Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Published: ABC Books, October 2018

Status: Read December 30, 2018

My Thoughts:

Technically I grew up in the 80’s, having been born in the early 1970’s, but so much of what Glover writes evokes memories of my childhood, from the pineapple ‘hedgehog’ cheese and onion appetisers, to the unbelted, smoke filled, weaving, courtesy of the ubiquitous cask wine in the bar fridge, car trips. I laughed aloud often at the nostalgic absurdity of it all.

However, The Land Before Avacado is also a sobering reminder of how far we have come as a culture. The status quo for baby boomers and most of Gen X would be inconceivable to today’s generations who can drink gourmet coffee (with smashed avacado toast) in the comfort of their own home, or by the roadside, any day of the week.

Tongue in cheek aside, many advances are sobering, from the drastic reduction of the road death toll, thanks to the introduction of drink driving and seatbelt laws, to laws protecting the employment status of pregnant women.

Glover also shares facts that will likely shock most readers who are convinced by their Facebook feeds that crime is at an all time high, when, in fact, the commission of serious crimes has more than halved across the board in the last fifty years.

While the nostalgic remembrances in The Land Before Avacado, appeal directly to those over the age of 40, I feel compelled to recommend to this to anyone over the age of twenty, many of whom could benefit from a little perspective.

Oh, and I am so going to cook the Spicy Meat Ring!

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: Into My Arms by Kylie Ladd

Title: Into My Arms

Author: Kylie Ladd

Published: Allen & Unwin May 2013

Status: Read from May 01 to 02, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In her previous novels, Kylie Ladd has written with compelling insight into uncomfortable issues including adultery in After the Fall and death and grief in Last Summer. Into My Arms, her third novel, is similarly confronting while examining the complexities of family, love and desire.

It’s incredibly difficult to articulate my thoughts about Into My Arms while avoiding spoilers. The back cover hints at love at first sight followed by a passionate relationship which is then shattered by a shocking revelation but it is much more than that. Skye and Ben are nearly destroyed by a phenomena that challenges moral and societal conventions and Into My Arms explores it’s devastating effects on both the couple and their families.

What could have been a tawdry, sensationalistic subject, is dealt with carefully, shedding a compassionate light on a little known issue that is particularly relevant in modern society. There is no getting away from the fact that most readers will find it confronting but I think Ladd does a terrific job in humanising the issue by placing ordinary people at the center of the maelstrom.

While the controversial main plot will garner the most attention, there is a prominent subplot in the book not alluded to in the blurb. Zia is a pupil of Ben and Skye, a young boy from an immigrant Iranian family who is struggling to adjust to his new life. While Zia’s story is linked by the themes of family and estrangement, and he develops connections with the main characters, I thought it out of place somehow. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting in and of itself, but I didn’t find it necessary and I wondered if it’s purpose was to blunt the confronting nature of Ben and Skye’s circumstance.

Regardless, I found Into My Arms to be a fascinating and thought provoking novel. I devoured it in hours and I suspect it will stimulate discussion amongst all who read it.

Available To Purchase

@Allen & Unwin I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko

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Review: I’ll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde

Title: I’ll Take What She Has

Author: Samantha Wilde

Published: Bantam February 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 20 to 21, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ll Take What She Has is a wry exploration of motherhood, marriage and mid life discontent as envy and resentment simmers between long time best friends Nora and Annie. Nora is newly married and desperate to have a child while Annie harbors a secret ambivalence as a stay at home mother to her two young daughters. When Cynthia Cypress arrives at Bixbie, Annie is predisposed to scorn her effortless sense of style and generous financial means but Nora is drawn to Cynthia’s glamorous facade and flattered to be courted by the new ‘queen’ on campus. As the relationship between Nora and Annie begins to deteriorate, both women find themselves wondering who they really are and who has what they really want.

Though the blurb implies the friendship between Annie and Nora is the focus for this novel, I feel the emphasis in I’ll Take What She Has is on the dynamics of motherhood. I’ll Take What She Has thoughtfully examines a wide range of related themes including adoption, infertility, marriage, family dysfunction and belonging. The author explores these issues through both her main protagonists and the minor characters in the story, providing a variety of perspectives that shows how each issue is complicated by the individual’s experience.

Thankfully Wilde’s rather caustic sense of humour offsets the serious elements of the novel. Between Nora’s freeloading, hard drinking cousin who dispenses free sex therapy and Annie’s barbed observations of her WASPy neighbours there are some funny scenes that lighten the tone.

The narrative shifts between Nora and Annie’s perspective creating well round characters, though to be honest I didn’t grow particularly fond of either of them. I’m not sure why exactly since many of their experiences mirror my own. I suppose I connect a little more with Annie as a mother who has parented a spirited child (or four) and I could relate to Annie’s ambivalence about her role. During my children’s early childhood I have variously worked full time, part time and been a stay at home parent and have found none of the situations ideal.

Overall, I thought I’ll Take What She Has to be an astute, entertaining novel exposing the complications of modern motherhood.

Available to Purchase

@Bantam I @AmazonUS I @BookDepository

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: St Martin’s Press February 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 14 to 17, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy St Martin’s Press/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel, Attachments last year so I eagerly requested Eleanor and Park for review, particularly given the promise of mid 80’s pop culture references. (I’m an 80’s tragic). A contemporary young adult novel, Eleanor and Park introduces two sixteen year old’s whose mutual antipathy evolves into passionate relationship, after being forced to share a seat on the school bus.

While Park, who is half Korean in the almost all white Omaha community he has grown up in, has avoided becoming a target of high school bullies, thanks in part to his friendship with his popular neighbours Steve and Tina, he has always been conscience that his looks set him apart from his peers. When new girl Eleanor, with wild red hair, a thrift store wardrobe and a solid figure steps on the bus, Park recognises her vulnerabilities immediately but defending her is out of the question, though he begrudgingly makes one small concession, offering to share his seat.

Eleanor would rather be anywhere else than on a school bus in Omaha but she has no choice. After an argument with her abusive step father, Eleanor’s mother asked family friends to take Eleanor in for a few days to give him a chance to cool down but it was a year before he let her return, and Eleanor doesn’t want to give him another excuse to separate her from her mother and three younger siblings. Crowded in a ramshackle two bedroom house, the family lives on a shoestring while her step father drinks their money away. Eleanor’s clothes come from thrift stores, basics like shampoo and a toothbrush are considered a luxury she doesn’t deserve and she knows that she will be a target at school. All she can do is ignore the cruel taunts of ‘Big Red’ and keep to herself.

The perspective alternates between that of Eleanor and Park so we have insight into what both are thinking and feeling not only about each other but also regarding their separate experiences. I fell in love with both characters, Park is a sweetheart and I was very sympathetic to Eleanor.

I loved how Rowell developed the blossoming relationship between Eleanor and Park, beginning with Park realising Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder. A tentative friendship forms with casual concessions, all without speaking, until Park makes an overture that surprises even him. Their romance, when it happens, has that teenage intensity familiar to most of us where every touch is thrilling and every glance loaded with meaning.

Eleanor and Park was much darker and more complicated than I expected. Eleanor’s life is difficult and the underlying threat from her stepfather is always present. Park’s home may be happy but has some issues with his father in particular. There is not the happy ending you may expect here either, though it fits the novel and is far more realistic than I usually expect from the YA genre.

Eleanor and Park is a charming, poignant story of first love. Beautifully written, this is a must read for fans of contemporary YA and anyone who still has a mix tape buried in their closet,

*For those too young to know: mix tapes = playlists except on cassette 🙂 I still have a few I was given, but have nothing to play them on anymore.

Available to Purchase

@MacmillanUS I @Amazon I @Book Depository

In Australia via Booko

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Review: Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Title: Love with a Chance of Drowning

Author: Torre DeRoche

Published: Penguin Viking February 2013

Status: Read on February 19, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin Australia}

Read an excerpt

My Thoughts:

“Some people die of old age without ever having lived their dreams. Some people die without ever having loved. That’s tragic. We’ll both die someday, that’s a guarantee. If something happens on the ocean, we’ll die as two people in love who are living a remarkable adventure…”

Torre DeRoche planned to spend a year in the US working and then return home to Australia. Instead she fell in love with an Argentinian and despite a fear of the sea, agreed to sail with him across the Pacific. Love With a Chance of Drowning tells of Torre’s adventures aboard the Amazing Grace during her journey to conquer the ocean, and her fears.

Torre wasn’t looking for a relationship when she met Ivan in a San Francisco bar but charmed by his Latin good looks and kind, considerate nature she fell head over in heels in love. Yet their separation seemed inevitable, Torre had promised to return to Australia at the end of the year and Ivan planned to throw in his IT job and sail solo across the ocean. As the end began to draw near, Ivan suggested Torre join him and she was faced with a difficult choice, sail away with her lover or say goodbye. Despite her fear of deep water, disaster and ““anything that would fall out if you turned the ocean upside down and shook it” Torre’s decides to surrender her comfortable city lifestyle for a love on a 32ft wooden boat in the middle of nowhere.

Though I have little interest in sailing (and my own fearful respect for the sea), I really enjoyed this entertaining memoir of (mis)adventure. The humour is engaging, Torre has no problem poking fun at her own obsession with safety equipment, her horrendous bouts of sea sickness and Ivan’s innate clumsiness. She is boldly honest about the journey’s practical and emotional hardships – broken equipment, rough weather, the lack of fresh food and inescapable intimacy. Yet as Torre describes the joy of watching dolphins frolic in the boat’s wake, the stunning white sands and blue water of tropical waters and the convivial welcome of islanders, you can’t help but wish you could join her.

Love with a Chance of Drowning is wonderfully written. Part travelogue, part romance, it is a tale of an amazing journey that will sweep you away.

Available To Purchase

@Penguin Australia I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko

Available for Preorder in the US

@AmazonUS I @Book Depository

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Stuff On Sunday: Advice for Authors

Despite offering clear guidelines for those seeking a review at Book’d Out which can be viewed here HERE they are often ignored, and I suspect quite often they go unread.

Reviewing any book is a significant time commitment. Each book review you see on Book’d Out represents around 6 hours of my time. On average a 300 page book will take me around 3 – 4 hours to read, a review for that book takes me around 2-3 hours to write and the actual posting of that review and promotion takes around an hour. If an author wants me to to commit my limited resources to reading, reviewing and promoting their book then they need to get my attention with the review request. The easiest way to do that is to provide me with the information I need about the book.

A week or two ago, Judith at Leeswammes blog asked me to cast an eye over an upcoming post she had planned titled “Authors: How To Pitch Your Book to Bloggers“. Many book bloggers receive email queries  from authors asking for a review of their book. On average I receive 20+ a week, but sometimes it can be double or even triple that. I love reading and I like to support authors but with so many appeals and only so much time, I have to carefully consider each request I receive. A well thought out pitch that meets the requirements of the individual blogger is essential and Judith’s post is a must read, offering sage advice for authors seeking reviews of their work.

Rather than repeat that advice here, I thought I would show what such a request may look like. This (entirely imagined) pitch is addressed to me from an author named Word Smith for a book called Dog Days.

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Subject: Review Request: Dog Days by Word Smith

Dear Shelleyrae,

My name is Word Smith and I would like to request a review of my book, Dog Days. I believe Dog Days will appeal to you because you list mystery as a genre you like to read in your review request policy and recently enjoyed similar titles, Collared and Buried Bones, reviewed at Book’d Out.

Dog Days is a mystery novel and is the story of a woman who went to see a man about a dog. The woman wishes to buy the dog, a dalmation, but the man refuses to sell him. Why is he so reluctant to part with the dog and what price is the woman willing to pay?

An excerpt of Dog Days is available to read online at my website, Mystery WordSmith. Dog Days is 280 pages long and was published in October 2011 by Printit. It is available for purchase at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords.

I can offer you Dog Days in digital (epub, mobi) or print (paperback/hardcover) format at your request.

I would be pleased to provide Dog Days for a giveaway at Book’d Out or provide you with guest post or interview should you wish.

Dog Days is my first novel. I worked for eleven years in a pet store but I am now retired. I live in Whoopi with my husband and three dogs and I am currently working on my second novel

For more information about myself or Dog Days please visit Mystery Wordsmith.

Thank you for your consideration of my request, I hope to hear from you soon.

Word Smith
Author of Dog Days
Mystery Wordsmith

[Cover attached]

{Assume the words underlines are linked appropriately}

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This is the type of request I prefer to receive and I am most likely to  give serious consideration. It is clear and concise and contains all the information I need to help with my decision making process. I don’t mind if it is embellished a little with some personality or additional information as long as what I need is there.

The truth is though an author might do everything right and I may still reject their request, for a variety of reasons. Often it is simply because my schedule is already overcrowded and I don’t have the space  (this years schedule has been full since April), at other times it may be because I have already accepted books of a similar genre in that time frame. It is also possible that perhaps after reading the synopsis, extract and other reviews the book just doesn’t appeal to me strongly enough for one reason or another.

However authors that do their research, choosing the most appropriate reviewers to approach,  reading and responding  to the review guidelines of book bloggers and submitting a considered request give themselves the best chance to gain a review for their work.

So tell me –

If you are an author, has this information been helpful?

If you are a book blogger what advice do you have for authors seeking reviews?