The Easter Bunny’s Helpers by Anne Mangan

Published: 1st March 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Illustrator: Tamsin Ainslie
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

From the author of TRUE BLUE SANTA and THE GREATEST MOTHER’S DAY OF ALL, comes a delightful Australian book for Easter.

The Easter Bunny needs help delivering the Easter eggs this year and who better to help him than some Australian animals?

This story puts an Australian touch to Easter and highlights all the wonderful things you can do during Easter time. The Easter Bunny is looking for helpers and each of the Australian animals do their best to try and impress.

The narrative is told in basic rhyme, easy to pick up the rhythm and keep it going, even if you pause to look at the fantastic illustrations from Ainslie. It is a bit wordy but nothing too complicated. I think the rhyme might have benefited from better formatting because some lines felt a bit long.

Each animal uses their skills to help the bunny. I found it so adorable than both koala and kangaroo use their pouches to carry eggs. It is expected of a kangaroo in pop culture but I was impressed Ainslie included koala’s as well.

The illustrations are lovely oil paintings, cute representations of our national animals. There is a lot of detail in the scenes but it’s also focused enough on the story that there are no extra, unnecessary distractions.

The story is sweet and the wonderful message about helping out is clear but not openly directed to the reader. It’s a cute book for the holiday with a great Australian focus that can show off our unique wildlife.

You can purchase The Easter Bunny’s Helpers via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

AWW 2019 Update: Jan-Mar

March has ended which marks the first quarter of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. As I mentioned in my starting post I am aiming for 30 this year and I am going really well looking at the numbers but also feel like I could be doing better since so many of these books are picture books. I am not deterred, however, I will use this pit stop as a boost and it gives me a goal to strive for in the next quarter. It’s not only picture books though, I have read a range of books by a variety of women so far with non fiction and fiction thrown into the mix.

My reviews are fairing a lot better, a lot of these books have reviews scheduled to post in the coming weeks so I will update their links on the next update. For now though, it’s a start and definitely a motivator for a better number next quarter. I can already see my goal being raised so that’s a nice bonus.

AWW19 BOOKS Jan-Mar

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Review

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – Review

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer – Review

It’s Not Scribble to Me by Kate Ritchie

December’s Wish by Karly Lane – Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachel Johns – Review

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

It’s A Long Way to the Shop by Heidi McKinnon

Did You Take the B from my _ook? by Beck and Matt Stanton

Millie Loves Ants by Jackie French

Sorry Day by Coral Vass

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney

The Easter Bunny’s Helpers by Ann Mangan

We Love School by Lucie Billingsley

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Austin Sheehan

 

AWW19 TOTAL

Read: 19/30

Reviewed: 5/20

 

December’s Wish by Karly Lane

Published: 7th November 2013
Publisher:
Createspace
Pages: 182
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance Novella
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Christmas Creek is a small town struggling to stay alive but December Doyle has a plan that will breathe life back into the rural community once more.

Seth Hunter holds nothing but contempt for Christmas Creek.

After being framed and sent to jail in his youth, he returns to town a wealthy businessman with plans of his own for the town… he plans to destroy it along with everyone that ever looked down on him, including, December’s father, Jack Doyle.

Revenge brought him back, but he soon discovers that old insecurities die hard in a place that holds so many painful memories, and all the years he’d spent orchestrating his big plan hadn’t taken into account that December still owned his heart.

A story of lies, betrayal and revenge in the Australian high country. 

This is an easy read, not quite the tale of lies and revenge I was expecting and my second try at a Karly Lane story. I picked this up because I needed a Christmas story for bookclub and it was short. It wasn’t a terrible read, it is idealistic and what these novellas are: quick stories about why two people can’t be together overcoming those reasons and being together.

With novellas there is always a lot to cram in if you want to fully understand the characters involved but there was a balance between understanding who these people are and what their stories were. The Christmas theme was curious. December’s idea to make the town a tourist Christmas spot was on point for the story and very wholesome, even if it’s a little cheesy.

There is a mixture of flashbacks and present day story to show various points in the main two character’s lives. One thing that was frustrating was there was no distinction between these flashbacks and the present day. It is only there a few times but it was quite confusing for a moment thinking some things were happening in the present day. Even a page break or some formatting to clear up the confusion would be helpful.

Lane has done a decent job in giving a well-rounded understanding of these characters, even in such a short story. I liked Seth’s character even though I was perplexed by his reasons for being there. His own bitterness and spite towards the town is a fun thing to watch as he annoys everyone with his charm. His own pettiness is partly justified but also obviously deeply engrained if he is going to put this much effort into his “revenge”. December is a hard working woman who loves her town and doesn’t want to see it die. She is strong-willed and passionate and while she comes off a little innocent she is also a believer in doing the right thing.

If you are looking for an easy read with a nice happily ever after then this is a good place to start. There is charm and a slight naivety in December’s character but nothing overly off-putting. The Christmas theme was a bit cheesy but it has a small town charm as well.

December’s Wish is no longer in print

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns

Published: 23rd October 2017 (print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
October 23rd 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises/Wavesound Audio
Pages: 416/14 hrs and 30 mins
Narrator: Ulli Birve
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Mother: female parent of a child

Mum: the woman who nurtures, raises and loves a child

Radio host Harper Drummond lives for her career. Every day she meets fascinating people doing extraordinary things, but has begun to wonder whether there could be something more for her out there. She’s financially secure, happily married to Samuel and has a great group of friends — what more could she want? It’s only when she interviews one special couple that she starts to think about whether she could make a different kind of contribution.

Claire and Jasper Lombard are passionate about their thriving hot air balloon business and know they’re lucky to find such joy in their work and in each other. But while Jasper has accepted that he will never be a father, Claire has found it hard to come to terms with her infertility. She doesn’t want Jasper to regret choosing her over a child in the years to come. Is there a way to give themselves a real chance at being a happy family? Can they find someone who will give them the greatest gift? Or will it come at a greater cost?

From interesting and engaging beginnings there was promise in this story. The dual perspectives caught my attention and I was intrigued by the time jumps and seeing how Johns would being these separate lives together. But it is in bringing these two stories together when everything sweetens a bit too much. There is already a sweet romance, sickly sweet at times and a heartfelt story which Johns pushes even further.

For a subject this complicated, it sits oddly in your mind that there are no complications, no issues, everyone is lovely and likes each other instantly. As the story settles in and progresses I found it a tad predictable but it brought conflict and drama which had been lacking and a few unexpected surprises. I was curious how it would play out, eager to see if my own theories came into play. Unfortunately I was left disappointed as the second half sank back into the same plain tone it had before. The narrative was banal and there were longwinded conversations that seemed to draw out as characters covered every major theme and issue in full detail.

The further on I went I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was too nice, which seems strange to complain about. But it is. Too nice, too perfect. Too many things fall perfectly into place and while I understand it is a heart-warming and emotional story, it doesn’t actually have any engaging emotional complexity beyond the obvious. Even the few twists appear to only cause a mild ripple. For each surprising moment there were two predictable ones, making the balance a strange reading experience.

There are a lot of explanations provided through character thoughts and conversations. The process of egg donation and hospital procedures are recounted in full detail, something which isn’t uninteresting, but I felt like it took up too much time to outline every little part when it could easily have been summarised or stated in a sentence not a few paragraphs. As a subject not a lot of people probably know about I can see why John’s included it, but a more refined approach and less info dump might be have been better, even if she did try to weave it into dialogue.

The writing itself is repetitive in a few phrases and emotions. Despite the emotional conflictions present, they are rehashed over and over to the point it doesn’t feel like real indecision or emotion. It loses the poignancy when the same things are repeated because we’ve already been told these facts and telling us again, often in the same way with the same phrasing doesn’t reinforce the emotional components, it chip away at your patience.

If you are looking for a novel that is full of twists and strong drama this may not be the novel for you. There is an emotional draw-card, one I cannot personally connect to, but that didn’t engage me enough to look past the slow story and the circumstances that made everything fall happily into place.

The epilogue was the final nail in the coffin. From the first words I actually groaned and the longer it went on the more picturesque it became. I can see what Johns was trying to do; it just wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted after dealing with the rest of the book. It upholds the clichés (something Johns points out a lot actually in this book so she knows they are there), and concludes this book on the idyllic tone it started with. I hope this book is enjoyable to some people, I hope it is inspirational, comforting, or just interesting. But I’m a little saddened that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I hoped I would.

You can purchase The Greatest Gift via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

Published: 24th April 2017 (print)/24th May 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 ABC Books AU/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 352/10 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Tracey Spicer
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Memoir
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

From bogan to boned and beyond – a full-frontal ‘femoir’ by one of Australia’s best-loved journalists

Tracey Spicer was always the good girl. Inspired by Jana Wendt, this bogan from the Brisbane backwaters waded through the ‘cruel and shallow money trench’ of television to land a dream role: national news anchor for a commercial network. But the journalist found that, for women, TV was less about news and more about helmet hair, masses of makeup and fatuous fashion, in an era when bosses told you to ‘stick your tits out’, ‘lose two inches off your arse’, and ‘quit before you’re too long in the tooth’. Still, Tracey plastered on a smile and did what she was told. But when she was sacked by email after having a baby, this good girl turned ‘bad’, taking legal action against the network for pregnancy discrimination. In this frank and funny ‘femoir’ – part memoir, part manifesto – Tracey ‘sheconstructs’ the structural barriers facing women in the workplace and encourages us all to shake off the shackles of the good girl. 

I am a couple years behind the hype with this book but I am glad I finally got to read it. I picked this up because I was intrigued by the controversy Spicer apparently caused and I wanted to see what happens when the good girl said no more. It wasn’t quite the burn down the establishment that I had hoped, but it was an interesting read all the same.

The beginning has a lot of clunky jokes which probably flow better when read to yourself instead of read aloud, but you get through them and it settles into more of a story. Having Spicer read it herself means she gets to include her own inflections and express her humour as she intended which is good because as slightly jarring as it was to hear, I fear it would have been worse having someone else try and do it.

From Spicer’s early life growing up you see the sexism and the abuse that many girls experienced at that age and how overt it was at the time. Spicer’s “bogan” beginnings was a surprise to me and it certainly explains a few things and how she’s written this memoir.

One thing I noticed early on is that Spicer doesn’t seem to know who her audience is. She makes jokes about using encyclopaedias before the internet and explains obvious references in a slightly condescending manner like she is addressing children or teenagers, ignorant teenagers at that, whom I doubt are her main readership. I don’t doubt most of her readership are people over 30 who have enough sense to know that people used encyclopaedias before the internet without needing the patronising explanation. This happens a fair bit as she explains things that while even at my age I might not have been alive to experience, I still understand.

There are themes much like Fight Like A Girl as Spicer takes us on a journey through the decades as a women, a teenager and a girl, exposed to sexism, abuse, and disrespect in her life and workplace. Her own sarcasm and opinions adding some nice flare as she mocks the industry and those in it with humour and disdain.

I waited through the first half of the book, which was not uninteresting, but not entirely engaging either waiting for The Moment. There is a chance this was overhyped in my own head, but I thought that suing for discrimination was going to be a more defining moment, the “good girl turns bad” moment. In the end it comes and goes a little lacklustre and after I was expecting it to be the climax that shifted this story into a fight for equality and the moment Tracey said “no more!”, it kind of wasn’t.

Seeing women take down the patriarchy is my thing and I enjoyed Spicer’s stories, amazed but not shocked at her early life experiences. I waited the whole book though while she kept her temper, held her tongue, but the Event I wanted for is glossed over, wrapped up into barely nothing. I think we got more about her moving house then we did about her confrontation with her network. I understand non-disclosure agreements and terms of settlements, but I still think this could have been explored a little more, considering it was such a huge event, something I had been expecting to be a climax of this book based on the blurb.

After that it becomes a list of events about what happens after the settlement and what Spicer is doing now. This is after all an autobiography of Tracey Spicer, not a call to arms. But Spicer herself seems to build up your expectations as you read, constantly referencing the Good Girl and when she finally changes sides, it falls flat on the page, no matter how monumental it was in reality.

However, if you set aside that my expectations were skewed or I read too much into it, the book is still interesting and not unimportant. There is feminism and anger at the patriarchy but no real solutions. Unlike Clementine Ford who tells us how to burn down the establishment, Spicer keeps pointing out the inequality but doesn’t help us find a solution.

As a look at her life and her career it is interesting and shows you the behind the scenes and bones of her career. She strips away the flare and the lights of the television industry and she shows off her amazing achievements. I think this should be what is taken from the book, a great career from a great woman.

You can purchase The Good Girl Stripped Bare via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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