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

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

===================

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.”

xxxxxx

(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”.

xxxxxx

(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.”

xxxxxxx

(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.

xxxxxx

(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.”

xxxxxx

What will you be reading in March?

—————-

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: 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

Giveaway: With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan

I’m delighted to be able to offer you the chance to win With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan. With My Little Eye is a fascinating biography by Sandra Hogan of a suburban Australian family of spies. READ MY REVIEW HERE, then enter below.

Courtesy Allen & Unwin

I have 1 print edition of

With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and then

ENTRY CLOSED

Congratulations Kate C

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close 20th February 2021

The giveaway will be random drawing on February 21st and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

**********

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

Review: With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan

Title: With My Little Eye

Author: Sandra Hogan

Published: 3rd February 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

With My Little Eye is a fascinating biography by Sandra Hogan of a suburban Australian family of spies.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was formed in June 1949 by then Prime Minister Ben Chiefly in response to the discovery through a series of decoded Soviet cables—known as the Venona intercepts—that Soviet spies were active in Australia. During its formative years ASIO’s main focus was on finding and breaking the Russian spy ring, in an operation known as ‘the Case’.

Dudley Doherty, a former supply clerk in the Australian army, was one of the first ASIO officers, joining the agency in November 1949. His new bride, a secretary at the time, joined him at Algincourt, the NSW building that housed ASIO headquarters, in 1950, transcribing intercepted telephone calls. Later that year, the young couple became essential players in Operation Smile, ASIO’s first covert bugging operation. Housed in the apartment above Fedor Nosov, who represented Soviet news agency TASS, Joan’s job was to listen and transcribe any conversation from the flat below, usually accompanied by another officer, while Dudley continued his work elsewhere.

Mark (b. 1951) and Sue-Ellen (b.1953) were born in that same apartment, and though Joan officially resigned from ASIO in late 1953, she continued to assist her husband with his duties when he was transferred to Brisbane, which included hosting former Russian intelligence agents turned defectors, Captain Evdokia Petrov and husband Colonel Vladimir for two months as a safety precaution during the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne.

“In Brisbane… Joan kept house and raised her children [Amanda was born in 1958] while Dudley went out to work – just like all the other housewives. Except Joan was training her kids in espionage and keeping a careful watch on her neighbours.”

While most intelligence officers keep their work secret, often even their spouse are unaware their partner is a spy, Dudley and Joan ran a ‘family operation’. From birth they were props as their mother eavesdropped in cafe’s, or their father took photos of them at parades. The children were taught to look for people or cars that may be out of place, to recall details of faces and places, to memorise number plates, and never draw attention to themselves. Their parents made many of these activities seem like fun, and Hogan details some of the ‘games’ the family ‘played’, but spy craft is a serious business, and in the Doherty family, work always came first. There were a lot of rules, the most important of which was to maintain secrecy. The children could never question their father, nor his orders, and could not talk about any activity outside of the family.

“Forgetting their childhoods had been essential for their survival, but it came at a cost.”

For Sue-Ellen life as a child spy was complicated, though she proved to have an excellent observation skills and memory, she was not suited to the introverted life. Though she, like her siblings, adhered to the family rules, she resented the many secrets she was forced to keep, despite always being inordinately proud of her father. His sudden death from a heart attack in 1970 when Sue-Ellen was 17 left her devastated. Absent from the family home at the time, Sue-Ellen became convinced her father had not died but had simply gone into deep cover for some undisclosed mission, a belief she held until in her late forties, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was then that she began to search for information about her father, hoping to learn more about him and make some sense of her childhood, eventually approaching journalist Sandra Hogan for help. Hogan met with Sue-Ellen several times, however information and provable facts were hard to find so the project stalled. It wasn’t until 2011 when ASIO commissioned a book to detail the official history of the organisation (The Spy Catchers pub. 2014), for which Sue-Ellen’s mother, Joan, was interviewed, that Sue-Ellen began to make peace with her childhood.

“When something cannot be talked about, it is hard to believe it’s real. Now there was no doubt about it.”

With some of the secrecy veil lifted, Sue-Ellen and her siblings, who were finally able to talk more freely about their childhood, and gain a fuller picture of the man who was their father. Hogan draws on these conversations, Joan’s memories, interviews with the few of Dudley’s contemporaries still alive, declassified documents and relevant public sources to tell their extraordinary story.

There are flashes of humour in this unusual biography, but I most often found it rather poignant. With My Little Eye is a fascinating account of an unusual family, and their unique role during the infancy of ASIO.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

Click below for your chance to win a copy! 

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

 


Welcome to the first 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 as you read during the year.

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2020ReadNonFic

===================

In January

{Travel}

At GumtreesandGalaxies, Sharon shares her thoughts on Findings by Kathleen Jamie, “Jamie beautifully captures time and place in immediate, mindful observation, bringing the experience of Scotland, especially wild Scotland to vivid life.”

—————-

{Wartime Experience}

Tina at TurnthePage, writes Dispatches, “…is an incredible accounting of a time period about the Vietnam War, told with such descriptive clarity by journalist Michael Herr.”

—————-

{Self Help}

#EntryLevelBoss: a 9-step guide for finding a job you like (and actually getting hired to do it) by Alexa Shoen is recommended by Tracey at Carpe Librum, who writes it, “… if your job hunting has stagnated or you need a confidence boost or a fresh approach, #EntryLevelBoss is well worth the read.”

—————

{Essays}

From Jo at BookloverBookReviews “Laura Greaves’ Dogs with Jobs is a wonderful title to dip into, and read a story or two, whenever you are in need of a boost, or simply a healthy dose of perspective. Few hearts will fail to be moved by these stories of loyalty, resilience, dedication and commitment by very special dogs and their humans.”

—————-

{Biography}

At Journey and Destination, Carol writes thoughtfully about Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. She regrets she hadn’t read it earlier, she calls it, “…an incredible story”, which she highly recommends.

—————-

What will you be reading in February?

—————-

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 Inspiration Part #4

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join the fun!

For the next four weeks I will post some recommendations for each category that might inspire your own selections.

Click here for Part #1 – Biography, Travel, Self Help/Self Improvement

Click here for Part #2 – Essay Collection, Disease, Oceanography

Click here for Part #3 – Hobbies, Indigenous Culture, Food

You can find more suggestions via other bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Wartime Experiences

Books chosen for this category should focus on the experiences of people during wartime (as opposed to politics/strategy etc.

 

 

Inventions

For the purposes of this challenge the focus is on a novel device developed by scientific/technological/engineering process.



Published in 2021

Select any nonfiction book published in 2021


Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments.

Bookshelf Bounty

Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review (print)

(My thanks to the respective publishers)

For Review (ebook)


2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

I’m delighted to welcome you to the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. The challenge asks participants to read up to 12 books over the year, each from a different category

Categories

1. Biography 2. Travel 3. Self-help 4. Essay Collection 5. Disease 6. Oceanography 7. Hobbies 8. Indigenous Cultures 9. Food 10. Wartime Experiences 11. Inventions 12. Published in 2021

Click here to learn more about the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, sign up and join the fun!

For the next four weeks I will post some recommendations for each category that might inspire your own selections.

Click here for Part #1 – Biography, Travel, Self Help/Self Improvement

Click here for Part #2 – Essay Collection, Disease, Oceanography

You can find more suggestions via other bloggers, and lists such as Goodreads Listopia, Library Booklists. Use your good faith judgement as to whether a book fits a particular category or not.

Hobbies

A hobby is any activity done regularly for enjoyment and relaxation, including collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements.



Indigenous Culture

Indigenous Peoples (also referred to as First Peoples, Aboriginal Peoples, or Native Peoples) are those that inhabited a country or region before the arrival of people of different cultures or ethnic origins, and are found across the globe in 90 countries.


 

Food

Books in this genre can relate to the origins, history, culture, science, or critique of food and drink, or techniques related to preparation and/or cooking food and drink.



 

Feel free to add your own recommendations and suggestions in the comments.

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