Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Book of Summer

Often on long road trips particularly at night I've driven past houses and wondered what stories are contained within each of their respective four walls. Sounds a bit weird but every house has its stories to tell.

In this gripping story The Book of Summer by American author Michelle Gable there are certainly a lot of tales to tell.

This book centres around the almost 100-year-old homestead Cliff House perched on a cliff on the island of Nantucket and its guest book aka The Book of Summer. The cliff is eroding and soon Cliff House will be no longer but its owner Cissy Codman is not letting her home and its history go without a fight. Her daughter Bess returns home to try to convince her mother that she must leave before she ends up going with the house.

The book flicks between the 1940s pre and post World War II and the present day and also contains many entries in The Book of Summer.  Features of this book include a myriad of characters, many stories, and brilliant storytelling. If you enjoyed the Australian television series A Place To Call Home chances are you will enjoy this book.

Now I'm off to read a book which doesn't contain the word Summer in its title, given that the last three books I've read have.    

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Sixty Summers

Three friends, who are all turning 60, relive their 20s by going on a road trip across parts of Europe. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the past a book like this wouldn't have grabbed my attention but this one did. Apart from the odd frustrating storyline Sixty Summers by New Zealand-born writer Amanda Hampson was a thoroughly good read. 

Reading it made me think of a friend who recently travelled various parts of the world with another friend to celebrate a big birthday. They had a T-shirt made listing the countries on the back to be ticked off as they visited them. They also had a cap emblazoned with" Kiwi Chicks on Tiki-Tour 2019". Such a creative idea and I loved seeing all the photographs she posted along the way. 

Back to the book Maggie, Fran and Rose met when they were young. Maggie and Rose live in Australia and Fran lives in the UK. They catch up with each other regularly with Fran connecting via technology. In their 20s they backpacked through Europe. Life has taken interesting turns for the trio since then with family, business and bookshop commitments. 

Forty years have passed and realising they need a break away the trio meet up in Europe to retrace the journey they took in 1978. Rose has planned the trip. They stay in more upmarket accommodation than their earlier journey and eat out but the trip is not really working. That is until Maggie spontaneously buys a clapped out van and they continue on their way.

It wasn't until I was two thirds of the way through the book that I researched the author and found out that Hampson was born in Wellington, New Zealand and now lives in Australia. 

A great story that kept my attention to the end. Four out of five stars.  


Friday, 30 August 2019

Summer of '69

I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction but I do enjoy books that are set around the time I was born or just a few years before like this book.

The author of Summer of '69 Elin Hilderbrand has written 23 books in her 50 years of life and this book is her latest. I was struggling to find a book to read and this book on our new release stand at the library where I work caught my eye.

Hilderbrand writes in an author's note at the end of the book that she wrote this book after her twin brother Eric suggested she should. She dedicates the book to him. Elin and Eric were born in 1969 the day after the first man landed on the moon.

This book centres around the Levin family Kate and David and children - Blair whose married and pregnant with twins, younger sisters Kirby and Jessie and their brother Tiger who is serving in the Vietnam War. There's also their grandmother Exalta who has her own way of doing things.
Kirby is single and trying to make her own way in life while Jessie has just reached her teenage years and all that comes with being a 13-year-old in that era.

The book is mainly set on two islands in the United States - Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. There are references to the Kennedy family, the first moon landing, President Nixon, the Vietnam War, racial inequalities and the Woodstock music festival.

This is the first book by Hilderbrand that I've read and it won't be the last. I loved her writing style.
Four out of five stars for this great piece of fiction.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Flatshare

Tiffy and Leon share a bed. Tiffy and Leon have never met. 

I was in two minds about whether to review this book The Flatshare but I thought I would because I enjoyed the writing style of British author Beth O'Leary.

Struggling to find something to read, I saw this book and it had some appeal. I don't know why because I could sense it was chick-lit (a genre I'm not a huge fan of) and it is but there's a lot more to this book.

Leon advertises for a flatmate - to help make some extra money to pay the costs of the appeal for his wrongfully imprisoned brother. 

Tiffy needs somewhere to live after finally making a break from her ex-boyfriend. She moves into Leon's home except she doesn't meet Leon. He works nights and is away from home at the weekend. Tiffy works days and is home at the weekend. They share the same bed but obviously not at the same time. They start leaving notes for each other and soon the flat is full of post-it notes. Books on crochet, modelling crochet pieces, Hospice care and promoting books are among some of the other subject matter within the book.

I gobbled up about two thirds of this book and then it started to get too much into the realms of chick-lit and a bit too much romance for my liking. 

But I kept on. It is a light, quirky and funny read and to think O'Leary managed to write the first draft of the book during her daily train commute to and from work. 

Three stars from me.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal

American author Elizabeth White had it all - advanced degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, an outstanding employment history and she'd started a business.

But the business failed and in her mid 50s White struggled to re-enter the workforce. She decided to write about her experience in an essay entitled "You Know Her''. The essay was posted on a Facebook page and within three days attracted 11,000 likes and over 1000 comments by many sharing similar experiences.

People wrote to her about their experiences too, many of which feature in this book 55, Underemployed and Faking Normal.

The book talks about the retirement schemes in the United States but it also shares a lot of tips about how to downsize, how to make the most of what you have and to make sacrifices so you can have the things that matter most. It talks a lot about the importance of not harking back to what you had or trying to impress others but to be content with how life is now.

White emphasizes the importance of forming friendships with others in the same boat and meeting regularly to look at ways to help each other in the latter years of working life when it can be tough to find work. The book lists a number of websites baby boomers can use to help them find work.

She talks about a woman she met called Zoe who was 62 and had $31 to her name. Zoe had never been so happy or grounded. She paid money to keep her possessions in a storage unit and after a year she couldn't remember what was in the unit and sold or gave all her possessions away. There are many powerful stories in this book about people like Zoe who have learnt to be happy with much less.

Couldn't put this book down. A great read!

Friday, 14 June 2019

My Smoko Break

What do you do when you realise you should cut back on sugar before all your teeth fall out? Me - I make a batch of muffins of the banana and chocolate chip variety.

I work in a public library and I was shelving some books a few weeks back in our extensive recipe book collection and this book My Smoko Break by Hayley Maudsley caught my eye.

This book brings together more than 200 of Hayley's recipes. Hayley has a Facebook page called My Smoko Break which has more than 120,000 followers. Flicking through her book what drew me in was her stories about life as a mum living in rural Queensland, Australia which are scattered through the book in between her recipes.

Most times it's the photographs of the dishes of food that make me pick up a recipe book but there are no pictures or images in this book and I reckon it works. There's a lot of colour in Hayley's storytelling, her handy tips and tricks as well as her recipes. The book features recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as smoko, dessert, special occasions and cooking with kids.

I have a stack of recipe books at home and MasterChef Australia is my absolute favourite TV show. I'm often asked by my nearest and dearest why I don't use those recipe books more, why I can't cook like the contestants on said cooking show or like my sisters who are both amazing cooks. My answer is four-fold 1) There are too many ingredients, 2) The dishes look too difficult 3) They take too long to prepare and 4) Fear it won't turn out right.

The recipes in My Smoko Break look relatively easy and I tested one by making a batch of banana and chocolate chip muffins. Easy as! Delicious too! I think I'm going to try the Chicken Curry in the Slow Cooker recipe next!

Friday, 12 April 2019

The Boy Without Love.... And the Farm That Saved Him

Have you ever been reading a book and part of you thinks I just can't read this anymore but the other half of you thinks I really need to read this book?

I have just finished reading The Boy Without Love.... And The Farm That Saved Him and talk about a confronting read.

I stumbled across English author Simon Dawson's books Pigs in Clover and Sty's The Limit a couple of years ago in the library I work at. I wasn't working at the library then but the covers of the books and the synopsis on each made me want to read them. Those two books talk of his and wife Debbie's life moving from the city to become self sufficient on a smallholding aka lifestyle block in North Devon. He has pigs and sheep, two great Danes, a hilarious friend called Ziggy and is good at drinking wine and cooking delicious food. I absolutely LOVED both books. I love his writing style and laughed a lot reading them so I couldn't wait for this book's release. As soon as it was available, I bought it online.

I was hoping for another humourous book but this third book is not funny. To be honest it's one of the saddest books I've read. It's a book about Dawson's childhood, the rejection he felt by a mother who told him she didn't love him and the abuse he suffered. I cried several times reading this book. I almost couldn't finish it but I kept being pulled back to read it.

Although it's hard to read, there are lighter chapters in which he talks about life on his farm too and how his wife and beautiful pets and animals have, as the book title suggests, saved him.
It takes a very brave person to get their thoughts down in such a clear and readable way as Dawson has done in this book.

Definitely four out of five stars for this moving read.

FOOTNOTE: This book does come with a warning from Dawson of some rather graphic language.