Review: You’ve Got To Be Kidding by Todd Alexander

Title: You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A shed load of wine & a farm full of goats

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: 3rd February 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy HarperCollins Australia

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My Thoughts:

In 2019, Todd Alexander published the story of his and his partner’s mid life tree change where they abandoned inner city living and their highly paid careers, and purchased a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B. Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga was longlisted for both the 2020 Indie Non-fiction Book Award and 2020 Booksellers’ Choice Adult Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and captured the imagination of a public who dream of escaping to the country.

It’s been seven years since Todd and Jeff took possession of Block Eight and they have created a successful business, but it has not been an easy process and in You’ve Got to Be Kidding: A shed load of wine & a farm full of goats, Todd again attempts to answer his own rhetorical question…how hard can it be?

It turns out, it can be very hard at times. If the men aren’t battling with broken machinery, sick or dead animals, or predatory business practices, then they are contending with drought, heatwaves, bushfires, and the pandemic. Todd and Jeff are forced to reinvent their plans several times to stay afloat, including culling vines, purchasing a tour bus, and altering their marketing strategy.

But then there are the moments when the couple can’t imagine being anywhere else as they share a glass of their own wine on their deck, or take a stroll around the property with their ever-growing menagerie of rescued farm animals which still includes (the now teenage) Helga the pig, as well as several more goats, sheep, peafowl, and ducks, each with distinct personalities that keeps them both amused and exasperated.

Related with honesty and self-deprecating humour, You’ve Got To Be Kidding is a sincere, funny, warts-and-all expose of country living, a sequel, of sorts, though it’s not necessary to have read Thirty Thousand Bottles before picking this up. I again enjoyed Todd’s anecdotes about both the highs and lows of farm life, and his relationship with his partner, the nominated snake wrangler and cushion obsessed, Jeff. I liked that this time photographs have been included in the book, though most feature their goats. Todd, a self identified ‘foodie’, also provides some more of his favourite vegan recipes, which sound tasty.

While Todd and Jeff remain convinced they did the right thing in following their dream, and are deservedly proud of all they have achieved with Block Eight, the book ends with them deciding it’s time to move on, and it seems they soon will be, since the property is now listed as sold. I look forward to Todd regaling us with the stories of their next adventure.

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Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

International Women’s Day and Southern Cross Crime Month

 


It’s International Women’s Day today-March 8th – and March is also Southern Cross Crime Month hosted by ReadingMattersBlog, so to honour both, I’m sharing 8 crime fiction books by women writers from Australia or New Zealand which are published internationally, and therefore should be available in most book markets. 

*Covers may vary between markets – click on the cover to learn more

The Dry by Jane Harper

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Gathering Dark by Candice Fox

Bound by Vanda Symon

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

The War Widow/Dead Man Switch by Tara Moss

Shanghai Secrets by Sulari Gentill

The Girl Who Never Came Home by Nicole Trope

 

This March perhaps you’d like to support an Australian or New Zealand female crime fiction writer by reading one of their books and sharing it via #SouthernCrossCrime2021 

Happy International Womens Day!

#ChooseToChallenge

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

Uneventful

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

The Girl Explorers by Jayne Zanglein

Other People’s Houses by Kelli Hawkins

You’ve Got To Be Kidding by Todd Alexander

{Just started}

The Husband Poisoner by Tanya Bretherton

Shocking real-life stories of murderous women who used rat poison to rid themselves of husbands and other inconvenient family members. For readers of compelling history and true crime, from critically acclaimed, award-winning author Tanya Bretherton.

After World War II, Sydney experienced a crime wave that was chillingly calculated. Discontent mixed with despair, greed with callous disregard. Women who had lost their wartime freedoms headed back into the kitchen with sinister intent and the household poison thallium, normally used to kill rats, was repurposed to kill husbands and other inconvenient family members.

Yvonne Fletcher disposed of two husbands. Caroline Grills cheerfully poisoned her stepmother, a family friend, her brother and his wife. Unlike arsenic or cyanide, thallium is colourless, odourless and tasteless; victims were misdiagnosed as insane malingerers or ill due to other reasons. And once one death was attributed to natural causes, it was all too easy for an aggrieved woman to kill again.

This is the story of a series of murders that struck at the very heart of domestic life. It’s the tale of women who looked for deadly solutions to what they saw as impossible situations. The Husband Poisoner documents the reasons behind the choices these women made – and their terrible outcomes.

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New Posts…

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Review: Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray ★★★★1/2

Review: Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates ★★★★

Review: A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe ★★★★1/2

Review: The Girl Explorers by Jayne Zanglein ★★★1/2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Review: Other People’s Houses by Kelli Hawkins ★★★★

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What I’m Reading This Week…

Grace Harkness looks like she has it all – two beautiful children, four cookbooks under her belt and an idyllic beachside home #blessed. But add another baby on the way (oops), a spouse that is nowhere to be seen and a relentless list of things she ‘should’ be doing, and Grace is starting to unravel.

When the madness of modern-day motherhood finally pushes her to the brink, Grace and her friends decide to ditch the men in their lives, move in together and create a ‘mummune’ – sharing the load of chores, school pick-ups/drop-offs and endless Life Admin. The new set-up seems like a dream, but is life in this utopian village all it’s cracked up to be?

Grace Under Pressure is a deliciously hilarious, honest and heartfelt portrayal of modern-day motherhood and the saving grace of female friendship.

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You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

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In The Ministry of Bodies, Seamus O’Mahony charts the realities of life in a modern hospital over the course of a year. From difficult births and unexpected deaths to moral quandaries and bureaucratic disasters, O’Mahony documents life in the halls that all of us will visit at some point in our lives with his characteristic wit and dry and unsentimental intelligence. As the Coronavirus crisis demands more and more of the medical profession and the people who support it, Seamus O’Mahony describes his work on the front lines of a pandemic in a harrowing final chapter. This is not a conventional medical memoir: it’s the collective biography of one of our great modern institutions, the general hospital, through the eyes of a brilliant writer who happens to be a gifted doctor.

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They will dedicate their lives to their country, but no one will ever know…

A compelling story about tenacity and friendship, inspired by the real codebreaking women of Australia’s top-secret Central Bureau in WWII. For readers who love Judy Nunn and Kate Quinn.

1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of the Central Bureau-an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining the Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason.

With her country’s freedom at risk, Ellie works with a group of elite women who enter a world of volatile secrets; deciphering enemy communications to change the course of the war. Working under immense pressure, they form a close bond-yet there could be a traitor in their midst. Can the women uncover the culprit before it’s too late?

As Ellie struggles with the magnitude of the promise she’s made to her country, a wedge grows between her and those she holds dear. When the man she loves asks questions she’s forbidden to answer, how will she prevent the double life she’s leading from unravelling?

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An Instagram scandal at a grammar school sparks outrage in an exclusive bayside suburb and upends the lives of the families involved. However, it might also prove to be the tipping point required to change the school, and the wider community, for the better.

Liv Winsome, working mother of three sons, wife to decent if distracted Duncan, is overwhelmed. And losing her hair. Her doctor has told her she needs to slow down, do less. Focus on what’s important.

After Jai, one of her fourteen-year-old twins, is involved in a sexting scandal, Liv realises things need to change, and fast. Inspired by the pop-psychology books she devours, she writes a nine-page list of everything she does to keep the family afloat, and she delegates. She lets her boys’ conservative school know it has some work to do, too – partly, Liv suspects, because its leadership has a ‘woman problem’ (or, rather, a too-many-men problem).

Jai’s girlfriend, Grace, is at the heart of the sexting scandal and her mum, Jess Charters, up in arms as well, goes to the media. The women’s combined focus forces Carmichael Grammar to take action. To everyone’s surprise, and Liv’s delight, things actually start to improve.

Inspired by his wife’s efforts, Duncan rethinks the way he lives and works, too, despite the workaholic culture of his law firm and its scary managing partner, who’s also Duncan’s older brother. In unexpected ways, Liv and Duncan’s marriage and family life undergo their own transformations. Some new developments, though, aren’t entirely welcome.

Light-hearted and optimistic, Tipping is a novel for our times. It’s a story of domestic activism. Mum and dad activism. Because real change is possible. Sometimes all it takes is a tweak. And the will. And a bit of fun.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: Other People’s Houses by Kelli Hawkins

Title: Other People’s Houses

Author: Kelli Hawkins

Published: 3rd March 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy HarperCollins

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My Thoughts:

Imagining the life that could have been as she wanders through ‘open houses’ on Sydney’s north shore every weekend is just one of the ways Kate Webb copes with the ‘incident’. So is drinking every night until she passes out. One afternoon, as she pockets a pebble for her collection of mementos, Kate overhears the estate agent talking about an exclusive listing. Walking through the front door of the ‘Harding House’, Kate loses herself in the fantasy of living in the large, beautifully appointed mansion, and for a heart stopping moment when she spies a photograph of the family that lives in the home, she imagines their teenage son is her own, sparking an obsession that soon spirals out of control.

Kate is not a character to admire, she’s a drunk, and as such is self-serving and frequently reckless. However, it’s impossible to condemn her completely, her loss – referred to as the incident- is an unimaginable tragedy. Grief is a personal thing and while ten years mired in self-pity, anger and depression may seem excessive, when you know the full story, I dare you to judge her.

That said there is only the barest of justifications for Kate’s obsession with the Harding family – Pip, Brett and their son, Kingsley – though she is in such a state it’s not like she needs much. In theory her heart could be said to be in the right place, but her thinking is so disorganised that Kate triggers a hellish mess when she interferes. Hawkins builds the suspense as Kate blunders around, making the situation worse for herself, and the Harding’s.

To be honest I cared more about Kate’s fate than any one else’s, and it was mostly my investment in her emotional turmoil that kept me turning the pages. I didn’t find the major reveal to be a surprise, but the confrontation that followed was tense and the conclusion was satisfying.

Offering a compelling protagonist and an interesting storyline, I really enjoyed Other People’s Houses. This is a well-crafted crime fiction debut from Kelli Hawkins.

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Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Welcome to the second Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

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In February…

(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

About One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes, Denise of DeniseNewtonWrites has this to say, “As I read this debut by Emma Jane Holmes, it occurred to me that perhaps everyone should read a book like this. Not necessarily this exact book, but a book that confounds and challenges a closely held belief about some aspect of the world.”

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Laurel-Rain Snow at Curl Up and Read, considered Consent by Vanessa Springora (Translated by Natasha Lehrer), an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer, to be “a brilliant read”.

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Veronica of The Burgeoning Bookshelf picked up Gone To The Woods because her son was a fan of Gary Paulsen’s fiction novel, Hachet. She writes, “Gone to the Woods is a harrowing and moving true life story of resilience, perseverance and the healing power of books. Narrated with warmth and humour it is touching and informative.”

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(TRAVEL)

As a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater, Tina from TurnThePage, really enjoyed, The Olive Farm, the first book in her bestselling trilogy, which is about the purchase of an abandoned Olive Farm in Provencal, Appassionata, by Carol and her husband, and their work to restore it. “Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo.”, she writes.

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(WARTIME EXPERIENCES)

In 1989, teacher and community leader Mecak Ajang Alaak assumed care of the Lost Boys, thousands of South Sudanese refuges, in a bid to protect them from being forced to serve as child soldiers. After reading Father of the Lost Boys by Yuot A. Alaak, Claire of ClaireReadsandReviews wrote, “I feel honoured to have read Yout and his father’s story, and that of the thousands of people who shared that journey.”

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What will you be reading in March?

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In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

Review: The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein

Title: The Girl Explorers

Author: Jayne E. Zanglein

Published: 2nd March 2021, Sourcebooks

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

While The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein was not exactly what I was expecting, I found it ultimately to be a fascinating and inspiring book, highlighting some of the intelligent, daring and determined women who rebelled against expectations and paved the way for women to participate in what were traditionally male pursuits.

“Fifty percent of the world population is female, but only .05 percent of recorded history relates to women.”

The Society of Woman Geographers was founded in 1925 after the exclusively male Explorers Club refused to lift its ban on women members, condescendingly dismissing their ‘suitability’ for exploration, and their many achievements. Founded by Blair Bebee/Niles, a travel writer and novelist; Marguerite Harrison, a widowed single mother and a journalist who became US spy in Russia just after WW1; Gertrude Mathews Shelby, an economic geographer; and Gertrude Emerson, an expert on Asia and editor of Asia Magazine, membership was extended to women whose “distinctive work has added to the world’s store of knowledge concerning countries on which they specialized.”

Settling on the term “geographers” instead of explorers because it was flexible enough to encompass explorers, scientists, anthropologists, ethnographers, writers, mountain climbers, and even ethnographic artists and musicians, the stated aims of the Society were, “…building personal relationships among members, archiving the work of its membership in the society’s collections, and celebrating the achievements of women.”

“With the passage of time—as so often happens with women’s careers—the names and contributions of these explorers tended to sink from sight, their achievements questioned or minimized.” – Elizabeth Fagg Olds, newspaper correspondent and former president of Society.

Though the Society accepted ‘corresponding’ members from any country, The Girl Explorers tends to focus on American adventurers. I recognised only a few names, icons such as aviator Amelia Earhart, anthropologist Margaret Mead, former US First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and author, Pearl S. Buck. While I did think that it was a shame that the author wasn’t perhaps as inclusive as she could have been, I was nevertheless still fascinated by what I learned of the many women I’d never heard of.

Of the founding members, I considered the life of Blair Bebee née Rice (later Niles) to be particularly intriguing, in part because her story is the most complete, but also because of the sheer breadth of her achievements. I was also captivated by the intrepid mountaineer, Annie Smith Peck, who in 1895, at the age of 45, became the third woman to ascend the Matterhorn, though the first to do so in knickers (men’s knickerbocker trousers) and without a corset.

Zanglein’s narrative sometimes feels a little scattered and occasionally seems to veer off-topic, however the tone is personable, and what I learned was so interesting, I found I didn’t much mind. I highlighted screeds of information as I was reading that really doesn’t have a place in this review, but that intrigued me.

“Their stories change our history…”

The Society of Woman Geographers still exists today, they maintain a museum and library on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. with a robust membership that continues to meet regularly, and supports women geographers with fellowships and awards. I’m glad to have learnt more about organisation and the amazing women who are part of it.

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Available from Sourcebooks

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

Title: A Home Like Ours

Author: Fiona Lowe

Published: 3rd March 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read March 2021, courtesy Harlequin Australia /Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“Life was an unpredictable lottery. But surrounded by a community and a garden, the future was easier to face.”

An insightful, warm and engaging story, A Home Like Ours is another fabulous novel from award winning Australian author Fiona Lowe.

When Helen arrived in the small town of Boolanga in rural Victoria three years ago, she had been living in her car, searching for work, and a place to call home. Now, having secured a position as a caretaker of the town’s community garden which provides her with a small cottage, her new found stability is threatened when she insists a local group of refugee women be provided with plots.

Jade is a young mother with no family to speak of and a deadbeat, often absent, partner. To supplement her meagre pension, and provide her baby son with organic produce, she reluctantly agrees to assist Helen in the community garden. Though initially distrustful of everyone, especially the refugees, Jade slowly discovers a place she could belong.

Tara doesn’t understand why her husband, hardware store owner, Jon, seems to have lost interest in her. Wrapped up in her own self-pity, she is stunned when he is diagnosed with a debilitating condition, and is forced to consider what community really means.

The central theme of A Home Like Ours focuses on the effects of displacement. Like the protagonists of Lowe’s story, almost all of us are vulnerable to events such as illness, injury, relationship breakdown, unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, as well as extreme situations like war, which could result in a complete change of circumstance.

To face these sorts of unexpected challenges requires the support of a community – of family, of friends, and often even strangers. Lowe’s decision to centre the story on the town’s community garden is a clever one. Not only is it a site that allows her to reflect the population of the town at large, but it’s also a setting in which her very different characters can plausibly meet.

Portrayed with a realistic complexity, I really liked Lowe’s characters and found their stories to be engaging. It’s impressive that she is able to credibly depict women who are of widely disparate ages and backgrounds, and have diverse concerns. I would have liked for Fiza, a Sudanese refugee, to have had a larger role in the story, though I can understand why Lowe likely shied away from doing so.

Lowe also explores a range of specific issues relevant in Australia at the moment including racist attitudes towards refugees from African countries, the rise of homelessness experienced by women over 55, the inadequacy of current social support payments, the lack of support programs in rural areas, and government corruption. It seems like a lot, but these issues overlap and intertwine, enriching the story, and informing the reader.

I barely noticed that A Home Like Ours was almost 600 pages long, engrossed in the well-paced story I finished it in a day. This is an wonderful read that encourages empathy, compassion and community.

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Available from Harlequin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates

 


Title: Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All

Author: Laura Bates

Published: 2nd March 2021, Sourcebooks

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

#NotAllMen they yell whenever a woman shares an encounter with an aggressive admirer, a handsy boss, a leering stranger, a violent rapist, a condescending colleague, an abusive partner. They are right, but there are definitely too many men, and their numbers don’t seem to be decreasing.

In Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All, journalist Laura Bates investigates the online communities whose ideology centers around having power and control over women, how these affect society, and what can be done to change it moving forward.

Whilst incels (Involuntary celibates) beg for sex on demand, pickup artists (PUA) deploy predatory “gaming” tactics, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) choose to eschew relationships with women altogether, and Men’s Rights Activists (MRA/MRM) insist women return their stolen power, there remains a wide range of common ideas and tactics underpinning what Bates terms ‘manosphere’ communities.

As ‘Alex’, a lonely young man, she allowed herself to be recruited into an online world in which nothing was his fault, in which he was an aggrieved martyr, not the privileged loser he felt society painted him as. And the cause of all his woes? Women. ‘Foids’ that won’t sleep with him, ‘sluts’ who say no when they really mean yes, ‘nags’ who sap their energy, ‘feminazi’s’ who want to rule the world.

While such groups are often dismissed as ‘fringe’ online activities, Bates shows how savvy members of these groups have actively spearheaded campaigns that downplay, distort and discredit women’s issues, amplified by trolls who enjoy the controversy, the irresponsible practices of clickbait mainstream media, and social media algorithms. Bates also explores how the manosphere rhetoric spills into the real world, inspiring everything from wordless intimidation to mass murders, and even influencing politics.

If terrorism is a means of attempting to exert control and wield power by creating fear, then at an individual level, it also describes men who intimidate, harass, coerce and abuse women. Bates is aware that the publication of this book will again make her a target of derision, vile abuse, rape, and death threats, and that her physical safety could be at risk. No one will be surprised to hear it, few will believe that there is anything that can be done about it. As a society, we seem to assume violence against women is inevitable.

#NotAllMen hate women, but some do. Some men blame women for every frustration, every grievance, every loss. Some men see women as objects, undeserving of respect or autonomy. And they are emboldened when these views remain unchallenged. These men are an obvious danger, not only to women, but also to society at large. A significant percentage of those who commit acts of terrorism and mass murderer have a history of violence against women.

I agree with Bates that intervention is needed well before some boys/men wander down this path. We, both women and men, need to be informed, to admit there is a problem, and work together to change it. We need to challenge instances of sexism, and fake ‘news’, to encourage boys and young men to define masculinity in a manner that doesn’t put them in opposition to women. “Ultimately, there are major changes that need to happen across a wide range of sectors, from government to tech companies, from media to education…”

I am the wife of a man who loves me, and whom I love. I am a mother of two daughters, and two sons whom I adore. So I know it’s #NotAllMen, but it is #SomeMen, many of whom I have had the misfortune to encounter in my lifetime. Men Who Hate Women is a book that will disturb, infuriate, challenge, and perhaps change you, for the better.

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Available from Sourcebooks

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound I HiveUK

Review: Everything Is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

Title: Everything is Beautiful

Author: Eleanor Ray

Published: 9th February 2021, Piatkus

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

Eleven years after Amy Ashton was encouraged to gather a selection of precious memories in a shoebox, her home is filled to the brim with keepsakes. Bundles of newspapers tower in the hallways, boxes block the stairs, wine bottles cover the floor, coffee mugs and cookbooks clutter the kitchen, ceramic birds perch on every flat surface, vases hold dead bouquets of honeysuckle, and lighters and ashtrays (even though Amy doesn’t smoke) are stacked in teetering piles.

Told in alternating chapters between present day and the past, why Amy came to stuff her home with ‘treasures’ is gradually revealed in this heartrending and beautiful tale by author Eleanor Ray. A capable and valued administrator at a financial advice firm, Amy is unassuming, her wardrobe is dull, she never wears makeup and avoids social events. Few would imagine what the intensely private woman returns home to each night, and Amy prefers that no one cares, she is content with just the company of her ‘beautiful things’ that remind of happier times.

Amy’s neighbour, Rachel, cares though, and blames her for an ongoing problem with mice. When a new family moves in next door, Rachel thinks she has found an ally in forcing Amy to change, but with a well paced and thoughtful plot, it doesn’t happen in the way that you may expect. I loved the unexpected way in which some of the elements of the story developed, and though I had an inkling of what the main twist would be, I wasn’t disappointed to be proved right.

Amy is slightly awkward and intensely vulnerable, but despite her extreme behaviour, there would be few who would not find her sympathetic. I found myself feeling strangely protective of her, perhaps in part because I’m a bit of a hoarder myself. There are also several delightful supporting characters in the book, including the two charming young sons of Amy’s new neighbour, and an elderly retired shopkeeper. It has its villains too, who are satisfyingly dealt with.

Everything is Beautiful may begin as a story of tragedy and grief, but ultimately it is one of healing and hope, which I found moving and am delighted to recommend.

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Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Indiebound

*Published in the US as The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

I need to read faster, I thought I’d have a good chance to catch up this past week but somehow the days slipped away. Due in part to a free trial period of a new streaming service which has seen me binging on Grand Designs UK and Grand Designs NZ. I’ve redesigned my house, and my dream house, repeatedly over the past week or two.

I also spent an entire day remotely helping my daughter hunt up sources from her ‘essential’ reading lists, a total of about 80 books, and articles. Her first semester includes Forensic Science, Biodiversity, Introductory Chemistry, and Scientific Literacy. Classes start tomorrow!

Thankfully Book’d Out’s Facebook page has now been reinstated with Zuckerberg and our government reaching some sort of agreement. I’m still trying to figure out Instagram though. How many hashtags are too many? What sort of hashtags should I be using? What’s the follow etiquette? Is it enough to just ‘heart’ a post? Leave your Insta handle in the comments, and I’ll follow you, that part I’ve mastered!

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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The Paris Affair by Pip Drysdale

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

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New Posts…

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Review: The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart

Review: The Paris Affair by Pip Drysdale

Review: The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

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What I’m Reading This Week…

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An explosive book examining the rise of secretive, extremist communities who despise women. In this ground-breaking investigation, Laura Bates traces the roots of misogyny across a complex spider’s web of groups extending from Men’s Rights Activists and Pick up Artists to “Men Going their Own Way” trolls and the Incel movement, in the name of which some men have committed terrorist acts. Drawing parallels with other extremist movements around the world, Bates seeks to understand what attracts men to the movement, how it grooms and radicalizes boys, how it operates, and what can be done to stop it. Most urgently of all, she traces the pathways this extreme ideology has taken from the darkest corners of the internet to emerge covertly in our mainstream media, our playgrounds, and our parliament. Going undercover online and off, Bates provides the first, comprehensive look at this hitherto under-the-radar phenomenon, including fascinating interviews with trolls, former incels, the academics studying this movement, and the men fighting back.

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As a small town turns on itself, three women discover true friends aren’t always the ones you think you know… A compulsive page-turner from bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe.

Tara Hooper is at breaking point. With two young children, a business in a town struggling under an unexpected crime wave, and her husband more interested in his cricket team than their marriage, life is a juggling act. Then, when new neighbours arrive and they are exactly the sort of people the town doesn’t want or need, things get worse.

Life has taught Helen Demetriou two things: being homeless is terrifying and survival means keeping your cards close to your chest. Having clawed back some stability through her involvement in the community garden, she dares to relax. But as she uncovers some shady goings-on in the council, that stability turns to quicksand.

For teenage mother Jade Innes, life can be lonely among the judgement of the town and the frequent absences of her boyfriend. A chance encounter draws her into the endangered community garden where she makes friends for the first time. Glimpsing a different way of life is enticing but its demands are terrifying. Does she even deserve to try?

Can these women with such differing loyalties unite to save the garden and ultimately stop the town from tearing itself apart?

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Never tell a woman where she doesn’t belong.

In 1932, Roy Chapman Andrews, president of the men-only Explorers Club, boldly stated to hundreds of female students at Barnard College that “women are not adapted to exploration,” and that women and exploration do not mix. He obviously didn’t know a thing about either…

The Girl Explorers is the inspirational and untold story of the founding of the Society of Women Geographers―an organization of adventurous female world explorers―and how key members served as early advocates for human rights and paved the way for today’s women scientists by scaling mountains, exploring the high seas, flying across the Atlantic, and recording the world through film, sculpture, and literature.

Follow in the footsteps of these rebellious women as they travel the globe in search of new species, widen the understanding of hidden cultures, and break records in spades. For these women dared to go where no woman―or man―had gone before, achieving the unthinkable and breaking through barriers to allow future generations to carry on their important and inspiring work.

The Girl Explorers is an inspiring examination of forgotten women from history, perfect for fans of bestselling narrative history books like The Radium Girls, The Woman Who Smashed Codes, and Rise of the Rocket Girls.

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A stunningly tense, page-turning debut for all fans of The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train The perfect house. The perfect family. Too good to be true.

Kate Webb still grieves for her young son, ten years after his loss. She spends her weekends hungover, attending open houses on Sydney’s wealthy north shore and imagining the lives of the people who live there.

Then Kate visits the Harding house – the perfect house with, it seems, the perfect family. A photograph captures a kind-looking man, a beautiful woman she once knew from university days, and a boy – a boy that for one heartbreaking moment she believes is her own son.

When her curiosity turns to obsession, she uncovers the cracks that lie beneath a glossy facade of perfection, sordid truths she could never have imagined.

But is it her imagination? As events start to spiral dangerously out of control, could the real threat come from Kate herself?

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The steep-climb highs and free-fall lows of my rollercoaster rural life

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill. Well, seven years (60,000 hours) since former city boys Todd and Jeff moved to the country they should have nailed this whole farming gig, right? Yes, they make lovely wine and have built beautiful accommodation, and they’ve even learnt how to look after their rescued farm animals. But they didn’t really count on Mother Nature getting involved.

Drought, bushfires, sick animals, failed crops, heatwaves, enormous changes in the two industries they rely on to make a living, snakes, the unstoppable breeding of peafowl, insurmountable debts and broken machinery …

Just when they think they’re on top of things, the land throws another few hurdles their way. But with fierce determination to succeed, willingness to evolve and their ever-present senses of humour, these boys might be down for the count but they aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel just yet.

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