March 2019 Reading

March has certainly been a varied reading experience from reading about behind the scenes of being a teacher, to learning how Tim Waterstone established Waterstones (which by the way, now living in Australia I miss), to learning about Kangaroo Island.

Some of the books, I have blogged about, some are still a working process – I am a little behind at the moment, but they will come. All in all, I have had a pretty good March read, and I would recommend all of the books pictured above. And yes, I am making my way through the Women’s Long-list Prize too, I am not doing too badly. Once I have finished reading the Long-list I will share my thoughts. I think it is going to be a tough year to decide on the winner, so I will be intrigued what makes the short-list.

March 2019 Reading List

  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
  • Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss
  • The Outsider – Frederick Forsyth
  • Bottled Goods – Sophie Van Llewyn
  • The Pisces – Melissa Broder
  • Swan Song – Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
  • Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee
  • Teacher – Gabbie Stroud
  • The Face Pressed Against A Window – Tim Waterstone
  • Heart of the Grass Tree – Molly Murn

I think since moving to Australia, my eyes have been opened to some amazing Australian writers and books, that perhaps I would never had read or even contemplated picking up and I hope to feature them in this blog (of course, when I get round to writing the blog posts.)

 

Advertisements

March 2019 Book Haul

I am currently still waiting for all of my books to be sent from the UK, and to be honest I miss my book collection and having a choice. My husband made the mistake of asking me what I miss the most with moving to Australia and before I could answer, he knew I was going to say my books. But apparently, they will be delivered to my house within the next ten days or so, I cannot wait for us to be reunited.

Anyway, I have been having a bit of a spending splurge on books and these are a few I have recently purchased.

What I Like About Me – Jenna Guillaume

This book has been everywhere on social media, and I had to purchase a copy.

Here lies Maisie Martin, dead from embarrassment, aged sixteen.

The last thing Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.

Not when her dad is AWOL from Christmas and her best friend starts going out with the boy she’s always loved.

But Maisie’s got something to prove. And she’s not going to let anything or anyone – including herself – hold her back.

What I Like About Me is available here

A full review will be available in due course.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell

A book by Jen Campbell, I do not need to say anything else.

A John Cleese Twitter question (‘What is your pet peeve?), first sparked the Weird Things Customer Say in Bookshop Blog, which grew over three years into one bookseller’s collection of ridiculous conversations on the shop floor.

From ‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’ to the hunt for a paperback which could forecast the next year’s weather; and from ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses, please read me the first chapter’ to ‘Excuse me…is this book edible?’; here is the book for heroic booksellers and booklovers alike.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops is available here.

The Orchid Thief – Susan Orlean

I purchase two books by Susan, I purchased this one because I have a slight obsession about books about flowers or trees, not sure why.

A modern classic of personal journalist, The Orchid Thief is Susan’s wickedly funny, elegant, and captivating tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower- the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii – a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive male named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean – and the reader – will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion.

The Orchid Thief is available here

The Library Book – Susan Orlean

I have again seen this book everywhere and whilst I was purchasing The Orchid Thief, I thought why not get this one too.

After moving to Los Angeles, Susan became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986; who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries, Susan Orlean investigates the legendary fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives. She also reflects on her childhood experiences in libraries; studies arson and the long history of library fires; attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and re-examines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the library over thirty years ago. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books – and that they are needed now more than ever.

The Library Book is available here

The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

To be honest this book has been on my list to purchase since it was first released and now, I have finally purchase it and it has crept up my to be read pile, hopefully I will get to this soon.

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college student when she meets the woman who will shape her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant, has been a pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others. Hearing Faith speak for the first time, in a crowded campus chapel, Greer – misunderstood yet full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place – feels herself changed. And then astonishingly, Faith invites her to make something out of this new sense of purpose, with a career opportunity that leads her down the most exciting and rewarding path as it winds towards and away from her meant-to-be love story with high school sweetheart Cory and the future she had always imagined.

The Female Persuasion is available here

Last and certainly not least,

Love is Blind – William Boyd

Love William Boyd and will read pretty much anything he writes so this was a must purchase book.

When Brodie is offered a job managing a piano shop in Paris, he seizes the change to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father. There, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with Lika Blum – a beautiful Russian soprano. But as one century ebbs into another, a dark new chapter is about to unfold in Brodie’s life, one which will see him pursued across Europe by his love for Lika, and by its ultimately fatal consequences.

Love is Bind is available here

A full review of these books will be on the blog in due course.

The Book Ninja – Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja has been everywhere. And for good reason, if you like books about books this is a book for you.

We follow the story of Frankie Rose, who works in her best friends’ bookshop. Frankie used to be an author, but after experiencing bad reviews and basically being dropped by her publishers she is at a loss as to where to go and what to do. Oh, and her boyfriend who was doing very well, dumped her. I think all women go through what Frankie goes through and I hate this word, where you are at a “crossroads” in your life and need to make some decisions as to what you want to do.

Frankie’s best friend, Cat is addicted to different kind of exercise classes, such as K-Pop and tries to encourage Frankie to come to them with her. Cat is also pregnant, which causes drama in itself.

Frankie happens to meet her “Prince Charming” when she “accidentally” kisses Sunny, a customer. However, this kiss lead to more and you feel Frankie falling in love with him. It happens at the same time, Frankie embarks on an experiment to find love by simply leaving some of her favourite novels on trains with a message and her contact details in the hope that her true love finds the book and emails her.

Frankie is a bit of a book snob, she is not overly keen on Young Adult, which Sunny has a passion for. It seems that they both make attempt to educate one another about their book favorites.

The one quality I love about Cat is her encouragement to Frankie to return back to writing. Initially, Frankie seems reluctant, but starts up her blog about her plight to find love and her adventures on the train system with leaving her books and who will pick them up. This blog is funny, honest and ends up with a lot of people being interested and reading it. You do witness Frankie’s confidence growing with her writing, but writing a book is a big thing which she is not quite ready for.

We go through the trials and tribulation of finding love, through the love of books.

This book made me laugh, cry and cringe but most of all reminded me of all those classics that I need to re-read or have not read yet. I have a big list to get through now.

Frankie certainly bared all of her feelings and was an honest and meaningful character who was relatable. Cat was just simply a crazy, caring friend who we all have.

This book is a highly addictive read, and you simply get lost in the world of books, it’s a celebration of love and literature – who could ask for more.

About the Book

Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons.

Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person will do.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment.

Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams.

Enter Sunny, and one spontaneous kiss later, Frankie begins to fall for him. But there’s just one problem- Frankie is strictly a classics kind of gal and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Like really.

The Book Ninja is published through Simon & Schuster and is available here

Mini Book Haul

I love these minis from Penguin and Vintage. I have been collecting them over the last couple of years. They are ideal books for my bag and for when I can have a sneaky read when the children are distracted.

Vintage Minis

Freedom by Margaret Atwood

‘There is more than one kind of freedom’

Can we ever be wholly free? In this book of breathtaking imaginary leaps that conjure dystopias and magical islands, Margaret Atwood holds a mirror up on our own world. The reflection we are faced with, of men and women in prisons literal and metaphorical, is frightening, but it is also a call to arms to speak and to act to preserve our freedom while we still can. And in that, there is hope.

Eating by Nigella Lawson

‘In cooking, as in writing, you must please yourself to please others’

In this inspiring, witty and eminently sensible book, Nigella Lawson sets out a manifesto for how to cook (and eat) good food every day with a minimum of fuss. From basic roast chicken and pea risotto to white truffles and Turkish Delight figs, Nigella bring the joy back into the kitchen.

Marriage by Jane Austen

‘A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a-year. What a fine thing for our girls!’

Why do we est so much store by marriage? Jane Austen was fascinated by this question, subjecting it to her forensic eye and wonderfully ironic wit again and again. Here are stolen glances and nervous advances, meddling parents and self-importance cousins, society whispering and the fluttering hearts of young lovers. All of them have their own views and expectations of marriage, and Austen’s are the wisest of all.

If you would like to see more Vintage Minis, please click here

Penguin Minis

I have been again collecting these since they have been released and another two have joined the collection.

The Reckoning by Edith Wharton

‘If marriage was the slow life-long acquittal of a debt contracted in ignorance, then marriage was a crime against human nature.’

From the great writer of turn-of the century New York, two devastating portraits of lonely widowhood and an unconventional marriage.

It Was Snowing Butterflies by Charles Darwin

‘The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus……’

Exotic creatures and unexplored terrains populated Darwin’s account of the Beagle’s momentous voyage.

If you would like to find out other titles from Penguin Little Black Classics, please click here

A Gift For Dying – M. J Arlidge

This book in one word is “chilling”.

We follow the story of troubled teenager Kassie who has a “gift” for recognizing who is going to be dying next and she almost has visions about what is going to happen. Despite warning authorities or trying to warn the people herself, she is not believed because authorities just see her as a problem case. Which I do not doubt she is, she is a teenager with attitude and clearly has mental health problems. But I felt that Kassie just needed some stability and a regular person to go to, to listen to her or just be there for her and she saw that in Adam Brandt who is a forensic psychologist.

Adam we meet when the police call him to come and assess Kassie and he himself acknowledges that Kassie is a problem, but recognizes that by spending time with her and listening to her and taking the time he just maybe be able to move her on to her adulthood. Adam knows that everyone around Kassie including her mother have given up on her and just seem to be dragging her through to adulthood and then will just leave her to deal with her problems herself.

When Kassie initially reports this “gift” she has, Adam is a little skeptical but when she predicts the next death, he is either suspicious that she maybe part of the killing or she may be telling the truth and has a gift for being able to predict who is the next victim. He himself, has to justify to authorities that Kassie may not be insane, but this proves to be difficult. You worry that Kassie because she is such an integral part of the crime, tries to solve the crime herself, which is such a big thing when she is an incredibly young and vulnerable person who has little to no support from adults or people in authority.

The story is dark and chilling and we are aware and hear some narration from the serial killer themselves which is just haunting. Because who has been murdered it becomes not just a crime, but it has an impact on the media and politically. This in turn has an impact on the investigation and the extra pressure it puts on the police to catch and convict the killer before it gets out of hand.

It is very difficult to talk about this book too much, as with this type of book you just do not want to give spoilers away.

With regards the characters, I have to say I did not warm to Adam, I could not put my finger on it I just was not keen on him. Kassie I found to be strangely likable and charming, despite her problems. She just seemed to need some stability and positive role models to encourage and be there for her when she needed it and not judge her, because she would just run from that.

This is the first novel I have read by M.J Arlidge, which was an addictive and dark read. I have not really read anything like this before which is unique, I was not disappointed and will be certainly seeking out more books to read.

About the Book

Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, used to dealing with the most damaged members of society. But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift. With just one look, she can foresee when and how you will die.

Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But a serial killer is terrorizing the city. And only Kassie seems to know who his next victim will be.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her. But he doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove…….

A Gift For Dying is published by Michael Joseph and is available here

Big thanks to Compulsive Readers for arranging this book blog tour

My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation has been everywhere and is on the Wellcome Prize list for this year. I have heard mix reviews about it, predominately good but with a questionable response of why did I like this book. To be honest, once I started to read this book, I simply found it addictive and I could not and did not want to put it down.

We follow the story of a young woman’s journey to do exactly what it says on the cover her year of rest of relaxation. But this is just the title there is a lot more to the story and it explores some complex topics. Ottessa covers topics that are often shy away from such as mental illness, grief and loneliness. Initially, when I first started reading this book, I just thought like most that this is just a privileged woman having a moment, she is lucky she has her own apartment, plenty of money which means she does not need to work and she is just acting spoilt. However, when you read further it runs a lot deeper then that. You realise that money cannot buy you everything and she is coming to terms with the fact that people may deem she is lucky to have pretty much everything, but it is all material things.

I felt her loneliness, and during the book I just felt her sadness wash over me. She did not have any coping strategies, she has never really needed them when everyone else has done it for her. She didn’t have any strong role models to turn to or guide her, apart from a questionable psychiatrist who simply felt the problem could be resolved by over medicating her and ignoring what she was saying during their meetings.

‘I can’t blame Dr Tuttle for her terrible advice. I elected to be her patient, after all. She gave me everything I asked for, and I appreciated her for that. I’m sure there were others like her out there, but the ease with which I’d found her, and the immediate relief that her prescriptions provided, made me feel that I’d discovered a pharmaceutical shaman, a magnus, a sorcerer a sage.’

What I kept thinking was that she really needed a stable, supportive person who could normalize some of her uncertain and questionable behavior, but there was no one. Or no one she would accept in her life all she wanted to have is destructive “friends” or “professionals” in her life, it seemed that she was not quite ready to move on. All of her relationships were destructive and reflected her behavior and her mind-set.

We are taken on the drug fueled pathway of destruction and watch “friendships” come and go. I think this is where people do get frustrated because I found myself saying “what more do you want” but then thinking twice and realizing that she had something missing, a big gaping hole in her life that she was unable to fulfil.

Towards the end of her Rest and Relaxation year, I felt the change in mood and period of reflection setting in and a new appreciation of the outside world.

‘I focused on the sound and then the universe narrowed into a fine line, and that felt better there was a clearer trajectory, so I travelled more peacefully through outer space, listening to the rhythm of my respiration, each breath an echo of the breath before, softer and softer, until I was far enough away that there was no sound, there was no movement. There was no need for reassurance or directionality because I was nowhere, doing nothing. I was nothing. I was gone.’

It is a book that I found highly addictive and I could not put it down. I am not sure if it is in a likeable way, I am still processing the book. However, it is a book that I wanted to find out more and more. At the end of the book, it does end in sadness (I am not going to say what) and you can almost see her mind starting to clear from the haze and her starting to move on with her life.

This is a book I would recommend to read, for the first time, I am not sure why I am recommending this book, but I feel everyone should read it and experience the turmoil and perhaps understand that mental health, loneliness and the importance of having positive, strong relationships in your life.

About the Book

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is published by Jonathan Cape and is available to purchase here.

Heart Of The Grass Tree – Molly Murn

Heart of the Grass Tree is a story about a family – three generations however, they are all unexpectedly linked together without them even realizing it. We follow initially the story of Nell who is the grandmother who dies suddenly and leaves behind a story which none of her other family members were even aware of.

This story is based around the family home on Kangaroo Island. Nell fell in love with a fellow resident on the Island, however, the relationship dynamics was somewhat frowned upon and ended up in tragic circumstances and with Nell living with a lot of regret. It also changed the relationship with Nell’s mother not for the good, distance was certainly put between them both.

This story has never left Nell and has always seemed to haunt her. During her later years, she wanted to make sure the story was never forgotten so, started to write it down which her family found. I felt that this story certainly made the family realise why Nell may have been a certain way. I felt that both Pearl (Nell’s Granddaughter) and Diana (Nell’s Daughter) were sad that they did not ask more questions or learn more whilst Nell was alive and be able to help Nell with her inner torment and guilt. Although both Pearl and Diana are living with their own real-life issues, Nell was looked upon with admiration as she seemed to be the stabilizing factor in all of their lives.

Molly during her writing informs us of the island’s early history of the European Sealers and the first contact with Ngarrindjeri people. When you read it, you cringe and despair around the treatment of the local people. European settlers then just seemed to feel that every land was theirs and every person they met was their slaves. It is just a time in history that my brain just cannot justify or accept that this was deemed acceptable. But I guess, during that period in history it did happen a lot, all over the world.

We experience and witness grief running through the family and the different ways people deal with this. Grief is a topic that does not get spoken about, or if it does it is not always done in the most appropriate way. But I have been there, and I felt their grief, I was with them when they cleared Nell’s house, as I have been there myself, finding Nell’s treasured memories or what they initially thought may have been rubbish when in fact meant something to Nell. Going through someone’s personal possession even when they are a relative, felt incredibly personal, too personal. However, I also felt this brought the family back together as one unit, acknowledgement they are all grieving, they all have their “skeletons in the cupboard” and they needed to get through this for Nell and to get Nell’s story out there and not be ashamed of it.

During the house clearing out, the family stumbled on paintings that were familiar, possessions that struck a chord and poems about what happened in the past. Together these all established the past story, the story that happened on Kangaroo Island and more importantly Nell. Nell’s story which broke my heart and I felt so emotional that she had to hide this story and be ashamed. What I loved the most was that each of the family members had different and fond stories of Nell, she really meant a lot to each family member not in the same way but they each had everlasting memories which I felt they would all cherish forever. They all have busy, and at times difficult lives, but this moment, they came together and thought about Nell and reflected on Nell and what advice she may have given them in the past or done for them in the past and then realizing that she did not have it all great and she herself, had a very difficult past that she has had to live with for a long time.

I adored this story, I feel that most families do have a tale to tell from stories from the war to family tragic events. They should be heard and people should not have to live a life time with regret or lies. I loved Nell from the beginning I wanted to hear her story and help her as much as I could to try and take away the guilt and pain. Kangaroo Island played a massive part in the story telling being so imbedded in the good, bad and ugly of all of their stories. But it is a place they all seem to drift back to for comfort and for the memories and for Nell.

I loved this novel, I loved how Molly wrapped around a historical story about todays, it worked in such a wonderful, beautiful way they complimented one another. I learnt a lot about Kangaroo Island and in fact since reading this book have been to visit because of Heart of the Grass Tree.

About the Book

When Pearl’s grandmother Nell dies unexpectedly, Pearl and her family – mother Diana, sister Lucy – return to Kangaroo Island to mourn and farewell her. Each of them knew Nell intimately but differently, and each woman must reckon with Nell’s passing in her own way. But Nell had secrets too, and as Pearl, Diana and Lucy interrogate their feelings about the island, Pearl starts to pull together the scraps Nell left behind – her stories, poems, paintings – and unearths a connection to the island’s early history, of the European sealers and their first contact with the Ngarrindjeri people.

As the three women are in grief pulled apart from each other, Pearl’s deepening connection to their history, the island’s history, grounds her, and will ultimately bring the women back to each other.

Heart of the Grass Tree is published Vintage and is available to purchase here.

Teacher – Gabbie Stroud

‘One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching’

I am always intrigued to read “tell all” books because to be frank I am just a bit nosy. There have been a few released over the last couple of years, however, this is the first book I have read by a teacher and the real-life story about being a teacher. I knew teachers work hard, I know people always say that teachers get such long holidays, however the immense workload and pressures they are put under it is quite breathtaking.

I find with a lot of government organisations such as the military and in the UK the National Health Service, people do the job because they have a passion and a love for it, as usually the salary is pretty poor. However, now because the government it seems not just in the UK but also in Australia continue to want more and more out of you, with no wage increase or no additional benefits the love starts to somewhat dwindle for the job and you can easily fall out of love for it.

Gabbie writes a heart-breaking and quite an ugly tale of teaching wearing her down. From the stories Gabbie tells it is not necessarily the children, but the political side of teaching, the sheer amount of paperwork, continual changes in syllabus (which is not necessarily for the better), the increase pressures on the children to be perfect and learning in a very one-dimensional way. From reading Gabbie’s book I just felt it did not make sense as during her teacher training, they are taught about different ways of learning and one side does not fit all. However, this is not reflected in the schools or the expectations of the children. It is all a one-way street with no exceptions to this rule.

I went through a range of different emotions, mostly anger at the government for allow not just Gabbie but some of the other teachers you witnessed deteriorating throughout the book. These are good teachers who clearly love teaching and have a passion for learning and want to do the best for their children. Teachers are not just teachers, they are at times parents, social workers, cleaners, laundry maids, cooks and carers – roles that people who are not involved in the teaching profession do not realise.

“Just keep him safe. That’s your key role for this child. His basic needs aren’t being met so we can’t expect that he’s going to learn. At least when he’s here at school we know he’s safe.”

When I read this part of the book, I felt so incredibly sad as that was Gabbie’s role and the responsibility and the thoughts that must have gone through her head when the young person returned home and questioning whether they would be returning the next day at school and whether there could be more that you could do to ensure they are safe and happy and not just living and looking after themselves. I wanted to help to look after these particular vulnerable children and wanted to do more as clearly their parents were unable to do at this present time in their lives.

When the children finish for school, there still seems to be a full-time amount of work still to undertake in such a short space of time as well as the teachers having their family time and life outside of work. We watch the deterioration in Gabbie’s physical, mental state and her family life. Something had to give, she could not have it all.

“I curved my car along the solitary road, my mind still fifteen kilometres behind me, in my classroom but already in tomorrow’s drama. A feeling of being overwhelmed seemed to seep into the space around me, like the darkness of the night was closing in. The feeling grew, consuming the air in the car until I thought perhaps there was nothing left to breath. I touched on the breaks, flicked on my blinker and pulled over to the side of the road.”

When I read this part of the book, I was shouting for Gabbie to stop teaching and have a break as clearly this was having a dramatic impact on her. And it was time to stop and to stop the fire fighting for her own and her family well-being.

I hope the Australian government read this book all of them from both sides and take in Gabbie’s story as she cannot be alone. The only issue is, which was reflected by Gabbie is that due to the continual changes in governments and new initiates and new “bright ideas” schools always feel the impact which means teachers are having to be the face of the new initiatives which they knew will either mean they will be taken away from teaching, having a negative impact on their students or will not work. Teachers need to be listened to.

What Gabbie has done for me, is when my children start school. I will now look at teachers in a different way a more respectful and humane way. I will also have in the back of my mind, how much work has the teacher already done to ensure my children have a good, positive and fun day at school and have the best learning experience they possibly can have and give in such tight and limited resources.

I believe all parents and all the people involved in government need to read this story, it will be uncomfortable and will open your eyes. But it means that you can make the difference and help support and give thanks to the teachers that work hard to ensure the next generation have the best learning experience and bring on the next generation of Doctors, Vets and Engineers.

Thank you Gabbie for your honesty, thank you for your hard work and thank you to all of the teachers out there who are working hard and being just simply amazing.

I will finish this post with Gabbie’s wise words:

“We need to understand and accept that there is nothing standard about the journey of learning. Our schools are not businesses, our students are not clients. They are individual, learning at their own pace, in their own way, with their own circumstances framing their experiences. Imposing standardization on our students, on our teachers and on our schools only serves to stifle creativity, curiosity, progress, self-belief and autonomy.”

About the Book

Watching children learn is a beautiful and extraordinary experience. Their bodies transform, reflecting inner changes. Teeth fall out. Knees scab. Freckles multiply. Throughout the year they grow in endless ways and I can almost see their self-esteem rising, their confidence soaring, their small bodies now empowered. Given wings.

They fall in love with learning.

It is a kind of magic, a kind of loving, a kind of art.

It is teaching.

Just teaching.

Just what I do.

What I did.

Past Tense.

Teacher is published by Allen & Unwin and you can purchase here

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

‘A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back’

I have seen this book pretty much everywhere, and with such a beautiful cover and being shortlisted for numerous awards I had to pick up a copy to see what it is all about.

We follow the story of Bri who goes to work as an associate for a Judge for a year. Bri is exposed to many different criminal cases which she would get to hear every little detail, which some are pretty grim. I did not realise the amount of sexual offending cases that would appear before a court, it is a lot. The sheer amount of cases sparks a memory of Bri’s childhood where she herself was sexually assaulted herself. We follow her dilemma of whether she should come forward and report it and the implications this may bring. She witnesses cases being kicked out of court, witnesses and victims not being believed and the impact emotionally and physically it not only has on the victim but the ripple effect it has on families and the wider community.

Bri herself reports the crime, we witness first hand her turmoil she goes through and runs through her head about the forthcoming case. Her frustrations. Her issues with the Australian Criminal Justice System and the negative impact this has on sexual abuse victims. What Bri reflects is usually the offender is someone known to the victim’s family, which makes coming forward incredibly difficult and probably means that the person would not be believed because of how close of a relationship they may have, or whether there was a messy breakup and repercussions from this.

Throughout this book I was Bri’s cheerleader, and willing her to be strong and continue her fight to seek a conviction against the perpetrator, a family friend. You got the sense that Bri did not want to disappoint her family and was concerned whether her family would believe her and walk away from her. However, her family were incredibly strong for her and stood by her no matter what. Even Bri’s boyfriend, Vincent was always there for her and supported her whenever she needed it.

We experience firsthand, all of Bri’s emotions the ups and downs you feel them yourself. What I came to realise was there is still a long way to go when it comes to the Criminal Justice System dealing with sexual offences both with the perpetrator and the victim. More time, more resources and more money need to be invested. I believe talking to victims and finding out what can be done to improve the system they went through would be of a great benefit. There is a lot of learning to be done.

One of my favourite characters in the book was Bri’s Judge. He seemed to be supportive, funny, compassionate and realistic. When he was aware of what happened to Bri, he was there and supported as and when Bri needed.

I adored this book and Bri, she was brutally honest about what she went through, her feelings and her thoughts even when they were pretty ugly. Bri does not hide the amount of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct going on without a lot of it not being reported and victims going unheard. It at times makes an uncomfortable read, but there is light and the frankness within the book in a way is reassuring. Bri reflects how the justice system lacks any empathy or forward-thinking approach on how to deal with sexual assault victims which made me both sad and angry. The justice system seems to continue to be letting people down. You follow Bri’s personal diary of her thoughts and feelings about particular cases she is hearing. She is brutally honest, I sometimes feel that she is punishing herself about what happened to herself. It was not her fault, she was so young and did not really know what was going on. But Bri was unable to break down what happened and who was at fault because it is such a life changing event that happened to her.

Bri is a talented and a frank writer which I respect and will continue to look out for more of her work in the future. If you have to read one book this year, this is one that should be on your to be read list. It will certainly give you some food for thought…….

About the Book

Eggshell skull; a well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skill, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system, first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland – where justice can look very different especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she vowed never to tell and this is how after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Eggshell Skull is published by Allen & Unwin and is available to purchase here.

The Rain Watcher – Tatiana De Rosnay

The Rain Watcher is a beautiful but hard-hitting real-life story around the reality of dealing with mortality. We follow The Malegarde family, who are like any other family where the children have grown up and their mother tries desperately to get everyone together to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday and their mother and father’s wedding anniversary. Paul is an interesting character he has spent most of his life working with trees to the extent his family consider he loves trees more than he loves them. I think most children feel like this about their parents when they have a passion for something.

Whilst they are in Paris the weather is particularly bad which leads to the river Seine flooding Paris. During this time, Paul falls dangerously ill which potentially has a threat to his life. All of the hospitals in Paris are struggling with the floods and are having to deal with a lot of sick patients and trying to keep their hospital safe and the waters at bay.

Although I may not have made it sound like an interesting book, it is a fascinating read. Tatiana explores family dynamics and relationships. Communication but not necessarily talking, but other forms are explored and understood. Lindon who is Paul’s son (and a famous photographer) takes charge to ensure his father receives the best care possible and deals with issues that have been unresolved for some time. Lindon struggles initially with the lack of communication from his father, but learns from his own profession you do not necessarily need to say anything, but body language can say a great deal more than one communicates verbally.

Linden has a period of reflection of what happened when he was younger and the struggles, he experienced with recognizing who he was as a person and his own sexuality. He walked away from his parents for a period of time and spent more time with another family member to try and find his feet and obtain his own identity. Again, you could see the lack of communication within the family members which could easily be done in most families.

This novel was a beautiful portrayal of family life and communication. I adored the Malegarde family, especially Paul because despite him not being present at times in his children’s life there is a lot more to his story then meets the eye. And, although he may not communicate his love to his children all of the time, it does not mean he loved them any less. Tatiana deals with real people and our faults at times with being human.

Tatiana transports us to Paris, her writing beautifully describes and sets the scene for you, so even if you have never been to Paris, you feel like it is a familiar city. She writes the Seine to be a main character who is fully involved throughout the book and reflects the good, the bad and the ugly the Seine can bring. She also makes the trees that Paul has cared for all of his life like a main character. I never thought I would read and be interested in a character being trees, but I was. I could feel and sense the breathtaking beauty overwhelming the pages and being an integral part of the book. You understood the trees were a vital part of Paul’s life, and it seemed that as Paul deteriorated, the trees took on a new life.

“Linden looks up the word Seine. The name comes from Sequana, used by the Gauls and Romans who navigated along the river and settled by its swampy shores to later form Lutece, the future city of Paris. An ancient Celtic goddess with healing powers, called Sequana, was worshipped at the river’s source near Dijon. She was represented in a small boat, graceful arms aloft.”

At the conclusion of this book, I felt overwhelmed with emotion and made me reflect on my own behavior and communication with my children and family and perhaps I need to reconsider how I behave towards them all.

Tatiana’s passion for her book was overwhelming and she really wanted to delve into the emotions of a family dealing with crisis and having to communicate with one another that perhaps they have not done for a long time.

“I wanted to write about a son who find the courage to talk to his ailing father at last, about himself, about himself, about who he really is. And I wanted to describe the city I love, the city I was born in, Paris, flooded by a catastrophic natural disaster that could very well happen today; the river Seine bursting its banks.”

I will be keeping my eye out for more books from Tatiana as I believe she is an author to watch.

About the Book

It is raining non-stop over Paris. The Malegarde’s family – split between France, London and the US – is reunited for the first time in years. When Paul, a famous yet withdrawn arborist, suffers a stroke in the middle of his 70th birthday celebrations, his son Linden is stuck in a city that is undergoing a stunning natural disaster. While the Seine bursts its banks and floods the streets, the family will have to fight to keep their unity as hidden fears and secrets also begin to rise.

Further Information

You can purchase The Rain Watcher here

If you would like to find more about Tatiana, please click here

You can follow Tatiana on Twitter @Tatianaderosnay

The Rain Watcher is published through @WorldEdBooks