A Walk in the Bush by Gwyn Perkins

Published: 1st March 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Affirm Press
Illustrator: Gwyn Perkins
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Little Iggy doesn’t want to leave the house, but Grandad insists – they always have fun together. What follows is a wonderful journey in the great Australian outdoors with singing birds, wallaby surprises, secret caterpillar messages and oodles of grandad humour. Here is a story about the wonders of nature, the funny side of life and spending time with the ones we love.

This is a sweet book that has a beautiful story. I can see why this won the CBCA award; it’s an appreciation of the Australian environment and the possibilities to escape into nature. I will also admit is a bit adorable. Perkins’ illustrations reminded me at first of those in a comic strip, they are simple and the background is both simple and wonderfully colourful as the story goes on.

I have an affection for Iggy the cat though. His owner hunts around looking for him then dresses him up with a hat and sunscreen to go out on a walk. I love Iggy’s reluctance and shame at being made to wear a hat, and I love how interested he looks as his owner explains the surrounding bush to him.

This is definitely a book that is meant to be read slowly. There are few words on each page and the words invite you to study the pictures, to look at the images themselves and relate them back to the narrative. As the man stops and tells his cat about all about the different aspects of nature it invites the reader to study the picture and see what he is talking about.

Initially I thought it was too simple, too much of a pat on Australia’s back and that was why it won, but on my second read through a few days later I came to understand why it might have won. It is a beautiful story and one that does show off the Australian bush, but it is a lovely story and who doesn’t want to stop and just look at the wonderful scenery.

You can purchase A Walk in the Bush via the following

QBD | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson

Fishpond | Dymocks


I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

Published: August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Heidi McKinnon
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The search for a true friend is something everyone can relate to – from the very young to the very old.

“I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?”

A hilarious story about the search for friendship and belonging… and maybe a little bit about the importance of impulse control… 

I was intrigued by the title and by the end of the book I was intrigued by the story as well. With no explanation for why or how the friend was eaten, the story follows the creature as he tries to find a new friend, not sure he will ever find another. What if he truly had eaten his only friend?

I liked the illustrations. The dark pages against the single large, colourful characters, it worked to its advantage and gave a sense of being in space or at least somewhere on another planet. This is unconfirmed, but it is logical based on the illustrations to think of the creature as an alien or space creature of some kind. McKinnon has done a great job with her illustrations. I found this book because it was on the 2018 CBCA Shortlist and shortlisted for the Crichton Award for New Illustrators. McKinnon didn’t win but for a new illustrator she has done a great job.

There is not a lot to unpack here. The creature goes around to everyone he can find and asks them if he will be his friend. Some of the responses are quite funny and the straightforwardness works to the story’s advantage. For a story that is not that complicated it managed to surprise me and delight me. It’s a little absurd and nothing makes sense and there is no reason but that is what makes it great. I don’t need an answer I just like a clever story and this is a clever story.

You can purchase I Just Ate My Friend via the following

QBD | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Image result for cbca shortlist logo

AWW 2018 August Update

In a small miracle I’ve managed to exceed my 25 book goal. I lapsed a tad in my Aussie books, especially the women, after my first update so I haven’t exceeded it by much, but I will take these small victories. I hope to try a bit harder for the next update and focus a bit more on the Aussie books and try and see how many I can read before my next update. I got too caught up in all the other books I found, the problem is there’s so many good ones that come across my path I get lured into their delightfulness. Another miracle is that all of these books have reviews coming and I will update this post with links when they go live.

 

 

AWW18 BOOKS Apr-Aug

 

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green – Review

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Review

Heart Beat by Belinda Williams – Review

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Review

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – Review

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah – Review

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody – Review

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G Drews – Review

Chasing Odysseus by S. D. Gentill – Review

A Walk in the Bush by Gwyn Perkins – Review

The Great Rabbit Chase by Freya Blackwood – Review

 

AWW18 TOTAL

Read: 26/25

Reviewed: 18/15

 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Published: 1st April 2013 (print)/1st April, 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Perennial /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 416/11 Discs (13 hours 49 minutes)
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

Note: Possible spoilers ahead, maybe

Liane Moriarty and I have a strange relationship. My affection for her books can vary depending on the story and this is one of those books were my affection was waning. Which is a shame because I can see what Moriarty was trying to achieve, I just felt that it could have been a lot stronger in the execution.

There are multiple characters telling this story, their stories happening side by side until their threads start coming together. In terms of style, the writing is clever, small discoveries and snippets of information means this mystery is a slow reveal and characters know more than the reader so all we can do is wait until their secrets are revealed even further. The contents of the letter are the driving mystery in the start and when the contents finally come to light, the consequences unfold through the remaining chapters.

We get to know these three women that this letter will affect and as we delve deeper into their own personal lives and histories there is a lot to take in. The connecting moment between the three takes a while, and in that time you have to retain a lot of information and remember who’s who and where they fit in connection to others. Cecelia still felt like the main player in this story, though the others get their share on the page, whether it was because it all came back to Cecilia’s family it felt that way, or maybe I just liked Cecilia’s character and her story stuck with more than the others.

There is an element of tragedy and certainly an irony which would suit any crime show these days. I found it was predictable and drawn out without the real interest to sustain it, but I admired Moriarty’s attempt to create such a story and to invoke these dilemmas from Cecilia and the other characters. The question of what would you do if faced with these decisions was the goal for the reader, to make us think and challenge our own conceptions. I can’t say I thought about what I would do but I disagreed with the ending so maybe that’s my answer?

I won’t go into detail but there was a line in here that hit me that I need to take about. I was listening to this as an audiobook and even after the secrets have been revealed and it’s gone in a few unexpected and expected ways, there came the line “I loved her, then she laughed at me”. This line stood out to me so much, because it’s The Line. The Margaret Atwood line about men laughing and women being murdered. Moriarty’s book didn’t seem to have the right severity to have a line like this in it. It was filled with grief and drama, but it never seemed severe.  That is the tone this book could have gone with, this tragedy and secrecy could have been made to have a greater impact, instead it falls flat and with an ending which I couldn’t get behind and one I felt was a strange solution to the characters we’d been following for the entirety of this book.

You can purchase The Husband’s Secret via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Published: 8th August 2017 (print) / 2nd January 2018 (audio)Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hachette Australia / W F Howes
Pages: 418 / 12 hrs and 44 mins
Narrator: Fiona Macleod
Format:
 Audio
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Historical
★   ★   ★  – 3.5 Stars

Books bring them together – but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author

In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.

Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe’s designated successor but he has left the Territory – for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother’s place. But that doesn’t stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child.

With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben’s English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.

Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick.

Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.

Five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia’s Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but I know it wasn’t what I got. The title leads you to believe there is a bigger focus on the bookclub, but it is a small part really. It does kick start the events in the novel essentially. It brings together these five women and starts to interlock their lives over the next few years. So it does make sense if you think of it like that.

As a whole I enjoyed it. I liked the old fashioned rural aspect to it and in a way you forgot it was set in the 1970s. So much of it just spoke of country life and female friendships that the era was no barrier. When I remembered that it was set in the past it made me think a bit more about it. Green shows us what it was like on a farm back then, how isolating it was when there were no internet to connect properties to the outside world, when flying or driving for an hour got you to the nearest town and other human contact. Of course the same is true for rural properties now, but there is a lot of focus on how when the weather turned, you really could be cut off from the outside world for months with no news or contact.

The characters are what really drive this story. Each of their lives and the conflicts within them are the focus of the story and are what keep you reading; finding out if they’ll be ok, whether their anxieties will be relieved and how their lives will change through the course of their actions and the actions of others. Their friendship is inspiring and Green uses their bookclub catch ups to connect their stories and enhance these friendship connections further.

Green balances the story nicely between making it an easy read, and making it realistic. There are dramas and heartbreak, social issues and personal triumph and tragedy. It was warm and showed the importance and value of female friendships but had complexities and anguish as well. Crossing over multiple years helps explore these issues as well. Green jumps ahead in time, using the wet and dry seasons as a timeframe as a lot of the story takes place of Fairvale and often skipping over months. I liked that the story covers so much ground because it allows the story to be told properly, never really feeling drawn out or slow, and adding that realism factor and preventing Green from rushing any of the emotional journey to fit into a shorter timeframe.

One thing that stood out was that I did think it ended very abruptly. There was a sense of wrapping up and Green does impart a concluding style to her writing, but when it did end, I was a bit surprised. There are a few quick fixes and easy solutions which felt jarring and strange, often coming from nowhere and feeling out of place, even for the 1980s. It was also strange having gone through a whole book of well laid out storyline only to have a fast resolution it was a noticeable difference.

The historical connections are there with a list of key events for each passing year listed breaking up the novel, another thing that helps demonstrate the passing of time. But they play such a little part in the grand scheme of things that it was easy to forget that this was set in the past.

I’m glad I picked up this book even if I’m still in two minds about the level of my enjoyment. I think Green has done a wonderful thing with her writing because I could easily see this being a very literary novel but she has managed to keep it a normal story but weaving in dramas and that raise it above being a light hearted and fluffy read as well.

You can purchase The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository | Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

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