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The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

Disclaimer: there are not enough nice words in the English vocabulary (or any vocabulary for that matter) to properly describe the absolute beauty of this book. Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club returns to our shelves with the […]

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 one simple email requesting an interview with her, she gave me her mobile number and told me to call her anytime. When I finally worked up the courage to dial her number, she was generous with her time, her stories and her entire being. She divulged details about her writing process, her family, her life in rural Australia and about herself to me that left me feeling inspired, fulfilled and completely in awe of her.

River Run had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while before I picked it up recently, I hate to admit. The thing that everyone needs to know about Nicole Alexander’s work is that even if the blurb or the subject matter doesn’t appeal to you strongly or seem as though it is going to be up your alley – trust me, it is. I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction and generally speaking, when I see that a book’s story takes place any time before the present day, it tends to deter me from wanting to read it.

“It is January 1951, and after a year away Eleanor Webber has returned home to River Run, her family’s sprawling sheep property in western New South Wales. Fleeing a failed love affair back in Sydney, she hopes for some time and space to heal. 

But with shearing of over 25,000 sheep about to commence, and the infamous and moneyed Margaret Winslow and her husband Keith staying in the main house as her mother’s guests, that dream is quickly dashed.

More worryingly, her half-brother Robbie is increasingly running wild, playing tricks on his governess, antagonising the jackeroos and obsessing about a communist invasion. Though only eleven, Robbie has appointed himself guardian of the property and, in his treehouse by the river, he readies for an imminent attack. Armed with a gun.

Then, with a storm looming and tensions rising in the shearing shed, a mysterious stranger appears on the horizon. 

And in one disastrous moment young Robbie entangles Eleanor in a situation that will have serious repercussions for every member of the Webber family.”

When I picked this book up from the bookstore, I bought it without reading the blurb because I trust her writing and her talent for story-telling so inherently. Even when I started reading it, I didn’t turn to the back of the book to see what I was in for – instead, I read it page by page and let the story unfold. I went into the book blind and it did not disappoint.

First of all, the fact that River Run takes place over one week for the duration of the book means that the pace is slow and allows for a lot more detail to be expressed. I am a fast reader and usually churn through books at a rapid pace, but I found that because the timeline was only a week it actually changed my reading habits. It was almost as if I was reading it in real time. Not only that, but I found myself making the conscious decision to not read too much in one sitting. That isn’t how you read Nicole Alexander’s work, not because it isn’t gripping or page-turning or anything like that, but because her love of the Australian landscape and the respect she has for its description and retelling deserves the reader’s time and attention.

Our protagonist, Eleanor, is my kind of woman. For her time she is rebellious – she has relocated to Sydney and spends her time with a very progressive (sexually speaking) crowd at a time where that was still frowned upon for a woman. She also writes and illustrates comic books and graphic novels – a woman after mown heart. She retreats to her family home in the country after having her heart broken and her writing stolen by said heartbreaker. Already for me, that amount of detail was enough for me to care about what happened to her deeply.

Though I am completely oblivious when it comes to sheep shearing and the running of a farm, it did not mean that those elements of the story were lost on me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nicole Alexander writes with such devotion to her background and the rural lifestyle that you cannot help but become completely consumed by it as if it were your own life and experiences. Simply from reading this work of fiction, I was granted access into the reality of the processes that take place on a sheep farm. I would never seek out such information as it isn’t something I necessarily want to learn about, but through reading this novel I learned so much and became rather fixated on how everything runs in the country. In my opinion, that is the mark of a brilliant writer: someone who invites you into their world so subtly that you don’t realise it, furthermore, how much you belong there.

The pace of the book unexpectedly quickened when the climax of the plot was revealed and it was only then that I started completely devouring the pages – any spare moment that I had, I spent in the world of River Run. It was a perfectly timed turn of events and enhanced the reading experience for me, definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and enjoyed reacquainting myself with Nicole once more.

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 […]

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 (Oblivious) New Mama’s 25 Days of Christmas

The (Oblivious) New Mama’s 25 Days of Christmas

It’s December! It’s Summer! It’s the festive season! Our Christmas tree is up! Our cat has discovered a love of tearing baubles off the tree and waking us up at 5am by chasing them down the hallway!

Seriously though, I am so freaking excited that it is officially December and now I can let out all of my Christmas love and adoration. This is definitely my favourite time of year; the weather is warmer, the afternoon sky glows yellow with the promise of a summer storm, the promise of Christmas movies, the glow of Christmas lights that illuminate otherwise dark suburban streets, the excitement of buying your loved ones presents and the abundance of food, laughter, alcohol and joy that the festive season brings.

To acknowledge Christmas this year, as well as celebrating the pregnancy and the launch of The (Oblivious) New Mama, I thought that I would do a 25 Days of Christmas countdown. Each day leading up to December 25th there will be a Christmas-themed post. There will be recipes and cocktail ideas, do-it-yourself Christmas craft, gift ideas, movies, books and some more personal posts that will also revolve around Christmas.

Every now and then, as well as a Christmas post I will be punctuating my content with some regular blog posts as well. I have book reviews I need to publish and a baby shower to write about and a pregnancy that changes with each and every day as we edge ever closer to our due date. So, without giving too much away I am so happy to kickstart summer and the festive season of 2018 with The (Oblivious) New Mama’s 25 Days of Christmas!

Big love to you all x

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, […]

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 a damn goodun’.

I know I should probably wait to post this when the list is complete (but it will never be complete, let’s be honest), but I am so excited for the weeks I have off in the lead up to my due date that I couldn’t help myself this kinda’ dreary Thursday afternoon! I was scrolling through my instagram feed the other day for some reason that I can’t remember, and I got so far down my post history that I landed back in the summer of 2017. I remember that summer possibly better than any other one that preceded it, but not for the reasons that you may think. I was deeply unhappy, but it was the kind of unhappiness that became so ingrained in me that I accepted it and almost treated it as a friend. I was staying in the suburb of Cremorne a lot and found myself so comfortable in my loneliness which, looking back on now is equal parts devastating and heartbreaking but I remember it feeling so freeing. I wasn’t fighting against my pain, I instead made friends with it.

What that meant for me was a lot of walks to and from the shops early in the morning to pick up a coffee and the newspaper for myself. I had time off from the cafe where I was still working, while those around me were still at their jobs after Christmas so I had nothing to do except fill my days however I wanted to. I had been dealing with my anxiety which always flared up when I ventured into areas of Sydney or did activities that I didn’t normally do, however I think the deep and enveloping melancholy nature of how I was feeling made me look past the point of my anxiety. I didn’t care. This worked in an odd way for me. I didn’t care how sad or anxious I felt that I would numbly drive myself to Balmoral Beach before seven in the morning, set my towel up and plunge into the cold water for hours on end. Then I walked to The Boat House and bought myself breakfast and a coffee and sat watching the water. I also took myself on a lot of picnics, surrounding myself with punnets of berries, my notebook and whatever book I was reading.

All those days and hours that I spent alone, I spent reading. I churned through more books that summer than I ever had before. I was averaging almost two books a day, and had to buy new books every week to see me through those hot months. It didn’t matter where I was, I was reading. I found solace in the books’ pages and familiarised myself with the characters I was getting to know everyday. I had company when I was reading and I think that the loneliness I felt actually showed me a completely new way to read. Never before had I immerse myself in literature like I did that summer.

Whenever I think about maternity leave, I find my mind wandering to what books I will read in the lead up to our son being born. I get giddy when I think about it and yesterday found myself wanting to reread some of the books I read that summer. I wandered around my house when I got home from work yesterday and pulled titles from my shelves – some that I have already read and others that I have been meaning to read for years. I don’t doubt that I will add to this pile (I will have to, my initial picks will nowhere near see me through summer), but for now I am allowing myself to feel that indescribable excitement one has at the prospect of a ‘to be read’ pile just waiting to be devoured.

 

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

This is the only new release in my pile at the moment. I wrote a blog piece about this book and I am so incredibly keen to read it. I have never been one for biographies or autobiographies, but when news of this book and the stories it contains hit my news feed I knew I wanted in. Lily Allen has never been someone I have kept track of although over the years, I have enjoyed listening to her music when it pops up. When the news started reporting on the content of My Thoughts Exactly, I was immediately intrigued. I have often been told that the amount of stories and ‘life experience’ that I have had in my short twenty-seven years on this earth is almost unbelievable, and I don’t know – I guess I just felt that maybe I am not the only one who feels this way, who feels as though their person is but a tapestry of events and experiences and unbelievable happenings. Keen. To. Read.

 

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

At work, we have a shelf in the kitchen where people leave books they don’t want or ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) that they have received from other publishers. I picked up A Noise Downstairs, drawn to it because I am absolutely loving the thriller genre at the moment. I had never heard of this book before, but once I read the back and a couple of reviews online, I was anxious to finish the book I am reading at the moment just so I could start this one.. read the blurb online. Do it. Do it.

 

River Run by Nicole Alexander

Nicole Alexander holds a special place in my heart. She was the first person to accept my invitation to be a #WCW when I founded The #WCW Project through my old blog, Don’t Ask Leah. Nicole had no idea who I was, but when I contacted her out of the blue and requested an interview she immediately accepted and we had an amazing, long and incredibly humbling phone conversation. I didn’t feel as though I was interviewing her, instead I felt as though I was talking to an old friend. I hadn’t read any of her work cover to cover before then, however had flicked through all of her backlist during my time at Angus and Robertson. River Run is her most recent book and I bought it as soon as it came out and it has remained on my ‘to be read’ pile ever since. This summer, it’s happening; and summer really is the perfect time to read a Nicole Alexander book because her description of the Australian landscape and climate and smells and sounds are just impeccable.

 

Still Summer by Jacqueline Mitchard

This is another one that I grabbed from work the other day. I skim-read the back and it sounded like the perfect, light, drama-filled read that every summer reading list needs and deserves. Much like when I read Candace Bushnell’s Killing Monica, I go into books like this not expecting to be blown away by keen literary skill or turn of phrase, I go into them expecting to be entertained and not have to think too much. I think the blurb speaks for itself and I do love a good simple read so this is another one I am excited to devour (easily).

“In high school, Olivia, Tracy and Holly had been known as The Godmothers, and their friendship has endured throughout the ensuing decades. Now, with the death of Olivia’s husband, a wealthy Italian Count, and her return to America, the friends decide to reunite on a luxury cruise in the Caribbean. Along with Tracy’s college-aged daughter and a two-man crew, they begin their journey uneventfully, enjoying the sun and the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean.

Then, a series of devastating events unfolds, leaving the women crewless, starving and terrified. Almost overnight, what was meant to be a blissful vacation devolves into a desperate fight for survival, as they soon find themselves battling the elements, a horrifying attack by drug traffickers, and their own frailties. It is at once a story about the bonds of friendship, the love between mothers and their children, and the strengths we don’t know we possess until we are faced with our own mortality.”

YAS.

 

To The Sea by Christine Dibley

This was one of the highlights of the summer I spent the first few paragraphs rambling about. The way the Dibley described the Tasmanian coastline and the natural elements that the story worked around was nothing short of genius. I absolutely loved every single moment of this book and was utterly devastated when I was nearing the end of the book, and even more so when I completed it. This is also possibly the book I am looking forward to (re)reading most this summer. It is a family drama/crime/thriller which delivers on all fronts; not only is it suspenseful, but the twist and conclusion of the story certainly delivered AND the writing was absolutely beautiful. If you haven’t heard of this one, do yourself a favour and purchase immediately (if not sooner). A beautiful, haunting read. Literally cannot say enough good things about it. For real. So good. AMAZING.

 

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

This book I found when I was on my lunchtime walk down King Street in Newtown and wound up at Vinnies. I always keep an eye on the new releases and when this one appeared on my radar, it stayed there. The books you find at Vinnies are normally from years and years past but there, on the bookshelf sat a next-to-new copy of Whistle in the Dark for four dollars. FOUR DOLLARS for a new release?! How could I not buy it?

“Jen’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days.
When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: making secretive phone calls, hiding books under her bed, sleeping with the light on.As Lana stays stubbornly silent, Jen sets out to solve the mystery behind her daughter’s disappearance herself…”

 

The Witches by Roald Dahl

This may seem like a bit of a weird addition to a pregnant twenty-seven year old’s summer reading list, I assure you it is anything but. I was talking to my friend about that old 80s movie Return to Oz.. which, if you haven’t seen it you should, but for some reason it also made me think of the film adaptation of The Witches. And then I realised that I haven’t read it in almost two decades and then I thought about how magical and amazing and creative and wondrous Dahl’s mind was and I think everyone’s summer could do with a bit of whimsy (albeit creepy whimsy).

 

A Little Change of Face by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

So – I read this when I was about fifteen on one of our family trips to Perth when we went to visit one of my godmothers. It was the first ‘older’ book that I bought myself and when I read the (rather juvenile) blurb, I thought that the protagonist sounded fabulous and the storyline sounded sexy and intriguing. I don’t remember anything about this book at all, having read it almost thirteen years ago now. But every time I have moved house and had to pack everything up, I have held this book in my hands and never wanted to part with it, promising myself that I would read it again one day soon.

 

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

I will admit that I hadn’t heard of this book before I was sick at home one day and the movie adaptation as on Foxtel during the day. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the whole idea behind the book club and, in fact, this film/book was one of the main inspirations when it came to me creating the Cliterature Club. I loved that they wanted to celebrate Jane Austen, who is of course an absolute pioneer of women and literature, but also that each of them were able to draw comparisons with the novels and their own life. I mean, that is one of the absolute beauties of reading, right? We are able to feel less alone, we find different parts of ourselves in the stories of others. I vowed that after watching the film I would read the book, because if I felt that strongly towards each of the characters on a screen, imagine how I will feel when I read them on the page..

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 […]