Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Book Review: The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village
Author: Joanna Nell
Publisher: Hachette Australia 
Publication Date: 25th September 2018
RRP: $29.99
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Source: Courtesy of  Publisher 

 A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It's never too late to grow old disgracefully ...

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the dΓ©cor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy's day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower - treasurer of the Residents' Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village - to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn't seen in five decades - the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine - sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her 'inner Helen Mirren' and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

I was quite torn by this book. It was funny and entertaining but I also found it easy to put down. I was easily distracted by other things and it ended up taking me a week to read. I wasn’t drawn into the story or the characters, just a mere bystander.

I couldn’t relate to Peggy, a frail 79 year old. My mother at 80 and my mother-in-law at 89 are both active, vibrant and extremely self reliant people.

I really enjoyed the politics of the retirement village which elicited quite a few giggles and Peggy’s crush on Brian was sweet and this was one plot line I was eager to see through to the finish.

At times I felt quite saddened by Peggy’s circumstances and her inner thoughts and at other times she had me in fits of laughter.

Nell covers many women’s health issues in a humorous, but never demeaning, way.

Peggy’s constant thoughts of “looking after” Brian, ironing his clothes, cooking his meals had me rolling my eyes and wondering if Peggy really wanted to gain any independence.

The introduction of Angie, Peggy’s best friend from school days, was a breath of fresh air; at last salvation. Angie had lived a wild, crazy life and the two hadn’t seen each other for 50 years but they instantly reconnected, old friendships are like that. I loved Angie....and then I didn’t! You will have to read the book to find out why.

Even though I struggled to love this book I would suggest you read it if you have an ageing parent, you may learn some empathy, or if you are approaching the retirement home stage, you will learn to speak up, play up and never stop having fun.

My rating 3/5                 🌟🌟🌟 

Photo courtesy of Goodreads
Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her short fiction has won multiple awards and has been published in various journals and literary anthologies. 

As a GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly, Joanna is drawn to writing character-driven stories for women in their prime, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society's expectations of ageing. 

Joanna lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and two teenage children.  

You can connect with the author at the following sites:
Website  ||  Facebook  ||  Twitter  ||  Instagram  

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Book Review: Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat (Middle Grade Anthology)

        An anthology of bedtime stories for all kinds of kids
Title: Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat
Author: Various 
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Publication Date: 25th September 2018
RRP: $19.99
Pages: 208
Format Read: Hardback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 

Once upon a time, there were 9 beastly bedtime stories.
Stories with vampires and bats, 
and a sleepover of doom; 
of a pirate dance party
and a zoo in a room.
There were bears who were scared,
and three bags of wool.
Kids who ate pasta till their tummies were full.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat features an entertaining collection of stories filled with terrific twists on the traditional and is sure to have kids (and adults) shaking with laughter in their beds!

With illustrations by J. Yi, the stellar line-up of storytellers includes:
Andy Griffiths, Katrina Nannestad, Morris Gleitzman, Judith Rossell, Tim Harris, R. A. Spratt Frances Watts, Tony Wilson, Jaclyn Moriarty.
These spooky stories will have your young reader hiding under the blankets, and giggling uncontrollably, well after lights out.

Sleepover of Doom by Andy Griffiths
A choose your own adventure in true Andy Griffiths style. Laugh out loud funny.
Read it over and over, each time a new adventure but be careful what you choose or there may be a deadly outcome. No matter what route you take you are in for lots of laughs.

Pirate Dance Party by Frances Watts
An annoying mosquito, a parrot that thinks it’s a chicken, a cheeky monkey and two dancing pirates makes this a hilarious night of no sleep for Lily.

Dracula by Morris Gleitzman
Corey’s little brother, Will, is sure their sister’s boyfriend is a vampire and Corey has to convince him that Jarrod isn’t a vampire but maybe the convincing goes the other way. This story doesn’t feature any real vampires because we all know that vampires aren’t real........right.

Wool by Jaclyn Moriarty
A twist on the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep. Frankie’s dad needs three bags of wool for the knit-a-thon but Gabe has just bought the last three bags of wool. Frankie thinks that Gabe’s reason for wanting the wool doesn’t quite fit and someone may be in danger. Can Frankie work it out before it’s too late?

Things That Go Splat in the Night by Katrina Nannestad
Ruby and Harry don’t believe in ghosts but what happens when they enter Worthington Manor one dark night may quickly change their minds. A surprise filled story that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Zoo in a Room by Tim Harris
Everyone has brought their pet to school for special news day but Clancy had a cold last week, his ears were blocked and he didn’t hear the teacher properly. All the pets are introduced and pandemonium ensues. Can Clancy’s special news save the day?

Dreamo-Machino by Judith Russell
Gran is very inventive and loves making gadgets but her latest dream machine doesn’t make for a pleasant nights sleep.

Yellowhead and the Three Traumatised Bears by R A Spratt
Hear Grandma’s true story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks (Yellowhead) wasn’t the cute, innocent little girl we are all led to believe.

St Reginald’s School for Children Who Only Eat Plain Pasta by Tony Wilson
Where do parents send their children that refuse to eat anything but plain pasta with butter? St Reginalds of course! Where every child goes home completely cured.

Well, I couldn’t wait to read this last story to Dot because she qualifies for this school. So does Ditto but I will save this for him when he is a little older.

Dot’s favourite story from the anthology was Pirate Dance Party. We have read this book over and over and she now walks around repeating “I’m a baaaad chicken” in a parrot voice. She thought this story was very funny.
My favourite was Sleepover of Doom. This story was so funny I was laughing all the way through. Andy Griffiths knows how to write a story that is outrageous and ridiculous but still seem to be completely feasible.

This crazy collection of scary, silly and addictive stories by some of Australia’s best known children’s authors would make the perfect Christmas gift.

 Suitable for ages 5 - 14 years and beyond.

My rating 5/5                                   🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Here is a short list of authors. I won't go into full details of each author or this post will be longer than the book.

Andy Griffiths: author of the bestselling and award-winning Treehouse series.
Katrina Nannestad: award-winning author of The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome.
Morris Gleitzman: acclaimed author and Children's Laureate.
Judith Rossell: winner of the Indie Book Award for Withering-By-Sea.
Tim Harris: author of the popular Mr Bambuckles' Remarkables series.
R. A. Spratt: bestselling author of the Friday Barnes books.
Frances Watts: author of the bestselling picture book Kisses for Daddy, and winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Goodnight Mice.
Tony Wilson: author of The Selwood Boys.
Jaclyn Moriarty: award-winning author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.

Featured in the back of the book is a little about each author and their books. Each author is also asked to name their favourite beastly bedtime stories.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Book Review: The Year of the Farmer (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: The Year of the Farmer
Author: Rosalie Ham
Publisher: Picador Australia 
Publication Date: 25th September 2018
RRP: $32.99
Pages: 336
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Source: Courtesy of Publisher

In a quiet farming town somewhere in country New South Wales, war is brewing.
The last few years have been punishingly dry, especially for the farmers, but otherwise, it's all Neralie Mackintosh's fault. If she'd never left town then her ex, the hapless but extremely eligible Mitchell Bishop, would never have fallen into the clutches of the truly awful Mandy, who now lords it over everyone as if she owns the place.
So, now that Neralie has returned to run the local pub, the whole town is determined to reinstate her to her rightful position in the social order. But Mandy Bishop has other ideas. Meanwhile the head of the local water board - Glenys 'Gravedigger' Dingle - is looking for a way to line her pockets at the expense of hardworking farmers already up to their eyes in debt. And Mandy and Neralie's war may be just the chance she was looking for...
A darkly satirical novel of a small country town battling the elements and one another, from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker.

Mitch’s life has been hell. His crops are failing and his sheep are hungry but he has decided that life is going to turn around and this is going to be his year.
First the rain comes then the love of his life, Neralie, returns home after 5 years in Sydney and it looks like he may get the year he envisaged. The only problem is the rain has come too early and may ruin his crop and he is now married; to the town’s nemesis.

The Year of the Farmer is a cleverly written satire, a dark tragicomedy, that will have you laughing out loud at the overly exaggerated characters all placed neatly in their respective boxes and performing perfectly on cue.

The small town is under threat from the drought and the water authority is doing everything it can to make life more difficult (on the pretense of helping them) for the farmers whilst making a little money on the side for themselves; that retirement fund. But the biggest threat will come from one of their own! A furious wife hell bent on fitting in but letting her hurt fuel her need for revenge.

I loved this story! There are a multitude of characters introduced one straight after the other which I found hard to sort out but as the story progresses everyone fits into their place.

The story brings to light the plight of the farmers and the devastating effect of the drought and the nonsensical stipulations and regulations set by the water authorities.
Ham shows the deep connection that the farmers have with their land and how they have intense feelings of letting their ancestors down when they lose their farm that has been handed down through the generations.

They were a town that stuck together when hearts were broken but even more so when their farms and livelihoods were at stake.
Then suddenly, in  groups of two or three, the councillors, irrigators, riparians and townies left the pub and went, united, into the black star-speckled night, the smooth barrels of their loaded guns frosted silver by the moonlight’

I felt quite sorry for Mandy, Mitch’s wife, her only aim in life was to be someone, to fit in, but the whole town despised her and where Mitch’s moments of infidelity were encouraged hers were frowned upon. I’d be very interested to know what other readers thought of Mandy and her actions.

In today’s life where we expect everything, including our reads, to be fast paced and instantly gratifying this slow paced and slightly quirky novel may not appeal to everyone.

My rating 4/5                          🌟🌟🌟🌟

Content: for those that are sensitive to animal deaths; animals die in this story.

The Year of the Farmer is book #30 in the Australian Women Writers challenge
and part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie Author Challenge

Rosalie Ham is the author of three previous books, including her sensational bestseller The Dressmaker, now an award-winning film starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving.

Rosalie Ham was born, and raised in Jerilderie, NSW, Australia. She completed her secondary education at St Margaret's School, Berwick in 1972. After travelling and working at a variety of jobs (including aged care) for most of her twenties, Rosalie completed a Bachelor of Education majoring in Drama and Literature (Deakin University, 1989), and achieved a Master of Arts, Creative Writing (RMIT, Melbourne) in 2007. Rosalie lives in Brunswick, Melbourne, and when she is not writing, Rosalie teaches literature. Her novels have sold over 50,000 copies. 

You can connect with the author at the following sites:
Website  ||  Facebook