childhood summers at the properties of family friends, and looked forward to the romance of fresh air and wholesome country goodness. Angela's enthusiasm is barely dented by the reality of farming - early mornings, hard work and financial penury - and quickly settles in at Nyroca, the 10,000-acre sheep and cattle property in Adelaide where Charlie manages the largest Murray Grey stud in Australia.
In between raising her four daughters, baking and the occasional muster, Goode resurrects her journalism career in those early years by writing a column for the state paper about country life. At first the articles are lighthearted anecdotes about Angela's attempt to fit in to her new environment but soon her columns begin to address more serious issues such as land and animal management, in a attempt to inform her city readership about the realities of rural Australian life.
Over the next few decades, Goode grows increasingly concerned by what she sees as the divide between city and country especially as the farming sector rides a wave of financial boom and bust, drought, flood and fire. We follow her family as they move from stud to stud, facing various challenges, all while they dream of one day owning their own land.
Angela's honest account of farming life is an eye opening journey for the suburban inhabitants who have lost touch with the vital role primary producers play in society. Goode tries to bridge the gap between the two worlds by sharing the reality of managing the nations most valuable resources. It is perhaps a little preachy at times but Goode writes sensibly about complex issues such as sheep crutching, the use of pesticides and the vagaries of government policies.
I found Through the Farm Gate to be a thought provoking and well written memoir about Goode's experiences of life in regional Australia, her love for the land, and her passion for uniting city and country for the mutual benefit of both. (less)
The MasterChef franchise is a recognisable format the world over with a dozen or more amateur home cooks competing to produce stand out dishes to win...more The MasterChef franchise is a recognisable format the world over with a dozen or more amateur home cooks competing to produce stand out dishes to win the title, some cash and the opportunity to publish their own cookbook. Hayden Quinn became a household name in 2011 as a contestant in Series 3 of MasterChef Australia. Though he didn’t win, the show changed has Hayden’s life. The handsome professional lifeguard with a degree in Marine Biology is now a regular face on television, sharing his passion for food.
After releasing a successful series of e-cookbooks, Dish It Up has just been published by Murdoch Books. ‘From energy packed breakfasts and post-workout power foods to light, healthy savouries, travel-inspired street food, backyard feasts and special occasion meals to share with family and friends’, this cookbook contains more than fifty recipes, complete with helpful hints on cooking techniques and the best places to source ingredients. The text is supplemented by mouthwatering full page photography and QR links to video content. The recipes emphasise fresh, healthy ingredients simply prepared and served. There is a definite Asian influence, stemming from Hayden’s travels through those regions, evident in recipes such as Barbequed Asian Prawns with Noodle Salad, Green Papaya Salad in a Bag, and Vietnamese Pho Bo. A few Aussie staples with a twist make it in as well such as Tim’s ‘Pimped-Out’ Sausage and Egg Muffin, The Perfect Steak Sandwich with Spiced Kipflers and the Aussie Meat Pie.
Dish it Up is a well presented collection of recipes sure to tempt most palettes, perfect for the hot summer days ahead.(less)
The Kissing Season, a short and sweet romance novella by Rachel Johns, is an enjoyable distraction during the busyness of the holiday season.
Hannah E...more The Kissing Season, a short and sweet romance novella by Rachel Johns, is an enjoyable distraction during the busyness of the holiday season.
Hannah Elliot has returned home to Wildwood Point after an ill-advised adventure in Las Vegas. Facing her family's disappointment with her impulsive marriage, and the annulment that followed barely a week later, is difficult enough, so admitting she is going to be a single mother is impossible. Yet Hannah is determined to keep her baby, vowing to make more sensible choices for the sake of their future...until the gorgeous Matteo walks in the door.
I'm not too sure how I feel about the first meeting between Hannah and Matt, it made me a little bit uncomfortable, but the progression of their relationship was good within the constraints of the format. There was definitely that delicious sense of anticipation around the 'sooner or later' question, and the couple sizzle when they finally get it together. I appreciated that there was actual conflict rather than inane misunderstandings (a pet peeve of mine) and of course there is the obligatory happy ending.
This is an entertaining, light romance to enjoy on your next lunch break or commute.(less)
Most readers enjoy word games, and few are more challenging than a crossword. Cluetopia celebrates the 100 years since the puzzle first appeared in th...more Most readers enjoy word games, and few are more challenging than a crossword. Cluetopia celebrates the 100 years since the puzzle first appeared in the New York World as a column filler on a slow news day in 1913.
This is a book for crossword fans and trivia buffs, broken down into short chapters shaped by, "a landmark crossword for every year", from Arthur Wynne's small kite shaped diagram printed in 1913,to the first crossword puzzle book published in 1924, to the crossword that unwittingly shared national secrets during wartime and the first home-grown crosswords compiled by a Brisbane mum of seven.
The facts are fascinating and the writing is surprisingly accessible. Astle has a fine sense of humour and the tone of the text is almost conversational. Cryptic crossword fans will enjoy the unusual chapter headings titled with clues like, "Mad poet mugged by banjo player sees red while eating pickles (3,4)"
Astle also provides historical context to each chapter with snippets of world events and words added to our lexicon during the period. I would have preferred these had been placed at either the beginning or the end of each chapter rather than at the bottom of the first page, which I found distracting.
Interesting and entertaining I really enjoyed Cluetopia, though I do rather wish Astle had included a few crosswords in the book, just as an added bonus.(less)
In a slight departure from her usual offering of rural romance, Karly Lane blends a contemporary and historical narrative in her fourth novel, Poppy's...more In a slight departure from her usual offering of rural romance, Karly Lane blends a contemporary and historical narrative in her fourth novel, Poppy's Dilemma.
Poppy Abbot is sorting through her late grandmother's belongings after a difficult day at work when she discovers a diary penned by a young woman whom she assumes to be a relative, Maggie Abbot. At first glance the journal seems to be the idle ramblings of a young girl desperate to avoid the chore of milking the cows, with a crush on her brother's best friend, then Poppy discovers a love letter addressed to Maggie wedged between the pages written during the First World War. Intrigued, Poppy finds herself captivated by Maggie's story but frustrated when she discovers a handful of pages missing. In the hopes of finding out what happened to Maggie and her lover, Alex, Poppy decides to finally deal with her grandmother's estate, traveling to the tiny country town of Warrial. It is there where Poppy finds the answers she was seeking to the mystery of Maggie's fate and to the questions she never thought to ask.
Merging historical fact with her vivid imagination, the wartime narrative involving Maggie and Alex was inspired by a news article Lane discovered about a crime that took place in her home town in 1920. Intrigued by the case, Lane's research led her to a cache of letters written by the perpetrator, further piquing her interest. With the motive for the crime obscured, in Poppy's Dilemma, Lane has created a credible story and characters to explain the tragedy.
The historical narrative is a poignant reminder of war and the tragedy of those that returned mentally and physically damaged, or did not return at all. Lane also explores the sentiments of the time and the social and economic effect on the country, especially in regional areas like Warrial. Maggie and Alex's story is a stirring bittersweet love story, all the more so for the truth behind the imagination.
The contemporary storyline follows Poppy's evaluation of the choices she has made in her life, particularly in regards to her focus on her career at the expense of friendships and romantic relationships. It is Maggie's story, and her grandmother's neighbour, a single father and stock agent, that penetrates the emotional guards she has so carefully constructed which has Poppy reconsidering her priorities.
While I thought the writing was a little uneven in places, in part I think because the historical thread is related both in epistolary format and a third person present tense, the flow and pace of the story is well considered.
Poppy's Dilemma is a wonderfully engaging novel and I enjoyed both threads of the story, with the knowledge that Maggie's story is based partly on fact provides an extra element of frisson. This is another must read tale from Karly Lane who writes from the heart. (less)
In Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There: Detours into Mayhem Pauli has grown older, if not quite up. Though now a middle aged, executive part owner of a successful oil-related company, and a happily married man with young children, British born/Australian resident Paul, continues to seek adventure and challenge, albeit a little closer to home.
Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There chronicles,in the main, Paul's efforts to race in Speed Week on a motorcycle (of sorts) engineered to run on bio-diesel fuel and go very fast on a salt lake in the middle of nowhere. Plagued by cancellations, logistical obstacles, lost keys and broken limbs, it takes three years before Paul finally gets a break.
Paul also writes of a motorcycle touring trip with a friend around Tasmania, a wild conference in the US and his temporary gig as a documentary presenter, marriage, fatherhood and business
Carter's books could be accused of being juvenile and crude, and there is some truth to that. Reading Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There is often like eavesdropping on a 'boy's' only pub night, complete with poo jokes, copious amounts of alcohol, bad language and displays of machismo. Not everyone will appreciate Paul's sense of humour but I found myself smiling widely often, even while occasionally shaking my head with a mixture of disbelief and wry contempt. Yet Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There is not all a 'boys own adventure', Paul also relates several serious moments though often tempered by the surreal, including suffering the side effects of food poisoning while his wife is in the throes of a miscarriage, a court case that drags on and on and on, and a ruined $1000 helmet thanks to a territorial dog and a potty training two year old.
I'm not that interested in motor racing or the specifics of alternate fuel (though I believe we should be investing in it) but I still enjoyed Ride Like Hell and You'll Get There. It's a quick read, mostly light and amusing and is as advertised -a detour into mayhem. I imagine this book will particularly find an audience amongst fans of the television show 'Top Gear' and its ilk and, with Christmas coming up, it would make a great stocking stuffer for your father/husband/brother etc.
"I'm the strongest, I'm the fastest, I'm the best"
Swimming is not only what Danny Kelly does, it defines who he is and who he will be. His talent win...more "I'm the strongest, I'm the fastest, I'm the best"
Swimming is not only what Danny Kelly does, it defines who he is and who he will be. His talent wins him a scholarship at an exclusive private boy's school where, amongst his privileged rivals, he earns the nickname of 'The Barracuda'. Danny is a winner, on track to be an Olympic champion, until the day he loses and it all falls apart.
Shifting between Danny's past and the present using a first person and third person narrative, Tsiolkas drives the story towards the event that divides 'before' and 'after'. Before, Danny was a young boy, confident, aggressive and ambitious, with the talent and the drive to be a champion. After, Danny was a young man, ashamed, bitter and directionless, alienated from his family, his friends and himself.
Barracuda is a story about character, the way in which it is formed, influenced and changed by family, by friends, and enemies, by experience and knowledge, and for Danny especially, by life's triumphs and failures. It is also a story about identity and when what Danny believes about himself is proved false, he struggles to deal with the consequences. Tsiolkas exposes Danny's dreams and hopes, his vulnerabilities and his faults with unflinching honesty and keen insight into the thoughts and emotions of both the boy, and the man.
Wider themes of the novel include those of identity, class and status in modern day Australia. The Kelly's working class background, dad is a truck driver and mum a hairdresser, contrasts with the privileged lives of his wealthy classmates. Similarly Danny is half 'wog' (Greek) and half Scottish while the majority of students at C***s College are white with "their perfect smiles and perfect skin". Danny acutely feels the divide and he is both scornful and envious.
Barracuda also raises the issue of sport and it's contribution to Australia's national identity. Sport is one arena where wealth and class become irrelevant, with innate talent leveling the playing field. It is Danny's ability to out swim his peers that allows him to hold his own, and when he loses that, he also sees his opportunity to one day be of 'them' slip through his fingers.
Tsiolkas's casual use of crude language has the potential to offend but I thought the distinctly Australian dialogue to be natural and appropriate. What surprised me were the moments of poetry in Tsiolkas's writing, lyrical phrasing and evocative description contrasting sharply with the blunter passages. I do feel Barracuda was a little overlong, though I admit only rarely did I find my attention wandering.
Barracuda is a powerful novel, less sensational than The Slap, but similarly provocative and thought provoking. I enjoyed it, but I think it is a book you will either love or hate.
Bombproof is a stand alone novel by Australian author Michael Robotham, best known for his crime thriller series featuring London psychiatrist, Joseph...more Bombproof is a stand alone novel by Australian author Michael Robotham, best known for his crime thriller series featuring London psychiatrist, Joseph O'Loughlin. First published in 2008, Mulholland Books has chosen to release this novel in the US in e-format.
Fast paced and action packed this thriller is a quick, entertaining read. The plot is fairly simple as the unlikely hero, Sami Macbeth, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Blackmailed by a drug lord, Tony Murphy, hunted by society criminal kingpin, Garza, with the entire metropolitan police force chasing him across London, Sami has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Though frequently violent and often crude, Bombproof is also unexpectedly funny at times, as Sami's life spins out of control.
Sami is such a likeable character, all he wants is to find his younger sister, Nadia and start over, but he is dogged by a talent to 'turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one'. He reaches out to retired detective, Vincent Ruiz who has some sympathy for the kid, and no love for Garza, helping eventually to untangle the mess Sami is embroiled in.
Bombproof is a quick, entertaining read with a visual storyline that would make a great action flick. Though it's quite different from Robotham's usual crime thriller fiction it is a fun departure for this bestselling author.
Margaret Merrilees explores the themes of blame, guilt and responsibility in her literary debut novel, The First Week.
Marian is stunned when her youn...more Margaret Merrilees explores the themes of blame, guilt and responsibility in her literary debut novel, The First Week.
Marian is stunned when her youngest son, Charlie, inexplicably shoots two strangers. She travels from the family farm in Western Australia's wheatbelt to the city, desperate to understand what has happened, struggling with grief, confusion and shock.
While I could understand Marion's bewilderment I found I was often intensely irritated by her passivity. As a woman who had coped with the early death of her husband and kept the family farm afloat as a single mother of two, I was surprised at how uninformed, and how unformed, she seemed to be. I often wanted to shake her, especially during her vague interactions with the police, lawyer, psychologist and even her son. It was a relief when she finally expressed some strong emotion - anger, sadness and ultimately some strength.
I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile Charlie's situation with the social issues Merrilees explores in The First Week. Though they share a common theme, I felt Merrilees lectures on environmental responsibility and racism overwhelmed Marian's intimate struggle and rendered Charlie almost irrelevant. That we never learn why Charlie did what he did was a source of some disappointment for me.
I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed The First Week though I found the premise thought provoking, and I admired Merrilees writing which is articulate and evocative. I was just too frustrated by the questions left unanswered.
Dual narratives unfold in Driftwood, Mandy Magro's fourth Australian rural fiction novel.
In 1861, wanted bushranger William Campbell and his beloved,...more Dual narratives unfold in Driftwood, Mandy Magro's fourth Australian rural fiction novel.
In 1861, wanted bushranger William Campbell and his beloved, Anne Margaret Willow, are forced to flee the Goldbury Township of New South Wales, changing their names to evade the law. They settle in Northern Queensland, purchasing Waratah Station and work hard to leave their past behind them, building a future for their family. In the present day, Taylor Whitworth has fled the city, and the expectations of her family, to pursue her dream of country living, when she stumbles into the tiny Northern Queensland town of Driftwood. Taylor immediately feels at home and within days has gained an apartment, a job in the local pub and an invitation by the handsome Jay Donnellson, to join the next muster on Waratah Station as a jillaroo.
Though I thought there were a few minor issues with the writing, the dialogue was sometimes stilted and the pacing a little uneven, I enjoyed the stories presented in both timelines of Driftwood.
The historical period involves a tale of bushranging, corruption, murder and a beautiful love story touched by both tragedy and joy. The present day timeline focuses on the budding romance between Taylor and Jay but is also deepened by the mystery of Taylor's father, a man she believes is dead, and enlivened by a cyclone that threatens to destroy everything. Fate eventually reveals the tie between the two timelines, and Taylor's affinity for Driftwood.
Music is an important part of this novel, Taylor is a talented songstress and Australian country and western singer Adam Brand has an extended cameo in Driftwood. Though I am not much of a country music fan I thought he was a sweetheart after watching his participation in Dancing With the Stars and I really enjoyed his role in the novel.
A quick read, Driftwood is an engaging story of love and drama with appealing characters and an interesting plot to satisfy fans of both contemporary and historical romance.
"It goes without saying that she looks and smells delightful. But this is not enough. The Perfect Wife is always available to offer comfort and reassu...more "It goes without saying that she looks and smells delightful. But this is not enough. The Perfect Wife is always available to offer comfort and reassurance. She never criticises, and avoids offering advice. Her home is a sanctuary for her husband, who has been hard at work all day..."
Leaving scandal behind her in England, Australian born Kitty Hamilton is hoping for a fresh start for herself and her aristocratic husband in Tanganyika (Tanzania). With World War II at an end, Theo has accepted an position in Africa with the British Government Groundnut Scheme and Kitty intends to be nothing less than the perfect executive wife. Having taken instruction in Swahili and basic nursing care before leaving England, Kitty intends to fill her days with useful volunteer work in the colony, and her nights rebuilding her relationship with Theo, recapturing the closeness they shared before the war, and Kitty's mistake. Kitty's modest dreams are soon dashed however, Theo is reluctant to spend time with her, busy with the failures plaguing the Scheme and he insists Kitty join the other 'Groundnut' wives whose daily routine consists of little more than gossiping at the Londoni Club. As tensions rise, both within the marriage and amongst the employees of the Scheme, Kitty finds herself torn between duty and passion.
Katherine Scholes was born in Tanzania, East Africa, the daughter of a missionary doctor and an artist. Now settled in Melbourne, her novels most often reflect her connection with Africa and The Perfect Wife draws on, in part, her family's history and experience in the country.
I enjoyed this novel which is set in the late 1940's and explores the theme of being true to oneself. Kitty is a likeable protagonist, the daughter of a hardworking Tasmanian cattle farmer given the chance to escape to England and study art when she inherits a modest sum from an aunt. There, she fortunately attracts the attention of Prince Yuri, a professor at the Slade, and becomes both his muse and his student before meeting the man who will become her husband, Theo Hamilton, a wealthy war pilot. Though largely content, Kitty struggles with her insecurities stemming from her limited knowledge of the world and upper society, and then with guilt when she inadvertently causes a scandal that leaves Theo feeling betrayed. Desperate to save her marriage, Kitty accedes to his demand that she give up art and vows to be a perfect wife, hoping that Tanganyika will be a chance for she and Theo to reconnect but it soon becomes clear that her marriage will never be what she hoped. Scholes thoughtfully examines the conflict Kitty is faced with when she is expected to deny her own needs and desires for so little in return and forced to consider if it is something she can live with.
I had never heard of the Groundnut Scheme and found it a fascinating folly of the British Government. It seems incredible that they chose to try and farm peanuts (for their oil) in the middle of the African desert, managed largely by soldiers, post-war, without any agricultural experience. While their husbands dealt with the inevitable issues of the scheme doomed to failure, most of the wives of the executives, like Kitty, spent their days idly socialising while servants cooked, cleaned and cared for their children. I thought Scholes captured this unique community well including the strict social hierarchy and the attitudes of both the interlopers and locals to the scheme.
There is much more of interest within this novel from the Catholic Mission where Kitty offers her assistance to the recognition of post traumatic stress disorder in returned soldiers. Scholes also touches on the beliefs and culture of the locals, and the corruption of both the land and its people by the British.
As one of Penguin Australia's first titles to be a "Guaranteed Great Read", you can't go wrong by choosing The Perfect Wife. With a full and interesting plot combined with well developed characters set in an exotic location, this novel is interesting and entertaining. (less)
A thought-provoking commentary on the social climate of contemporary Australia, Underground Road exposes lives of quiet desperation lived on a single...more A thought-provoking commentary on the social climate of contemporary Australia, Underground Road exposes lives of quiet desperation lived on a single suburban street.
Told in three parts from a omniscient third person perspective we are introduced to four residents of a working class suburb. The recently widowed Edith who spends lonely hours in front of the pokies at the club, mentally ill Kenneth who roams the neighborhood looking for the secrets letterboxes have to tell, twelve year old Damien who lives with his siblings, his mother and her temperamental de facto, and sixty three year old Mary, forced by Centerlink to search for work now that her husband has retired.
Their stories unfold slowly, revealing the unsettling truth of these character's lives behind closed doors. As realistic representatives of the social challenges in Australia today, Kernot's characters draw attention to issues such as gambling addiction, domestic violence, bullying and mental health care.
Underground Road is a moving, poignant and honest novel to challenge your social conscience.(less)