The Book that Made Me edited by Judith Ridge

Published: 1st September 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Non Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

The Book That Made Me is a celebration of the books that influenced some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Inspirational. Affecting.

A perfect collection of personal stories for book lovers!

Personal stories by fantastic authors such as Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, Shaun Tan, Mal Peet, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simon French, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Bernard Beckett, Ursula Dubosarsky, Rachael Craw, Sue Lawson, Felicity Castagna, Benjamin Law, Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, James Roy, Alison Croggon, Will Kostakis and Randa Abdel-Fattah. Also features black and white cartoons by Shaun Tan!

I picked up this book because there were stories from authors that I love to read and the premise sounded really interesting. There’s always a risk with anthologies that a reader won’t enjoy all the stories equally and unfortunately this was the case for me. Sometimes it is only a few but I found with this collection I couldn’t engage with a lot of the stories. I wanted to enjoy them, I wanted to read about what books had an impact on these writers but I struggled to get through many of the stories. This may be my own personal issue and perhaps it was because they were personal essays and not fictional stories, but I kept putting the book down and finding reasons to skim.

I shouldn’t be too harsh, there are 32 stories in this anthology and some certainly were engaging; they were humorous and fascinating stories about how a single book, whether it was a massive dislike or a fascination with a concept, changed how the author saw the world and shaped who they wanted to be. Will Kostakis told how his hatred of a set book in primary school inspired him to write his own story, Benjamin Law wrote how he fell in love with Roald Dahl and reading things ten year olds probably shouldn’t be reading, while so many more mentioned that books were their treasures and offered them an escape. There were stories from indigenous authors and how their culture and stories impacted them, and there’s also voices from minorities in Australia who talk about never seeing themselves in books and how the culture of their parents affected the books they were exposed to.

These stories opened my eyes to how different people had access to different books, some read the same books I had read as a kid, and certainly the age ranges between these authors offered a wider range of books again. The reasons how and why these books made an impact were interesting in themselves. I’ve certainly felt this way about books I’ve read. My book was Checkers by John Marsden. I read that when I was in high school and it cemented my decision to want to write so I understand why these essays exist, I only wish I enjoyed more of them.

The format was not only essays, there were lists, comics, dot points, poems, and a few people had more than one book that shaped them. A nice surprise were the Shaun Taun illustrations sprinkled throughout. Tan asked random strangers why they read and seeing the responses sprinkled throughout with an accompanying sketch was an adorable and entertaining way to break up the stories.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite anthology, I still enjoyed seeing how so many books, especially ones I had read myself, had such an impact on these authors. Just shows you the true power of reading and how people can read the same book in so many different ways.

You can purchase The Book that Made Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 24th April 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

With Anthology August underway I was fortunate to even have an anthology in my “read but not reviewed” pile. Begin, End, Begin is a fantastic example of Australia’s talent and YA capabilities. I loved all of these stories which is so rare with anthologies and I found some great new authors that I may never have discovered.

With a theme “Begin, End, Begin” there are so many ways it can be interpreted and I was astounded by the creativity of these authors. I think I loved almost every single one of these stories which is so rare with an anthology but with this calibre of talent who can really be surprised. I knew of, but had not read, a lot of these authors when this was first released and it was a great chance to see their writing style in small snippets, with a fabulous and engaging story. I still think about a lot of these stories two years later and is a testament to the quality and imagination of these writers. I’ve definitely read a lot more of their works since and it was a real benefit getting a chance to see their styles and fall in love with them first.

Some of my favourites would have to be ‘One Small Step’ by Amie Kaufman and ‘I Can See the Ending’ by Will Kostakis; both are amazing and certainly ones I have thought about often since. They aren’t the only great ones as there are some beautiful stories in here filled with heart and imagination.

There’s only ten contributors so there is a chance at a longer story from them all, but even so with a few short pages you are brought into these worlds or science fiction, contemporary, romance and diversity. If you are new to the #LoveOzYA phenomenon this is a fantastic way to get introduced to some great authors and see their talent in small, entertaining snippets.

Speaking Out!: An LGBT Anthology edited by Steve Berman

Published: 20th September 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Speaking Out features stories for and about LGBT and Q teens by fresh voices and noted authors in the field of young adult literature. These are inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (against intolerance and homophobia) and experiencing life after “coming out.” Queer teens need tales of what might happen next in their lives, and editor Steve Berman showcases a diversity of events, challenges, and, especially, triumphs.

This collection of thirteen stories tell a variety of stories from a variety of own voices. These are fictional stories but each author has a small bio at the start of their story which lets you see a little into their lives and their own experience being part of the LGBTQTIA community. These small paragraphs are an extra inspiration for readers who may be experiencing their own hardships and having these authors of all sexualities put their own experiences down are real life references outside of these fictionalised stories. The authors are American but a lot of the stories have a focus on the people rather than setting. There is a lot to gain from reading these stories even if you are from outside the States.

I found myself becoming quite invested in some of these stories. When they ended I wanted to know more, I wanted to see the scene after, the scene where they tell, where they act. I had to remind myself not only are these short stories, but they are short stories that capture the moment of speaking out, the events that lead them to have the confidence to do so. This is a testament to the power of these stories, and certainly some were better than others as all anthology readers will attest to. I found myself enraptured by the strength of these characters against homophobia by friends and family, and the danger that that homophobia can have.

The stand out stories to me were Sparks of Change by Dia Pannes which was a powerful read about family and changing the small mindedness of small towns; another one was the beautiful and mystical imagery of Steve Berman’s Only Lost Boys Are Found. One story I particularly adored was Forever is Composed of Nows by Will Ludwigsen; a story about returning back to the place where you had bullying and trauma as a teen, only to return as an adult. It was incredibly well done and insightful to read.

As I said, there are a range of identities and sexualities represented in this anthology and each one is explored in so many different ways. Seeing these characters discover who they are, who they are publically prepared to be was uplifting and something I can imagine teens and young readers would find not only empowering but comforting. Personal stories and essays about experiences by the LGBTQIA are important literature to have, but having fictional worlds to escape to and relate to are also important. This is a great collection of stories and one I found an absolute delight to fall into.

You can purchase Speaking Out! via the following

Book DepositoryDymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology by Various Authors

Published: 24th November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Deadset Press
Edited by: Jocelyn Spark, Alanah Andrews, and Austin P. Sheehan
Pages: 147
Format: ebook
Genre: Anthology
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

16 stories. 16 Australian authors. One theme. Beginnings. 

Esmerelda is trapped in a nightmare, unable to wake and escape from the darkness. 

A simple bus trip turns into a fight for survival. 

Alone in a strange place with no memories of who she is or how she got there, Alora’s world changes forever. 

Note: I was asked to review this anthology by one of the editors

From an incredible first story I was excited by this anthology. I was amazed at the variety of styles and stories that each of the writers came up with for the same theme. “Beginnings” means a lot of things and it is evident that each of these writers has chosen their own interpretation of that.

The opening story Edge might be one of my favourites but a few other stand outs include The Inheritance Experiment, Next Journey, and Break the Spell. There is a mixture of settings and writing styles and you can clearly see the speculative nature woven through each tale. I loved discovering how each writer chose to interpret that and how it is explored in the setting of their stories.

With any anthology there will be those stories that appeal more to some people than others. Some of the stories blew me away while some actually managed to creep me out a bit. Within the speculative guidelines there is also some horror and some fantasy in these stories, as well as a range of contemporary settings. One thing I like about speculative stories is they are so broad that they can cover almost anything strange, unknown, magical, and mystical.

There are fantastic short stories that grab you from the start and amaze you as they finish, there are stories that read like a great prologue of a bigger story yet to come, but there are also a few that read like short chapters that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Thankfully those were the minority as many of the stories were truly captivating.

You can purchase Beginnings via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

Published: 1st November 2006 (print)/9th May 2006 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Warne/Blackstone Publishing
Pages: 400/3 hrs 11 minutes
Narrator: Nadia May
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Short stories/Classic
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

This complete and unabridged collection contains all of Beatrix Potter’s Tales in one deluxe volume with all their original illustrations. The stories are arranged in the order in which they were first published so they may be read in their proper sequence.

Of course the most well-known tale by Beatrix Potter is of Peter Rabbit, but that isn’t my favourite by far. I adore The Tailor of Glouster, and I have a soft spot for The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck. I was surprised that these tales aren’t as short as I remembered. Some of course are longer than others, but there is a decent story being told with intricate plots and characters, conflicts and drama of all kinds.

In this complete collection there were stories I knew, there were also characters I knew but whose stories I had never read. Then there were others that I had never heard of, like The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse which was a delightful tale of the small mouse who was incredibly houseproud who must fight off intruders, and deal with the mess people kept making. I loved her little house with the larder and pantry, this underground world mimicking the human one.

There are many stories to love in this collection and I think perhaps the only one I wasn’t quite fond of was The Tale of Piggling Bland. It is one of her later ones and is certainly quite strange, though not overly complicated on the surface. I never could understand this story, even as a kid. The pigs being sent to market in hope of being bought by humans, but not for food but for labour, possibly? It’s all a bit strange and not one of her better ones in my opinion.

One things I did love was how Potter ages the characters. They are not the same forever, stuck in their youth and misgivings. Peter and Benjamin grow up, have families of their own and become responsible. I also love how the characters are connected to one another. Jemima Puddleduck is known to Tom Kitten and so forth. It creates a wonderful universe where there are also humans who interact with them, but they have their own society as well, with proper etiquette and propriety included. A smaller version of the human world.

Some tales have the animals interacting with humans, others don’t seem to have any connection at all. The little world where they shop and have their own homes, where there are others like them is a great society. The theme across all the stories is that the animals are their natural selves but also have human tendencies. They dress in clothes, but eat their typical food and have natural enemies. All a bit bizarre when you can talk to one another over sugar but at the same time have a neighbour eat another.

Nadia May does a brilliant job with the narration. Her gentle tone suited the stories remarkably well and because of how Potter has written the tales, it supports the idea that she is telling you the story herself.

I loved delving back into the world of these animals and their stories. Potter’s tales are a wonderful mixture of mischief, cautionary tales, and general life for these animals. Foxes lust after eggs, rats and mice infest houses, fish eat toads, but with bonnets and petticoats to manoeuvre there is also a delightful society of creatures, personified but not so much as it stops them being animals.

You can purchase The Complete Tales via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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