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A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell

A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell

The collected works of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl;it seems as though the past few years the genre of domestic thrillers was born thanks to some truly epic female authors. I don’t quite know what it is about these types of books, […]

River Run by Nicole Alexander

River Run by Nicole Alexander

Nicole Alexander will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is she a phenomenal author, but she was the first woman to feature as a #WCW of mine on my old site, Don’t Ask Leah. She didn’t know me at all, but from just […]

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

I was insanely excited to read this book; as soon as I learned of its existence, I was intrigued. Non-fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are not something that I read often, nor are they what I enjoy reading (which sometimes I think is a bit strange seeing as I only write non-fiction, autobiographical, memoir-y kind of posts), but there was definitely something about My Thoughts Exactly that made me purchase it, even when doubt started to creep in.

Before I started reading it, I will admit that I was scared that I was going to be as underwhelmed and uninterested as I have been with previous forays into the non-fiction literary world. I was tentative.

As soon as I began reading it, I knew that I was going to be pleasantly surprised (that’s an understatement really). I absolutely loved the voice of Lily Allen. I loved the simplicity of her words and that never, not once, did she give any more information than absolutely necessary. Her stories were her stories and nothing more – she didn’t ever need to beef them out with random details or filler fluff. And that is what I have never liked about biographical works; I don’t like being treated as a simple reader that can’t follow emotional syntax and experiences. More often than not, when I have tried to read biographies they are either too detail-orientated or too self-centred. Now I realise that as a autobiography it will be about someone and yes, will be centred around them, but there is a certain amount of story-telling needed rather than just “I did this, I felt that,” etc. etc. Ya feel me?

Anyway, I digress.

My Thoughts Exactly provides an honest, raw and uninhibited foray into the world of Lily Allen. Even though her experiences, lifestyle and childhood are so far removed from anything that I have ever known it didn’t stop me being able to connect with them at all. In fact, I was able to really empathise with her because instead of talking about the experience itself (private jets, drugs, a pretty full on stalker, famous parents, a deeply upsetting stillbirth etc.), Allen looked inward and spoke mainly of how she interacted with the world around her. The entire book felt like a really big, powerful and very emotional letting go for Lily Allen – and it made me really envious that she was able to write and publish so freely everything that has made her the woman she is today – scars, mistakes, flaws and all. 

I also loved that she remained incredible humble whilst also acknowledging her success. She spoke frankly about her achievements, many of which I was unaware of, but didn’t rattle on about them. She spoke of them matter-of-factly which I respect immensely. It allowed me to continue to connect with her words throughout the book, no matter the grand nature of her dalliances. Another thing that really surprised me was the understanding I felt around her drug use. I am not comfortable with drug use, at all. I don’t like hearing about it, knowing about it or thinking about it. For me, there is just something about drugs that triggers fear in me, and that has always been the case. For a majority of her adult life, Allen struggled with substance abuse – both alcohol and drugs. But once again, the stories were told with such delicacy and instead of focusing on the event itself, Allen instead used this book to explain the ‘why’. I love her introspection and her knowledge of self and the fact that every one of her decisions, behaviour and actions has reason behind it – not an excuse, but a reason.

I have, for a very long time, longed to write something autobiographical detailing my own experiences, mistakes and flaws (again, I realise how weird it is that I want to write non-fiction but don’t like reading it) and My Thoughts Exactly has only fed that want and desire. What I really gained from Allen’s book is that there is such confidence and strength in vulnerability. Imagine how light and free you would feel if all of your deepest, darkest secrets, thoughts and feelings were out there in the world. To me, that would be everything. To embrace that fear, to lay everything out there and to completely surrender to whatever comes next would just be so utterly liberating. Lily Allen admits to sleeping with female escorts, to cheating on her husband, to being the person someone cheated with, to the mistakes she has made as a mother – she has written about things that are so deeply intimate and personal and most of the time that are kept to oneself. What she has done though, is started a conversation. Through her vulnerability and her willingness to be judged and ridiculed and mocked, she has also allowed for her mistakes to be held by the masses – I am certain that she is not the only one who has made one or all of these mistakes.

Overall, My Thoughts Exactly utterly entranced me. I felt like I was listening to a friend tell me a story for the entire time I was reading it. Dealing with some pretty heavy issues including a traumatic miscarriage and stillbirth, Lily Allen has been able to bring these experiences to a whole new audience in a way that is accessible, sensitive and intelligent. I loved this book and would highly recommend. Highly.

Day Six: Best Christmas Reads for Kids and Adults

Day Six: Best Christmas Reads for Kids and Adults

Christmas and books and books about Christmas – THIS POST HAS IT ALL. I have always wanted to have a tradition where I read Christmas books throughout December. Until now, this has remained but a thought and a wish.. this year however, I plan on […]

The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein

The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein

Swedish authors are incredible. If you haven’t read a book by a Swedish author, do yourself a favour – buy one and read it immediately. I was first introduced to Swedish authors when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It took […]

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

I am a huge Jane Harper fan. Huge. Sitting alongside Kate Morton, Holly Ringland and Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper is not only one of my favourite authors, but she is one of my favourite Australian female authors. These women are who I look up to, their work is what keeps me going when my motivation waivers or my confidence drops. These are the women whose careers I respect and aim for and admire.

Jane Harper burst onto the literary scene with the 2016 best-selling The Dry, and then followed it up with the 2018 hit Force of Nature. These two titles completely changed how I see the Australian landscape, both the physical and the mental. The way that Jane Harper was able to capture the entire Australian psyche between the covers of her book is something well beyond my own comprehension. She managed to completely dissect and celebrate this country whilst reminding us of its power, its expanse and its unforgivable nature.

Unlike its two predecessors, The Lost Man does not involve Aaron Falk – the detective we were first introduced to in The Dry. Though I do love the Aaron Falk character (and ay have a slight crush on him that I don’t understand), The Lost Man completely held its own without him. Following the Bright family, we are taken the furthest into the Australian outback that Harper has taken us before where we are thrown right into the action with the death of one brother and the confusion and grief that brings his remaining two brothers.

What follows is a wonderfully descriptive mystery of figuring out how Cameron Bright met his demise way out near Stockman’s Grave. We are taken to the far corners of the Australian outback and introduced to the inner workings of a small, country town. Not only that, but the brilliant and suspenseful edge of the family drama that weaves its way through the book is in a class of its own. The Bright family’s dynamics are expertly examined, with the added intrigue and stress around what it is like for the farmers and property owners who are way ‘out bush’. The Lost Man grants us access to an Australian life that many of us will seldom know and with that in mind, Harper is educating us about our own people. And I love it. Harper’s writing brings more atmosphere than should be possible with the written word, proving for the third time around that she is absolutely a force to be reckoned with.

There is always a risk when reading a thriller, a family-drama or a mystery novel. I find that even if I am thoroughly enjoying the book, there is a niggling voice in my head wondering whether or not the major twist, the reveal, the conclusion will be worth it. I want shocking. I want unpredictable. I want to be saying, “Oh my god, yes.” When it comes to Jane Harper, however, there is absolutely no risk. The mystery stays with you right until the very last page, even when everything has been solved and sorted and pieced together. I finished this book with the same enthusiasm and excitement with which I started it, and that is rare.

Even though the descriptive language is constant, and for any other writer would be overkill, each and every sentence is necessary and relevant. Nothing is left behind. There has been a huge surge in the domestic/family drama and sexy thriller genre ever since Girl on the Train, but Jane Harper’s works stand completely on its own not only in the Australian market, but internationally as well. It is so rare that this country, its population, its vast land and its uniqueness are captured in a way that pays homage to its reality.

Enter, Jane Harper.

Summer Reading List – so far..

Summer Reading List – so far..

Where do I even begin?! Seriously. This year may have been hard, and challenging, and completely gut-wrenching at times, but it has also been rewarding and the most life-changing, transformative period of my life. And, I do feel that Summer 2018-19 is going to be […]

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I first came across The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society  when I was working in Angus & Robertson in Chatswood. It was a new release and I remember reading the back of it and feeling immediately drawn to the main character, Juliet Ashton. She […]

Walker Books Picture Book Round-Up

Walker Books Picture Book Round-Up

With our baby shower but a mere five weeks away, we have started thinking of everything we need to buy for Bub so that we can put together some kind of a gift registry. Funnily enough (not really, though), most people have already said, “Well, we won’t be buying you guys any books!” This is, of course, in part due to the fact that I work in the industry but also because most people know that I have been collecting (hoarding) books – both picture and adult varieties – for the entirety of my life. Each and every house that I have moved in and out of has seen me or some other poor human in my life having to lug a gross amount of boxes and tubs full of books to and from each place.

I have picture books from my own childhood, some that I have tracked down online that are out of print and others that I have bought because they are essential to my collection. I have always wanted to have a large library for my child, I have always envisioned the time in my life where I can finally pass my love of reading, imagination and books on. And now that the time has come where that is my reality, I am beyond excited. The other day, Pete surprised me by saying, “I am definitely going to be a dad that reads to his child,” which was a huge thing for him to say as I don’t think he has ever finished a book in his life. He is so excited to get bub’s bookshelf in place in the nursery and populate it with my stories – and you can imagine how freaking happy and in love and everything that makes me feel.

I never thought that I would have the opportunity to work in the book world and yet I find myself working for one of the most beloved children’s book publishers in the world. Though my time here is going to be cut shorter than I imagined when I accepted the role thanks to the little human inside of me, my passion for reading and its importance to a child’s life and development has increased substantially – and I seriously did not think that that was possible. I am surrounded by picture books and children’s titles each and every day and I am so inspired by the talent, imagination and creativity of each of our authors and illustrators that a lot of the time it leaves me speechless and dumbfounded.

My position here has just been advertised online as my company starts looking for someone to replace me while I am on maternity leave; it is setting in now just how very close we are to being a family of three (or five if you include the one-eyed cat and our beautiful dope of a dog). It is also setting in just how much I am going to miss my job, connecting people with books and authors, not to mention the incredible people I work with. So, to celebrate and express sincere gratitude to the incredible Walker Books Australia I wanted to do a round-up acknowledging the timeless, beautiful and truly MAGICAL picture books that we publish (and that I love and adore and cannot wait to share with our beautiful son).

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

One of the most poignant, important books of the year, Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid is a beautiful and impossibly sweet story about a young boy who, after seeing three fabulously dressed women on the train home with his Nana one day desires to dress up as a mermaid. Julián worries about what his Nana will think when he makes a mess trying to recreate the colourful womens’ dresses and, what will she think about Julián himself? At it’s heart, this book is about self-confidence and is a radiant celebration of love and individuality and I am completely mad about it. Completely.

Square, Triangle and Circle Books by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

These books are absolutely brilliant. Laced with wit and humour that adults and parents will love, this series teaches children about acceptance, sharing and friendship in the most gentle and subtle way. The text and the illustrations each enhance one another, and the work from the award-winning, best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is nothing short of brilliant. What I particularly love is the simplicity of the characters and just how much emotion and story is conveyed from the characters’ eyes alone. These books really are as much for the adults as they are for the children. Explore the pages with young readers, teach them about shapes and lose yourself in the world of Square, Triangle and Cricle (Circle out March 2019).

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge

Before I started working here, I hadn’t heard of Meg McKinlay. She is an absolute powerhouse, a rockstar in the world of children’s publishing. Meg Mckinlay and Leila Rudge are both award-winning in their own rights, but as a team, they are also an award-winning duo – and for good reason. Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros is a gorgeous book about a small rhinoceros who wants to see the big world, so she built a boat and she sailed away. We follow the little rhino as she explores far away lands. This is a picture book about following your dreams – even those wild ones that you never think would come to fruition – and is perfect for adventurous little souls. The illustrations are to die for (and Leila Rudge is possibly my favourite illustrator) – I mean, just look at these spreads!!!

The Penguins are Coming! by Meg McKinlay and Mark Jackson

Another banger from Meg Mckinlay, The Penguins Are Coming! has been a monster hit this year. There are penguins coming to the zoo and there is much excitement, but the other animals have no idea what a penguin even is! Each animal has their own idea about what a penguin is, each more crazy and wild than the last! The illustrations in this book are phenomenal. PHENOMENAL. There is SO much to look at on each page and it is possibly the book I can see myself having the most fun reading to bub. Parents can stray from the text and point out different things they can see, all the while teaching children about all the different animals you can find in the zoo. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Meg McKinlay’s knack for a fun and lively story is only enhanced by Mark Jackson’s AMAZING, bright and colourful illustrations. One to read over and over (and over) again.

Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott and Bob Graham

Much like Julián is a Mermaid, Want to Play Trucks? is a book that challenges traditional gender stereotypes in an accessible and gentle way. The story, crafted by Ann Stott encourages non-gender-specific play and teaches children and parents about the acceptance and self-discovery that came come from true friendship. The simple text allows young children to follow along with the story while being subtly told a completely different one altogether. And seriously, don’t even get me started on the illustrations of Bob Graham. I was lucky enough to meet Bob Graham earlier this year when he came into our office to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary and I wept. He is just the loveliest man, so humble and totally handled me crying like an absolute champ. The illustrations are colourful but gentle, just like the text, and they perfectly capture the spirit and nature of the story and its message.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

One of the most popular picture books of our time, Guess How Much I Love You is a must-have staple for all young households. This beautiful story by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram is the sweet story of a father and baby hare who are each trying to out-love the other one. The baby hare starts with telling his dad as wide as his arms can stretch, but when daddy hare can stretch his arms even wider, baby hare has to try and find a way to tell his dad that he loves him more. Beneath this gorgeous story is a child also looking up to its dad and wanting to be just like him. There is a reason that Guess How Much I Love You is now a brand in and of itself; a publishing phenomenon, over 18 million copies of this book have been sold around the world.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Another classic, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by the amazingly talented Helen Oxenbury, is one of Walker Books proudest endeavours. Selling in the millions, this title is the perfect read-aloud for parents to enjoy with their children. Follow the family as then SPLISH and SPLASH through the river, SQUELCH through the mud and wade through the SWISHY grass in search of a bear. Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations are stunning as always while the repetition and extremely catchy, “I’m not scared!” has cemented this book as a favourite, a must-have an a classic for families all over the world. And p.s. next year, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is celebrating its 30th anniversary!

Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough

A personal favourite of mine, and an undoubted classic, Where’s My Teddy? owns a chunk of my heart. Written and illustrated by Jez Alborough, the use of the bright, brilliant green and full page illustrations of the forest just completely get to me. I used to hold this book as open and as flat as I could make the spine so as to get the entire scene in one, long, ogling stare. The story itself is simple and oh-so-sweet, but it really is the illustrations in this that have solidified it as a total favourite. I read and reread this book so many times that, one Christmas when Santa bought me a bear who wore a knitted yellow jumper with the word ‘TEDDY’ in black, I named him after the teddy in the book. Freddy. He was my Freddy Teddy.

Hello, Beaky! by Jez Alborough

Another book by Jez Alborough, Hello, Beaky! isn’t as well-known as Where’s My Teddy? but once again, this one holds a special place deep in my heart. Beaky the bird doesn’t know who he is, so when he meets Toad, they search the rainforest to try and figure out just what he is. It is a very cute story about discovering who you are and where you fit in, and it is also a gorgeous story about friendship – even if you are different from one another. The colours of this book have stayed with me over the years and I can still hear my mum’s voice reading this one aloud to my brother and I when we were little. It is that kind of memory that lets you recognise just how special a book really is.

Dragon Post by Emma Yarlett

I hadn’t heard of Emma Yarlett before this book came out very recently, but now that I have seen her work I am sold. Dragon Post is a fabulous novelty picture book; it is The Jolly Postman for a new generation. A story about friendship and the art of asking for help, this story centres around Alex, a little boy who finds a dragon living under his stairs. He isn’t sure what to do, but luckily he knows just who to ask for help. With five envelopes to open and letter to read, the joyful, touching and vibrantly-illustrated Dragon Post is BEAUTIFULLY put together and one book that I am a little bit too excited to read to our baby boy.

This is but the first of many picture book round-ups, and I know for a fact that there are some seriously wonderful picture books coming our way in 2019. So, stay tuned, watch this space and happy reading!

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

I don’t read a lot of Young Adult work. I did when I was a young adult, and I know that there is a huge adult market for YA books, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. Enter, Dry. I had heard a lot of […]