Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Published: 4th December 1984 (print)/15th September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 208/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Kate Hood
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

1478198Distraught over her parents’ separation, Abigail follows a strange child called Beatie Bow and time slips back a hundred years where she becomes involved with an Australian shopkeeper’s family.

I was unsure what to expect from this, I’d heard great things about this Aussie classic and since it was reasonably short I was intrigued. I enjoyed the story from the start, I liked how Abigail is defiant and independent, and I loved the relationship she had with her mother.

I was quite drawn into the story by the end, it feels like a longer story than it is and time stretches on but does not drag. Park has done a great job mixing the time periods and blending the historical with the contemporary. Despite being published in 1980, there is a wonderful 70s vibe through this story because it is the time of the women’s liberation movement and this comes across in the dialogue between Abigail and her mother. Limiting minor spoilers I loved how fiercely Abigail is trying to reason with her mother over her relationship with her father. It gave a wonderfully modern feel to the story and I think Park does a great job satisfying both parties with how she handles the situation.

I was surprised by the ending but Park makes this work in how she loops it back to the earlier story. It subjects your expectations and keeps a little of the magic alive, certainly giving a satisfactory feel as a reader as we too have become attached to these figures of history as we spend time with them as well.

Kate Hood does a great job as narrator. Her use of accents makes each character stand out, though Park’s writing does that well enough as it is, with each time period represented through dialogue, language and descriptions.

The historical aspect brings to light a side of Sydney I hadn’t thought about before. The reign of Queen Victoria and the fact Australia is still reasonably new are charming factors, and Park shows us a little of how life was during that time. I understood how Park makes it sound rather peaceful and fulfilling, while also showing the hardships. The balance between the current times and the olden days is surely the perfect way to live and seeing Abigail come to that realisation was great.

For a time before young adult books were really a thing, this is a good coming of age story that fills in the gaps between kids and teens, for those early years before becoming a fully-fledged teenager and are still trying to navigate growing up and moving on from childhood.

You can purchase Playing Beatie Bow via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The world misses its favourite unicorn, but Thelma is reluctant to don her horn and sparkles again. However, with the support of her best friend Otis, she realises the importance of spreading love and joy — no matter what people think.

This is a great sequel because not only does it address Thelma’s ongoing desire to still be a unicorn and the apprehension she has given her experience last time, but it also solves the question about what the rest of the world did when their favourite unicorn suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.

Otis is back being Thelma’s number one fan and he is a great sounding board for what Thelma should do. He has a bigger role in this one and he is adorable in his love and affection for Thelma.

The argument Blabey makes is an interesting one. What did it matter that she wasn’t a real unicorn? She made people happy and isn’t making people happy a good thing? He balances it out though and Thelma has learnt from her past experiences because while she is scared, Otis grounds her and she remembers to also be herself, they can love her for being her.

Blabley great rhymes are back and I love how he uses the pages and the illustrations to work together in telling the story. There’s anticipation and suspense as you turn the pages, and the rhyming makes sense and with the right rhythm can be read with a nice flow.

The illustrations are big and bold with a lot of full pages and colour that stand out. There’s a few small, fun details too which are nice in the background. One thing Blabey can’t seem to decide on is whether Otis and Thelma wear clothes because seeing it switch from page to page is hilarious.

There is a pop culture reference in there which I get, but it was weird, but I can see people loving it. I think it was the accompanying illustration that weirded me out more than the eye rolling reference but I can’t complain because it’s a kids book after all.

There is a nicer message in this story because Thelma gets to keep being who she loves and she has found a balance in her life with a great support system around her. Otis and Thelma are an adorable pair and Blabey beautiful skirts around whether they are just friends or have gone further. I like he left it vague and I love that he has made a story where he shows Thelma’s dreams are indeed possible with the right kind of attitude and support.

You can purchase The Return of Thelma the Unicorn via the following

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Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st February 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Thelma is an ordinary pony who longs to be more. Thelma dreams of being a glamorous unicorn. Then in a rare pink and glitter-filled moment of fate, Thelma’s wish comes true. I am special now, she cried out loud. And so, a star was born…

This is a fun story about fame and living your dreams but also about being yourself. Thelma dreams of being a unicorn and through a few fortunate actions her wish is granted. I loved how there’s a wonderful unintended explanation for Thelma becoming a unicorn. A fortunate accident which springboards her fame that is both plausible and silly.

There are many great parts to this story; Otis being supportive of Thelma when she is just a pony, her own realisation that fame may not be all it is cracked up to be, and the fact that she might be happier just being herself is a positive lesson.

This writing has a wonderful rhythm and as you read you get caught up in the creative rhymes and it pushes you along. The text is simple and has a few styled words for emphasis, and it moves around the page to work with the illustrations a little better.

Blabey’s illustrations are quite fun. They are realistic but have a quirkiness to them, helped along by the silly nature of the story. I liked the design of Thelma, it played into her feeling plain, and she doesn’t start out as a standard looking horse but a simple looking pony.

There’s a wonderful message about the troubles and downside of fame which is important, and it shows readers that getting what you want isn’t always the best thing. Blabey doesn’t press the message though, the fun story of Thelma is the focus and the emphasis is on what she learns about herself and her own life.

You can purchase Thelma the Unicorn via the following

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Every Time He Dies by Tara East

Published: 5th November 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 477
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal/Crime
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Daphne Lawrence is haunted. Two years ago, her fiancé died in a terrible accident, her mother passed away from cancer and she stopped speaking to her father. As an embalmer, Daff is used to the company of dead people, but she isn’t used to them talking back. In fact, Daff isn’t used to anything that could be considered woo-woo including, but not limited to: psychics, crystal, meditation, tarot cards, vision quests and coincidences. Too bad that’s everything she’s experiencing.

Daff is forced to confront her own long ignored grief when she discovers a haunted watch buried in the sand at Golden Beach. The problem is, her ghost has no memory of his former life or how he died.

As Daff seeks to discover the spectre’s identity, dangerous truths and hidden secrets are revealed. Soon, she finds herself in the middle of an on-going homicide investigation led by Detective Sergeant Jon Lawrence, her father. A story about grief, time and identity, Every Time He Dies will leave you wondering whether our dearly beloveds ever really depart.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

East has created a captivating and engaging story that brings together humour, love, family, and a little bit of the unknown. Told from dual perspectives we get to see Daphne’s life and the perspective of her estranged father, Detective Lawrence, on the cusp of his retirement from the force with an ongoing battle against old adversaries. Daphne on the other hand, is still coming to terms with, and in a way running from, her own grief after her fiancé Tom dies.

The structure of the story is done incredibly well because East leads us into the story providing detailed yet simple backgrounds about characters and situations, but then also throws us into the unexpected and uses these new situations to slowly pull out further detail making a well-rounded and beautifully complicated story.

I loved how we are introduced to this new phenomenon of Daphne’s and her realisation she can see a ghost. That first encounter was wonderful and the ideal draw card to get you intrigued into the supernatural aspect of this story and with a realism and humour that stays through the whole narrative. East’s descriptions are vivid and I could picture every scene as if it were playing out in front of me. From the start I fell comfortably into this narrative and it felt believable, even with the supernatural elements East anchors it in reality and possibility with a touch of the unknown but ever possible.

The characters are complicated and have deep personal issues and worries but East balances it perfectly and while there are ongoing references and emotional moments, it never felt over the top or overly dramatic. The emotions of these characters comes and goes at natural intervals, often with realistic and believable prompts and it is a great example how the death of a loved one never really leaves you no matter how much time has passed.

The dialogue is natural which was a huge plus for me. There is emotion and frustration, cheek and humour but it felt like conversations people actually had. The voices were great too because they are distinct and each character became their own person. One thing that impressed me was that East captures the detective voice so well without being stereotypical and cleverly manages to shift it between policeman and father and still make it feel like the same person. I believed Lawrence to be an aging cop, on the brink of retirement, still wanting to do his job but also able to see how much things have changed in his time on the force.

I liked Daff as a character too. She was grieving but trying to push the pain down, and East shows us the hurt is still there but she also wants to move on with her life. Even Liam who didn’t remember his own name or who had no memory of his life was a character of depth. I fell in love with him almost immediately and he and Daphne make a great pair. His personality shone through and his interactions with Daphne were some of my favourite parts of the story.

I loved this story from start to finish; East grabs your attention straight away with one storyline but then manages to pull you in further and hooks you with two others. It is most definitely a story about love and family, but it’s also about ghosts and the mystical and a fascinating police procedural with bikies and murder which becomes wonderfully and complicatedly intertwined as these things often do.

You can purchase Every Time He Dies via the following

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Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Published: 1st May 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Black Dog Books
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer. Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it.

This has been on my TBR list for ever and I am glad I got to pick it up because I read it in one sitting. I was taken on a fascinating and insightful journey and I am glad Nevo told their story because I think the reflection, the uncertainty, the changes and the messages in the book are something that everyone should read. Some experiences are universal but some are beautifully unique and allow us a brief, edited, yet honest glance at the lives of others.

I did not expect to be crying like a baby at the end of it but that is where I found myself. Even though I have not gone on the exact same journey as Nevo I still felt and related to a lot of what they had experienced and those final pages (no spoilers), but they hit hard and they hit deep which I was well unprepared for.

Nevo’s story isn’t here to be a guide or instruction manual; it is an emotional and thoughtful reflection on their life and at the time being only twenty years old it is a life where a lot has happened. No doubt their experiences have helped make this book one that provides great insight about what finding yourself means, and that you are constantly evolving and changing as you grow and have new experiences.

I don’t think you can read Nevo’s story and see their journey as a definitive one size fits all example of the non-binary queer, Nevo themselves acknowledges they have taken an unexpected path and had many labels attributed to them and identified with. I love that their approach boils down to ‘I am just me’. I think everyone needs to read this and realise that everyone has a different journey and that is ok, and still being uncertain about yourself and what you want is ok too.

I can certainly understand how some of the people in Nevo’s life may feel but not only is it none of their business, but I think you also see their love for Nevo and how their journey is also one everyone around them has gone on too which leave marks. People are only human but I’m glad Nevo has good people around them and as they continue to grow and change however they see fit, that there is a support network.

There is a lot of power in Nevo’s voice as it covers a range of controversial and important topics like religion, gender labels and discrimination, transitioning, the safe-schools program, family, misogyny, not to mention anxiety and mental health. Over their twenty years Nevo has lived a life and now in this autobiography we get to understand the pain, struggles, and passion that makes Nevo’s voice such a powerful one today.

You can purchase Finding Nevo via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

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