Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe

Title: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography
Author: Jill Roe
Publication Date: 23rd April 2018 from Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Synopsis: "The award-winning biography of Australia's most celebrated literary icon in a new, revised edition.

2018 marks ten years since Jill Roe's defining biography, Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography. To mark the occasion and bring the story of Miles Franklin to a new generation, HarperCollins will publish an abridged, accessible edition: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography.

Propelled to fame aged only twenty-one by her bestselling novel My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin wrote prolifically, publishing numerous fiction and non-fiction books and articles - often under pseudonyms - over the course of her life. Australian literature was her cause, but Miles Franklin was also - perhaps more importantly - a hugely influential first-wave feminist, unionist and progressive. She was a woman who changed lives, in America, Britain, war-torn Europe and Australia.

If her extraordinary achievements were not enough, her endowment of the Miles Franklin Literary Award ensured she would never be forgotten. In 2013 the Stella Prize for Australian Women's Writing, named in honour of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, was awarded for the first time, cementing her reputation further."

My thoughts: I will come clean here and say straight up that I had no idea that Miles Franklin was a woman, let alone that she had been a feminist, activist, and lived through two World Wars. When I saw this book would be coming out, I immediately requested a copy to try and remedy my ignorance.

And what a wonderful remedy this was! Clearly extremely well-researched and wonderfully put together, you can feel the personality of Miles coming straight through. And while I normally don't like sensing the biographer's touch, Roe managed to keep a light touch that just helped everything to flow along, and I loved the moments where there was no fact, so Roe just made a few assumptions for us to do with what we will.

Miles Franklin was a remarkable woman - from starting to write very early in life, to her decision to move to America, then England, and then back to Australia; her activism and firm belief in equal rights for men and women. I really took to the photo of her on the cover of the book, and would often flip back from the part I had been reading to really try and picture her doing the things that were written about. If you are looking for a way to remedy your own ignorance, or just fancy a really well-written romp of a biography, I highly recommend you check this one out.

{I received a review copy of this from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: [On Miles's successful publication of her first children's book.] 'According to Pixie, children were honest and 'your audience doesn't grow stale, there's always another batch coming along, like scones.''

You would like this book if: You intrigued by Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin; you enjoy a beautifully put together biography; you are interested in the history of Australian literature.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Hmmm, I'd say a nice black tea, perhaps out of a Waratah Cup?

Rating:  8/10

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts // Unsubscribe

Lately I have been making an effort to unsubscribe from emails that I don't really read, or that just encourage me to spend money I don't have/am saving for something else. I thought it would be easy enough - surely there were only a few things I needed to unsubscribe from? - but as time has gone on I've found that more and more emails are coming through that I realise... I don't need anymore.

As I go through this process of digital minimising, I have started thinking about different selves. For example, ah, here is the self that signed up for this rewards card that I hardly ever use, but still receive the ‘it’s time to spend your points!’ emails anyway. And, yes, here is the self that used to watch this online video streaming service… for like a month… so of course I would receive the emails updating their terms and conditions.
Here is the self that loved this website so much that they actually used to read these emails that they send out nearly every day.

I am slowly uncovering another self. One that only wants emails that are actually relevant to them to be in their inbox – to make more space for some form of connection or inspiration to occur. The self that wants to stop spending so much money on things that she doesn’t need, and instead get into a mind-space of ‘this money is being put aside for more exciting things in the future’. Can I be the kid that will get five marshmallows in ten minutes if I don’t eat this single one now?

I didn’t really think that a relatively simple act of unsubscribing from things would lead to me thinking about who I am, who I want to identify as. But sometimes the simplest things can be our greatest teachers, I guess. And, for once, I think I’m actually here for the lesson.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spoonie Musings // What even IS 'pain-free'?

Hello! And a special shout-out to all my fellow chronic pain friends. As of the last couple of weeks, my pain levels have been worse every day than they used to be. What I mean by that is... I experience pain everyday with my conditions, but usually not all day every day. The last couple of weeks, though, have had me experiencing pain of a higher level than usual all day every day. And every night.

And yes, I am noticing how it affects me.

Sleep has never been that refreshing for me, even when I sleep a total of ten to twelve hours a day (including whatever I managed overnight, naps, sleeping in...). But lately, it's even less refreshing. And it takes me hours to fall asleep. So sleep is kind of a tense subject in my mind at the moment.

And I'm snappy. Grumpy. Pain wears you down and hollows you out. You find you have less patience overall for things like... ants invading your kitchen (yes, this is happening at the moment, and YES it is driving me up the wall). I find I have to work extra hard not to snap at people, or swear at the television when someone I don't like is on it (for example, a few people know that I watch Running Man (a Korean variety tv show) and adore it, but there is one particular person who is on there that just rubs me the wrong way. Lately I am find it very hard not to call said person not-very-nice-names...).

Finally, my everyday life is kind of...dimmed. I can't focus on things very well (hence this really choppy and strange blog post), so working on my writing and such things are basically out of the question at the moment. Even reading is quite hard, I just force myself to do it anyway. I'm exhausted all the time, so spending time with my husband is often in the form of me sitting nearby and reading while he games - which is totally great, but I kind of wish I was slightly more aware so we could game together, or play a boardgame... 

Anyway. That's just a little update about how I'm going, and about how chronic pain is impacting me and my life. Despite things being pretty rough at the moment, I am still okay with how I'm handling things overall, and I do note that my experience of pain may be completely different from someone else's. But I think sharing this kind of thing is important, so that we spoonies remember that, even with these isolating conditions, we are not alone in our experiences.

Love to all who read.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan

Title: Begone the Raggedy Witches
Author: Celine Kiernan
Series: The Wild Magic Trilogy #1
Publication Date: February 1st 2018 from Walker Books

Synopsis: "Mup's dad has been kidnapped by withces, and Mup - along with her mam, brother and dog - must journey to an enchanted world to rescue him.

Danger awaits them. Witches Borough is a beguiling place of rhyming crows, talking cats and forbidden magic, ruled by a tyrannical queen and her band of raggedy witches. And Mam seems strange on this side of the border - striding, powerful and increasingly distant.

Even if they can save her father, Mup knows that nothing will ever be the same again."

My thoughts: This was quite an atmospheric little read, and I really enjoyed my time with it. I did struggle a little during the first half, but even when I was struggling I could see the writing was evoking the place and characters really well. And Mup is such a fantastic little character - sometimes afraid, sometimes determined, sometimes both. And she has the capacity for true joy and trying to evoke that in others, too, even when she just wants to gather her family together and take them home and have no more to do with Witches Borough.

Speaking of Mup, honestly the characters really carry this book so well. The setting is well-described, but it is the characters that Kiernan has created that really make this book shine - the crows and cats, the witches themselves, and of course Mup's family - all of them lend magic and realness to the story and carry you along so well within the tale. The connections and sometimes disconnections between the characters really pulled at my heart-strings, and one character called Crow, in particular, is so well-crafted that I found myself visualising him and wanting to give him a big hug.

Kiernan also manages to use the tale of Witches Borough to explore some deeper, more intense topics such as war-torn lands, whether it is okay to be happy whilst others are suffering, and the power of family and friendship in an individual's life. Plus, community and how it can drive people together in warmth or in fear. And she does this well.

Plus, Mup has a dog called Badger. How could I not love this?

I highly recommend this little tale, and I am really looking forward to the next instalment.

[I received a review copy of this book from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'Badger came nudging out of the kicthen, his big flat head pushing the door to one side. He grinned his doggy grin, whining with joy, his butt wagging as fast as his tail.'

You would like this book if: Intense, magical, wonderful tales about a magnificent little girl; dogs called Badger.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Milky, sweet tea for comfort and coziness.

Rating:  9/10

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Publication Date: February 1st 2018 by Walker Books

What if death was the only thing left to control?

In a perfect world, the only way to die is to be gleaned by a professional scythe. When Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentice scythes, they know they have no option but to learn the art of killing. However, the terrifying responsibility of choosing their victims is just the start.

Corruption is the order of the day and Citra and Rowan need to stick together to fight it.

Then they are told that one of them will have to glean the other..."

My thoughts: I really loved the premise of this book, and found myself fascinated by the first chapter or so - the slightly morbid humour in this is right up my alley and I sunk into it really quickly. The characters are interesting, and manage to avoid (quite easily) feeling same-y or too flat (an experience I have had with some YA books of late).

Schusterman's writing is at times extremely beautiful and, at others, almost brutally concise. I think this matched the tone of the book really well and, even when he introduced characters that were perhaps not-quite-likeable (understatement), the language flowed really well and kept you absorbed in the story even while not wanting to know what said characters would do next.

I was originally going to give this a top score, but then had a few thoughts about the book's societal structure: I couldn't find any characters that identified as queer/being part of the LGBTQ+ community. This struck me as unusual for a potentially 'almost-utopian' society, and left me frustrated.

Otherwise, this is a really great first book in a series, and I am eagerly awaiting the second. I think if LGBTQ+ representation is put in place, this could be a really fantastic series.

[I received a review copy of this book from Walker Books. Thank you!!]

A favourite line from the book: '"You see through the facades of the world, Citra Terranova. You'd make a good scythe."
Citra recoiled. "I'd never want to be one."
"That," he said, "is the first requirement."

You would like this book if: You like books with a somewhat grim fascination with death, and yet somehow some humour, too; you like YA fantasy with a fair amount of action to it.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I recommend some tea with either rosehip or hibiscus in it, so that the colour of the tea can match the red cover of your book. (Or the blood of your enemies, perhaps?)

Rating:  8/10

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Reading // March 2018

books read:
~ The Modern Cook's Year by Anna Jones (review)
~ Little Whale by Jo Weaver (review)
~ A-Z of Australian Animals by Jennifer Cossins (review)
~ Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins (review)
~ Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
~ Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
~ Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
~ SHE: A Celebration of Renegade Women by Harriet Hall (review)
~ Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo (review)
~ The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

currently reading:
~ The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (re-readalong with my friend Winx)
~ various cozy mysteries because I just can't at the moment...

Wow. Actually a fairly review heavy month. And I thought I was actually doing kind of badly with that. But I reviewed five or six books this month... maybe seven, looking back now, because I reviewed a couple that I read last month, too. O_O Wow.

Anyway. I actually read a little less than I would have liked this month, but that was mostly due to the gigantic flare of all my illnesses this month that took me out about halfway through. I have had to withdraw from study (I am feeling okay about this because I needed to rest more than anything) and have spent about a week and a half just kind of... trying to recover. I am still not back to 'normal operating speeds', but I am doing pretty okay.

One of the biggest surprises this month in terms of my reading was Song of a Captive Bird, which came in my (birthday) PageHabit box (I am not affiliated with PageHabit, I just really love what they do...). Having the annotations by the author was amazing and made the whole reading experience just that much more wonderful. I didn't expect to, but I absolutely sped through this book and really loved it. 

I am already doing pretty well so far in April, I have read about three or four books, so I am hoping for that to continue even though my brain is kind of dead lately! Wish me luck.

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Book Review: Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo

Title: Lucky Button
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publication Date: 2nd November 2017

Synopsis: "Jonah has always struggled to fit in at school. He's too busy caring for his mother to make friends. But when he finds a lucky button, it connects his world with Nathaniel's, a foundling boy from the eighteenth century. Can Nathaniel's story help Jonah? And can the lucky button work its magic again?

A moving story about friendship, fortune and music from the master storyteller Michael Morpurgo."

My thoughts: I was not quite sure what to expect going into this one - when it mentioned that the main character had troubles at school, I admit that I kind of wanted to bow out. But I'm glad I jumped in anyway - yes, Jonah has troubles at school, and he spends most of his time looking after his Mum, but he is a sweet, loving boy who just came across as such a wonderful character to follow. When his path crosses with Nathaniel's, I realised just how well Morpurgo could conjure an atmosphere - their first meeting is spooky and so well-imagined.

As the story progresses, I found myself feeling wistful for stories that my mum used to read me as a kid - things like Milly Molly Mandy, or Winnie-the-Pooh, or Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This book is a wonderful balance of that reminscent feeling and something that felt fresh and new. The illustrations (by Michael Foreman) only enhance this wonderful combination, leading you to a conclusion that is heartwarming and just a lovely read. Highly recommend for any age.

{I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Walker Books. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'They had become more than mother and son over these past two years; certainly more than carer and patient. They had forged a deep understanding, become the closest and best of companions.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy sweet children's stories with reference to wonderful facts of history; you're craving a lovely little story you can comfortably finish in an afternoon.

Tea to drink while reading this book: A sweet cup of black tea with much sugar and milk.

Rating:  8/10

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