Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

Published: 19th March 2018 (print)/25 April 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia/Wavesound Audio
Pages: 448/11 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Louise Crawford
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

Poppy’s world has been tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend. At least Annalise is on her side. Her new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids, so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent just an little about smug mummies’ privileges at work.

Meanwhile, their colleague Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one this decade and she’s heartily sick of being judged by women at the office as well as stay-at-home mums. Then Poppy and Annalise’s group takes on a life of its own and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafés become battlegrounds, playgrounds become war zones and offices have never been so divided.

A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiralling out of control. Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own.

This is a fascinating contemporary story about social media, modern parenting and the vindictiveness people are capable of when they feel justified in their actions. One thing I loved was Moriarty’s choice of narrators. Through the first few parts it alternates between Poppy and Annalise but when we get to see a third party, through Frankie’s eyes, I was amazed how I suddenly saw the previous events through different eyes. I could see how horrible Poppy and Annalise were being and it was a fascinating example of untrusty narrators and how perspective changes intent and meaning.

There are surprises and stereotypes that take sharp turns just when you think you know what is going on, a skill Moriarty is quite good at. She brings new twists to old clichés and I loved that it brought more depth and life to this story and the characters as a result. There is no relying on well-known tropes but Moriarty does play on them to her own advantage. In doing so it adds another level to the narrative and it reinforces the notion that people’s lives are complicated and there are a lot of different lives being led with problems of their own. Jumping to obvious conclusions is detrimental and damaging and it was fantastic to be drawn in myself and have it thrown back at me for my own assumptions. If you pay attention there are hints and clues that come to light after your whole viewpoint has shifted. This muddies the waters as more information doesn’t necessarily make things clearer but it definitely made it more intriguing.

The concept of having children versus remaining childless is confusingly a point of contention. This was something I was fascinated to read about because clearly there is an entire world of contention that I have been cut out of. The experiences described in this book will no doubt be familiar to some, certainly on both sides, and while I know of the general judgements and opinions, seeing it play out before me with Facebook groups and battles between mums and non-mums was a curious insight into a world I have never come across before. I’m hoping Moriarty took creative licencing with some of this because it was wild reading about these Facebook groups and what some of these women do.

Moriarty lays forth a story that has mystery and deceit, not to mention drama and emotional torment in her usual style. Crawford does a great job as narrator too. Her tone and pacing was great and didn’t distract from the story in any way. Overall it is engaging, captivating, a definite reflection of the modern parenting experience as well as the experiences of those left out of the conversation.

You can purchase Those Other Women via the following

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My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

book-bite

Published: 1 February 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

 

This isn’t just about me. It’s also about the other people in my life – my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.

Jonsberg captures Candice’s uniqueness remarkably well. With her voice and actions we get an insight into who she is and the kind of life she leads. She has a unique way of thinking and acting, but while she is odd in some people’s eyes, her heart has good intentions.

The premise of detailing her story through the A-Z school assignment is a clever solution as it allows Candice’s story to be told in full and you can see the interconnecting actions. Jonsberg explores her family situation and the complex history naturally and in due course, we also get to see her interactions with those around her like her friends and fellow classmates.

Underneath the humour and the quirkiness there is a powerful story about family and forgiveness, and the healing nature of love. Candice is a powerful force in her own right and it is cringe-worthy at times when you read about what she is doing, but understanding she is twelve years old, with her own way of thinking, sometimes that is just what is called for.

You can purchase My Life as an Alphabet via the following

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Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp

Published: 1st June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

I love the titles of Anthologies because it is fascinating to see how a theme or concept is explored through so many different voices and narrative styles. For this one, not only are there queer stories, but these stories embody everything that kindred means and stands for.

These stories are not about finding love, or coming out, they are about finding someone who is like you, who knows you and understands you, if there is romance in there, great. But there are many wonderful stories about kids finding another person who understands them, and someone who, whether they know it consciously or not, are supporting them.

Not all characters in this are teens, a couple characters are in their 30s that I can best estimate, others aren’t specified, but their stories are still valid. There are a range of genres and each author has put up a story that encapsulates the theme. Kindred can mean so many things and seeing how each writer has interpreted this is wonderful.

While these are queer stories, they are also #LoveOzYA as well which showcases the great talent our LGBTQIA YA authors have. There are household names and there are new talents I didn’t know and getting some new names added to my #LoveOzYA repertoire is always a bonus. Some of these stories found their own place with me and I particularly loved Waiting by Jen Wilde. I saw myself in that story and it is proof that these stories are for everyone to enjoy.

The range of genres and representation was incredible. There’s representation from so many different cultures and voices and shows why representation matters. The tone across the stories were so different, form light hearted to dystopian, with a few futuristic and fantastic thrown in. There are some tough subjects and harsh realities but I found it refreshing because these authors don’t shy away from the realities of the world but they also treat it with a powerful care and respect.

It was a great decision to include Benjamin Law’s story at the end because while it is a story, it also acts like an essay and it is a thought provoking one that (hopefully) makes people question the things that they may do or say around LGBTQIA people.

With any anthology I am always so in awe of how one theme could be interpreted by so many different genres and approaches. It is a fantastic reminder that no matter what circumstance, no matter what reality, there is a commonality between people and the emotions and desires are universal.

You can purchase Kindred: 12 #LoveOzYA Stories via the following

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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

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47 Degrees by Justin D’Ath

Published: 8th January 8th 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Zeelie wonders if they’re in danger. 

When temperatures soar to 47 degrees one hot summer day, 12-year-old Zeelie hopes the neraby bushfires everyone’s talking about aren’t heading towards her family’s new home. What will they do if the wind changes direction? What about their belongings and their beloved pets? And why hasn’t her mum and brother returned from Melbourne? 
Nothing can prepare Zeelie for what’s to come.

I will be 100% honest and say I read the first quarter and then I was experiencing so much anxiety about this book I skimmed the rest of it, reading a few full pages here and there to get to the end. I could not handle this story. I’m trying to work out if now I know how it plays out I could go back and read it again but I’m not sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it is so stressful to read. Whether it is because I’m Australian and have seen the damage fires have done I was imagining the worst anytime anyone got in a car, on a road, near a fire; it just set off Worst Case Scenarios in my head. But despite that, I thought it was such a wonderful way to discuss the events of what happened on Black Saturday and through the eyes of Zeelie who is at the cusp of childhood and being a teenager; she is growing up but still has trouble handling the scope of what is happening around her.

Having the experience through Zeelie’s eyes shows the rapid nature of fires, how quickly plans change and go awry. Black Saturday was Victoria’s worst fire and seeing the trouble Zeelie and her dad get into are important experiences to understand, even if this story is fictional, it rings true to so many real life situations that people have experienced. We get to see how other communities and families are affected and Zeelie’s own worries about her family that she can’t contact adds an extra level of suspense. These are all real situations though as phone lines and power limit communication, closed roads and no news can add to the already stressful situations. D’Ath never makes it too overly dramatic, but the realities are there – well, as much as they can be for a children’s book.

D’Ath captures Zeelie’s voice beautifully. I saw her naivety but her confusion, but also her bravery, and when she is asked to pack up things to take with them I understood the trouble she had in deciding what was important to take for people. Her character is the epitome of someone her age. She expresses her love for her family but also her frustration about her brother and their relationship. I understood her uncertainty when she has moments where she first starts to doubt her dad, doubt his decisions; that unwavering trust of childhood starting to falter as she witnesses the things around her. I think it gives great power in allowing a kid of Zeelie’s age show anger at her parents, and frustration at their decisions and her own lack of power in a lot of cases.

Let it be noted that all the dogs are ok by the end of it. I actually texted a friend who’d read it the second I thought it could go otherwise because I was not prepared to read that so you don’t have to worry about anything happening to them. There is other animal death but it is unseen or has limited detail.

One thing I found impressive was how D’Arth captures the experience of a bushfire in its entirety. From start to finish you see the early warnings, the evacuations, the road closures and the devastation. D’Arth makes sure not to leave it there as you also see the healing and the community support of this kind of disaster. Even if I didn’t already know, this story helps you understand how fast bushfires can start and spread, as well as the damage they can cause. I am glad I pushed through my anxiety to finish the story because it was good to see the full circle and Zeelie’s story is one that covers a lot of important situations and experiences.

You can purchase 47 Degrees via the following

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