Thursday 30 April 2020

Book Review: Murmurations by Carol Lefevre

Carol Lefevre

Publisher: Spinifex Press 
Publication date: 1st April 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Short stories
RRP: $19.96 AUD
Pages: 112
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via R M Marketing Services 

Lives merge and diverge; they soar and plunge, or come to rest in impenetrable silence. Erris Cleary’s absence haunts the pages of this exquisite novella, a woman who complicates other lives yet confers unexpected blessings. Fly far, be free, urges Erris. Who can know why she smashes mirrors? Who can say why she does not heed her own advice?

Among the sudden shifts and swings something hidden must be uncovered, something dark and rotten, even evil, which has masqueraded as normality. In the end it will be a writer’s task to reclaim Erris, to bear witness, to sound in fiction the one true note that will crack the silence.

Occasionally you will find a gem of a book that will give you cause to stop and think. Murmurations is that book!

I loved this little book of stories and once I had finished I read it all over again. I needed to capture those little details that can be missed in a first reading.
Characters ebb and flow through each story, their lives moving and flowing in formation, unknowingly lead by Erris.

There is the receptionist, Erris’s close friends, the landscaper, the writer, the cleaner, all touched by Erris and her cry for help. The question that runs through the readers mind is; ‘Was Erris mentally unstable or was something more sinister at play here?’

Each story reflects on a significant moment in that character’s life. Moments of revelation and despair, when their life was altered forever.

Carol Lefevre’s prose are lyrical, insightful and heartbreaking. Although coming in at only 112 pages it packs an emotional punch.

Murmurations is one of the best novellas I have read!

My rating  5/5      ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Photo credit: Spinifex Press
Carol Lefevre holds both a M.A. and a Ph.D in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, where she is a Visiting Research Fellow. Her first novel Nights in the Asylum (2007)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and won the Nita B. Kibble award. As well as her non-fiction book Quiet City: Walking in West Terrace Cemetery (2016), Carol has published short fiction, journalism, and personal essays. She was the recipient of the 2016 Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship, and is an affiliate member of the J.M.Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, where she was writer in residence in 2017. Her most recent novel, The Happiness Glass, published by Spinifex Press in 2018. Carol lives in Adelaide. 

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Australian Women Writers challenge

Friday 24 April 2020

Book Review: Searching for Seashells by Kerry Rosser

Searching for Seashells
Kerry Rosser
illustrated by Nicky Johnson

Publisher: Empowering Resources
Publication date: 8th February 2020
Genre: Children's
Pages: 32
RRP: $17.00AUD
Format read: Softcover
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via R M Marketing Services

Today I was angry. Mum said it's okay to be angry. We get angry because we want something we can't have.

I want Jimmy here to play with me.

Jimmy is gone now. I miss him lots.

Searching for Seashells is a comforting and gentle story that empowers families to talk about love, loss and remembering. Sharing in a simple way the many big feelings of grief, it reassures young readers that love and memories continue even after someone is gone.

A young boy tells about all the things his baby brother loves to do. Then one day his brother is gone. He goes through his emotions; sadness, anger, guilt, as his mother helps him through each emotion and shows him they will always remember the baby.

Together they do Jimmy’s favourite things, like blowing bubbles and searching for seashells. They celebrate Jimmy’s birthday with a picnic. As time goes by he starts to play and laugh which brings on feelings of guilt.

”Mum said it’s okay to be happy. Jimmy likes me laughing.”

Talking about death with a young child is a difficult thing and in particular the death of a sibling. Searching for Seashells is a lovely supportive book for parents as well as siblings.
Kerrry Rosser shows a compassion that comes from experience which led to her writing her debut children’s book to help her own children over the loss of their brother.

The text is simple and comforting and I loved how the mother is so calm, brave and supportive of her son. Telling him his feelings are okay and giving him ideas and help with coping when I am sure she is falling apart inside herself.

Searching for Seashells is a beautifully written story about love and loss that I am sure will be beneficial to any family suffering the loss of a loved one.

My rating  5/5         ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author:
Photo credit: Empowering Resources
Kerry Rosser is a writer with a background in psychology, bringing an analytical and inquisitive approach to her work. Her writing has spanned corporate and government communications, marketing and community engagement through to freelance, blogging and writing for children.

Her first children's book, Searching for Seashells, is a gentle story of losing someone loved. Written to help her children understand the loss of their baby brother, it shares the many different feelings of grief. It reassures young children that these emotions are normal and celebrates the love that remains even after someone is gone.

Kerry lives in country South Australia with her husband, three children and an ever changing array of animals.

About the illustrator:
Photo credit: Empowering Resources
Nicky Johnston is a mum to four boys, a primary educator, a speaker and children’s book author and illustrator based in Melbourne.
Passionate in raising awareness of the importance of children’s emotional well being, Nicky has written books to help children deal with anxiety and develop resilience. She is an experienced public speaker and presents at parent forums, seminars and conferences. She is also a speaker with Black Dog Institute Community Education.
Her illustration style is described as whimsical, playful, narrative, emotive and dreamy. She works mainly in watercolour, ink and pencil. She also produces work digitally using a variety of illustration software.

This book can be ordered directly from the publishers website. 
This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Australian Women Writers challenge  

Book Review: Go Away Glob! by Sarah Elliott Smyth

Go Away Glob!
Sarah Elliott Smyth
illustrated by Simon Howe

Publisher: Empowering Resources
Publication date: 2019
Genre: Children's
Pages: 32
RRP: $17.00AUD
Format read: Softcover
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via R M Marketing Services

Jimmy blinked away tears.What if I get it wrong like last time? Glob hovered over him, like an angry rain cloud blocking out the sun. Jimmy looked down and shook his head.
"Go away, Glob," Jimmy thought.
 Did you know that everyone feels anxious or scared from time to time? It is a normal human emotion. Like when you almost fall or when you see a snake. It’s your body’s natural ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
Go Away Glob encourages children to process and overcome feelings of anxiety, worry and self-doubt, to get back to enjoying the activities that they love.


Go Away Glob is sensitively written to help children who develop anxiety in social situations such as in the class room or around their peers.
Jimmy is worried about everyone laughing at him in class. His worry is so deep all he can do is emit a squeak when the teacher asks him a question. He isolates himself in the playground worried he might be teased.

This engaging picture book explains to a child that what they are feeling is normal. Sarah Elliott Smyth uses visualising techniques to show how the anxiety can grow and overwhelm a child.
The emotion of anxiety is embodied in the character of Glob, a small, sad alien like figure, who grows and multiplies as Jimmy’s worries build.

Jimmy uses breathing exercises to bring his anxiety under control and does eventually join in a game with the other children.

Glob never completely disappears. Jimmy brings him under control and he stands aside and allows Jimmy room to socialise, watching on if a little apprehension may be needed in a dangerous situation.

Recommended for anyone looking for children’s stories on social anxiety. 

My rating  4/5      ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author:  

Photo credit: Empowering Resources
Sarah is a passionate and vivacious primary educator, writer, wife and mother to one amazing toddler girl. She has completed a Bachelor of Education (K-7) and several writing courses. With a strong knowledge of the Australian Curriculum, Sarah has enthusiasm for child mental health and early literacy. Since the birth of her first child she has been excited to begin her long held dream of writing for children.
As a teacher, Sarah is faced more and more with the ever-growing emotional issues of her students and the community. Her writing endeavour is to empower young readers, parents and teachers in order to tackle difficult emotional issues head-on with sensitivity, confidence and love.

 About the illustrator:

Photo credit: Empowering Resources
Simon is a freelance illustrator and animator with a particular fondness for quaint and fanciful characters.
Born in the south-west of England and growing up up in Queensland, he eventually made his way to Melbourne where he began producing animation for music videos and online advertisements. In 2015, he illustrated a children’s picture book called Anthea’s Garden, which inspired him to pursue further work in children’s content. In 2016, he animated a series of four videos to songs by the Teeny Tiny Stevies, accompanying their debut children’s album, Useful Songs for Little People.

This book can be ordered directly from the publishers website. 

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Australian Women Writers challenge  

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Book Club Book Review: The Boundary Fence by Alissa Callen

The Boundary Fence
Alissa Callen

Publisher: Harper Collins / Harlequin
Imprint: Mira - AU
Publication date: 20th January 2020
Series: Woodlea #7
Pages: 352
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Beauty & Lace Book Club

The scars country vet Ella Quinlivan hides are not solely on the outside. Men are off limits. She fills her world with her friends, work and the colourful community of small town Woodlea. She also becomes custodian of a sandstone cottage of an elderly friend whose teenage daughter went missing two decades ago.

With a broken marriage behind him, Saul Armstrong is determined to recapture his dreams by bringing American bison to the Australian bush. He intends to stick to his side of the high wire fence that divides his farm from his distracting new neighbour, Ella.

When Saul calls out Ella for a bison emergency she isn't just thrown out of her comfort zone by dealing with an unfamiliar animal. Slow-smiling and guarded Saul stirs emotions she'd long ago discarded.

The Boundary Fence is the 7th book by Alissa Callen set in the town of Woodlea. All are stand alone.

Ella Quinlivan has taken a job as Vet in the town of Woodlea. She has many friends in the town and has purchased a small farm out of town. She is still recovering from a shattered romance and past traumas. The last thing she wants is a relationship.
Saul Armstrong has moved from American and started his own bison farm in Woodlea. When he meets local vet Ella, the attraction is instant but he is still getting over a very public and messy divorce. His heart isn’t ready for a relationship and Ella has a vulnerable, hurt look in her eyes.

I enjoyed the slowly developing relationship between Ella and Saul. Two shattered souls who were reluctant to give love a second chance but were pulled together, by circumstance, time and time again.

There are so many wonderful characters in this book. There is Edna, the town matchmaker and gossip, she knows exactly what everyone in town is doing which adds an element of humour into the story as no-one can figure out how Edna can know everyone’s business. And Violet, the lovely old lady who previously owned Ella’s house. Violet’s daughter had gone missing two decades ago but Violet has never given up on her return and asks Ella to leave the light on every night. The mystery of Violet’s daughter plays a big part in the story and shows how the town comes together for a common cause.

As you would expect in a rural setting the animals are as large a part of the story as the human characters. There are Ella’s goats cinnamon and Nutmeg, an escaping pet sheep, a pet bull and Saul’s best mate and work dog, Duke, all making an appearance throughout the book.

Alissa Callen deftly describes the Australian outback with vivid pictures of the landscape and the wildlife. We also get an insight into the life of a country vet and the variety of call outs they would encounter.

The Boundary Fence is a moving story with a touching romance weaving its way around and through the many issues facing a rural community.

My rating  4.5/5     ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Photo credit: Goodreads
When USA Today bestselling author Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. She also is partial to historic homesteads and country gardens and has been known to drive hours to see an open-garden. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales. 

This review is from the Beauty & Lace Book Club 
@beautyandlacemag #beautyandlacebookclub 
and part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Australian Women Writers challenge  

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Storybook Corner Book Review: Kiki & Jax by Marie Kondo

Kiki & Jax
Marie Kondo
Co-written and illustrated by Salina Yoon

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Publication date: 12th November 2019
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 40
RRP: $22.99AUD
Format read: Hardcover
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Kiki and Jax are best friends, but they couldn't be more different.
Kiki likes to collect things, Jax likes to sort things.
But when things start getting in the way, can they make space for what has always sparked joy..... each other?

Kiki, a squirrel, and Jax, an owl, were best friends but they didn’t like everything the same. Kiki loved to collect things whilst Jax loved sorting things.
Kiki had so many things collected all over her house she couldn’t find what she needed when Jax came over to ask her out to play or go swimming. Kiki always had to play at Jax house. She wished she could play with her best friend at her house but there was no room.

Jax said he could help Kiki sort her collections. It was his favourite thing to do. Together they sorted and piled and stored. Now Kiki had room for all her favourite things and most important….room for her best friend.

Marie Kondo has used her life changing magic of tidying theories to include your children in the tidying process. By making it fun, tidying can be something you can enjoy together.
Salina Yoon’s full page colour illustrations give a visual aspect to Marie Kondo’s sparsely worded story making it perfect for even the younger children in the family.

In this time when children are at home more than ever this is a gentle story about the benefits of keeping a tidy room.
Although I did like the idea of sorting and categorising items into keep, donate and throw out I think she could have included something on storage and labelling so everything has its place.

Kondo includes her mantra of “sparking joy” in this story and I’m not sure how this will convert to a child’s thinking. Everything sparks joy in a child, even if it is that stone, feather or string they found on a walk.

Dot loves this story. We have read it over and over. She always says “I can be Kiki”. She loves to collect things too and she loves to look at the illustration of Kiki’s house with all her stuff spread everywhere. We read this as a fun story about a squirrel and an owl but not so much a story about keeping everything sorted and tidy.


 Rated by Dot  4/5      ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Photo credit: Goodreads

Marie Kondo has been enchanted with organising since her childhood and began her tidying consultancy business as a nineteen year old university student in Tokyo. Today she is a renowned tidying expert, helping people around the world to transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. She stars in the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and is the founder of KonMari Media, Inc. Marie has featured in numerous magazines and newspapers and was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Marie lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.

About the Illustrator:

Photo credit: Goodreads
Salina Yoon was born in Korea and emigrated to the United States at the age of four. She is an author, illustrator and format designer and has worked on nearly 200 books for young children, specialising in interactive and novelty books. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and their two sons.

Monday 20 April 2020

Mailbox Monday - April 20th

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog. Head over and check out other books received during the last week. 

Happy Monday!

As Australia is continuing with it's isolation and social distancing extra measures have been in place over the last two weeks. Grandparents are no longer able to babysit grandchildren and even visiting is not allowed. I'm really struggling with this, the house is very quiet (too quiet) and tidy, but we are all abiding by the directive knowing it is for the good of everyone.
How are we getting by? We are still doing lots of cake baking, eating, watching T.V and walking. I've even resorted to tidying my bookshelves.


                                                            more cakes

Our Easter fare

On our walks

Books received over the last two weeks.

 From the publisher:

Just Desserts by Charlotte Rees

Doesn't this have the most gorgeous cover and I can't wait to start making some of these desserts.
An essential collection of 30 simple, no-fuss sweets served with an extra dollop of puns.

 Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

In the murky world of Kings Cross in 1932, aspiring crime writer Joan Linderman and her friend and flatmate Bernice Becker live the wild bohemian life, a carnival of parties and fancy-dress artists' balls.

One Saturday night, Joan is thrown headfirst into a real crime when she finds Ellie, her neighbour, murdered. To prove her worth as a crime writer and bring Ellie's killer to justice, Joan secretly investigates the case in the footsteps of Sergeant Lillian Armfield.

 The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

Bell is working for Hannah and Max as nanny to their children, 9 year old Linus and 4 year old twins Elise and Tilde. 
Hannah's first husband fell into a coma 7 years earlier, following an accident. Now he is awake. And he wants his family back.

Caught in the middle bell tries to hold them all together, but she unwittingly becomes part of the problem and everything hangs in the balance - until a secret slowly emerges that will decide all their fates.

 My purchases:

Cloudburst by Wilbur Smith 
Jack Courtney has lived in London his whole life. But this summer his parents are travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a gorilla conference, and they've promised to take Jack and his friends with them.

When his parents go missing in the rainforest, abducted by mercenaries, nobody seems to have any answers. Jack is pretty sure that it's got something to do with the nearby tantalum mines, but he needs to prove it. Along with Amelia and Xander, Jack must brave the jungle to save his parents. Standing in his way is a member of his own family - Caleb Courtney.

 Call of the Raven by Wilbur Smith

The son of a wealthy plantation owner and a doting mother, Augustus Mungo St John is accustomed to the wealth and luxuries his privilege has afforded him. That is until he returns from university to discover his family ruined, his inheritance stolen and his childhood sweetheart, Camilla, taken by the conniving Chester Marion. Fuelled by anger, and love, Mungo swears vengeance and devotes his life to saving Camilla - and destroying Chester.

Camilla, trapped in New Orleans and powerless to her position as a kept slave and Chester's brutish behaviour, must learn to do whatever it takes to survive.

As Mungo battles his own fate and misfortune to achieve the revenge that drives him, and regain his power in the world, he must question what it takes for a man to survive when he has nothing, and what he is willing to do in order to get what he wants.

I would love to hear what you received in the mail lately!