Review: Japan- Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Japan: A curated guide to the best sights, food, culture & art

Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Pan Macmillan Australia

Plum

ISBN:9781760787646

RRP $44.99

Description;

There is something about Japan that works its way into every fibre of your being. No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always uncover new experiences and life-altering adventures.

Pack your bags and travel with us to a country rich in cultural history and full of fascinating contrasts, from the frantic pace of Tokyo and Osaka, to the wintry soul of Hokkaido in the north and the natural wonders of Kyushu in the south. Navigate the dynamic cities, walk the roads of old Japan in Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and Nikko, or go off-grid to smaller, far-flung towns, each with their own unique traditions, crafts, sights, food and art.

Packed with cultural insights and stunning photography, this experiential and eclectic guide takes you on a deeper journey into Japan. Read up on history and local knowledge before you go, learn how to navigate the Shinkansen (bullet train), contemplate modern art and architecture, lose yourself in gardens, shrines and temples, and indulge in the best food tourism of your life. This tightly curated list of must-see places and experiences is for people who want to get an up close and personal look at the real Japan.

My View:

When I opened this book and started to examine some of the wonderful images ( presented more like a coffee travel book than a travel book) I felt an immediate urge to travel – something I have not felt at all during these years of COVID 19 uncertainty and restrictions.

This book has it all; glorious scenery, arts, history, food, beer, culture….I want to visit Japan 🙂

Guest Review: A Royal Visit To Victory Street – Pam Howes

A Royal Visit to Victory Street

(The Bryant Sisters #5)

Pam Howes

 Bookouture

ISBN:9781800197930

Description;

From Amazon charts bestseller Pam Howes comes an emotional and uplifting saga about the power of family and a community trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible war that nearly destroyed everything…

1956, Liverpool. With the shadow of the war looming over them and bomb craters littering the surrounding streets, hope feels far away for the residents of Victory Street. When they learn that the Queen has chosen to visit them on a tour of Liverpool, the delighted neighbours bring back the wartime spirit. Can they possibly get the street ready in time?

Even a royal visit cannot take away Bella Harrison’s worries. Her son, fourteen-year-old Levi, has just told her he wants to move to America to join the rest of his father’s family. The news has so shocked Bella that she’s not sure she’ll be able to sing for the Queen, jeopardising all their plans for the big day.

Life has been hard for Levi, growing up as a mixed-race boy in Liverpool, but he’s the light of Bella’s life. The thought of losing him brings back the terrible memories of losing her father and sister during the war. If everyone pulls together make the Queen’s visit an unforgettable celebration, perhaps she can persuade Levi that Victory Street is where he belongs.

But when Levi receives heartbreaking news from America and his move becomes uncertain, Bella starts to wonder if all her efforts to keep him in Liverpool have been for the right reasons. Can Bella find it in herself to sing for the big celebration, and make the right choice for her beloved son?

A totally unputdownable, heart-wrenching historical novel, packed with family secrets, perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Diney Costeloe and Nancy Revell.

Brenda’s View:
It was 1956 in Liverpool when Mary learned the plans of Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when they were going to visit Victory Street, during their tour of Liverpool. Mary took charge of the organisation to have Victory Street tidied up, making it fit for the royal visit. Lizzie, Mary’s small granddaughter, was going to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen, and rehearsal for her was going well. Lizzie was deaf but she and all those around her knew signing, so she communicated well.

Bella and the other two Bryant Sisters would perform, as they had during the war, as well as her eldest son, Levi, and his two friends. Levi was keen to become a singer and his small band was having success with the concerts they joined in. The admiration Levi held for the new bands from the US as well as locally, with John Lennon doing well saw him anxious not to go on with schooling. He wanted to work to earn money and make his dreams come true. Would they manage to get Victory Street ready in the short time they had? Would their plans be successful?

A Royal Visit to Victory Street is the 5th in The Bryant Sisters series by Pam Howes (and perfect timing after current events) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to catch up with Bella and the girls, learn more about Levi, Earl, Bobby and their integrated family, as well as the strong, determined and stalwart Mary, matriarch of the family. I love this author’s work and I have no hesitation in highly recommending A Royal Visit to Victory Street (along with the series).

Note: The blurb is misleading, as from the second paragraph down, it’s pretty much all wrong.

With thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

A 5 star read!

Review: Wake – Shelley Burr

Wake

Shelley Burr

Hachette Australia

ISBN:9780733647826

Description:

EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019

My View:

Without doubt THE BEST crime fiction read of the year, in fact I could say the best I’ve read in may years!!! I don’t think I need to say anymore, do your self a favour, reignite your thirst for books, read this.

5 STARS *****

Review: The Journey: A Big Panda and Tiny Dragon Adventure – James Norbury

The Journey: Big Panda Tiny Dragon Adventure

James Norbury

Michael Joseph

Penguin Random House

ISBN:9780241585382

RRP $35.00

Description:

The beautifully illustrated new adventure from cherished friends and Sunday Times bestsellers BIG PANDA AND TINY DRAGON

‘James has a way to speak to your soul. This book is nothing short of comforting and heartwarming’ VEX KING
‘While the drawings have the charm of Winnie-the-Pooh, the captions have the depth of ancient proverbs’ GUARDIAN
‘A beautifully illustrated book which draws on tender moments. Exquisite’ DR RANGAN CHATTERJEE
__________

‘We shall go on a journey, across the river . . .’

Join Big Panda and Tiny Dragon as they set off on an extraordinary adventure in this companion to the global bestselling phenomenon Big Panda and Tiny Dragon.

Although content in their temple high up in the mountains, Tiny Dragon realises that something feels incomplete. So it is that they decide to make a journey together, to new and distant lands.

As they encounter dangers and challenges, they learn that everything they need is already inside them and that change, though sometimes scary, is possible and, with patience, can lead to better things.

Inspired by Buddhist philosophy and spirituality, the story of these whimsical characters makes the perfect gift for anyone looking for a little hope and comfort.
__________

‘If we have to be lost,’ said Big Panda, ‘I am glad it is with you . . .’ 

My View:

Absolutely beautiful- in every way! The narrative so calm and honest and true, the illustrations – divine.

Buy this for yourself – you will so enjoy! Buy as a gift for anyone needing a bit of a boost, buy for you creative friends – they will love the art within these pages.

5 stars

Review: The Girl in the Green Dress -Dr Jeni Haynes and Dr George Blair – West

The Girl in the Green Dress

Dr Jeni Haynes & Dr George Blair-West

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733644856

RRP $32.99

Description:

An unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live shows how MPD or DID saved her life. It is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.

I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.’

An intelligent, poised woman, Jeni Haynes sat in court and listened as the man who had abused her from birth, a man who should have been her protector, a man who tortured and terrified her, was jailed for a non-parole period of 33 years. The man was her father.

The abuse that began when Jeni was only a baby is unimaginable to most. It was physically, psychologically and emotionally sadistic and never-ending. The fact she survived may be called a miracle by some – but the reality is, it is testament to the extraordinary strength of Jeni’s mind.

What saved her was the process of dissociation – Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – a defence mechanism that saw Jeni create over 2500 separate personalities, or alters, who protected her as best they could from the trauma. This army of alters included four-year-old Symphony, teenage motorcycle-loving Muscles, elegant Linda, forthright Judas and eight-year-old Ricky.

With her army, the support of her psychiatrist Dr George Blair-West, and a police officer’s belief in her, Jeni fought to create a life for herself and bring her father to justice. In a history-making ruling, Jeni’s alters were empowered to give evidence in court. In speaking out, Jeni’s courage would see many understand MPD for the first time.

THE GIRL IN THE GREEN DRESS is an unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. This is a unique and profoundly important book as it is not only a story of survival, it also includes incredible insight from Dr George Blair-West, Jeni’s psychiatrist and an expert in DID.

My View:
What an incredible read! Reading with one hand over your eyes…blocking out the horrific parts (dont worry you are given written notice of “triggers ahead”), this book is … amazing! The strength, the resilience, the power that Jeni now has in her life is such a contrast to that she had as a child.

I am calling this the best read of the year; powerful, evocative, sensitively written… a book that sheds the light on Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder – the coping mechanism Jeni employed to protect herself from the atrocities she faced. If you get the opportunity watch this video. Hear Jeni and some of her “alters” speaks. So glad you made it through Jeni.

Review: So You Want to Live Younger Longer? – Dr Norman Swan

So You Want to Live Younger Longer?

Dr Norman Swan

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733648342

RRP $34.99

Description:

The ultimate guide on what you can do at any age to stay young and healthy longer, from Australia’s trusted, straight-talking doctor and broadcaster, Dr Norman Swan, bestselling author of So You Think You Know What’s Good for You?

Many of us dream of staying as young as possible as long as possible whether we’re in our 30s, 40s, 70s or even 80s, and there’s a growing Conga line of products and people offering you just that dream. The dilemma is, which of the pills, mental and physical exercise programs, diets and superfoods actually work? Some of them do help to keep us young, healthy and living longer, others may work when the researchers get the potions right and some are a downright waste of money. So how do you know what and who to trust? That’s the journey that Dr Norman Swan is going to take you on in So You Want to Live Younger Longer?

Deeply researched and written with his trademark wit, common sense and accessibility, Norman brings together what’s known, not known, hopeful but not harmful and harmful and not hopeful, summarised with quick takeaway messages backed up by the science and evidence. No matter what your age, So You Want to Live Younger Longer? gives you the information you need to make your own choices without wasting your time and money or even missing a nice dinner because you might be on a diet that is getting you nowhere.

Norman disentangles our ‘Book of Life’ – the genes we’re born with and what we subject them to later on – and shows that in the search for youth, genes matter much less than you’d think for most of us. In other words, we can overwrite our personal Book of Life and Norman’s book will help you do it.

We can live younger, longer – at any age – we’ve just got to know what to do.

My View:

An excellent, informative, well written, engaging read. So much science based, researched information presented with wit and humour. This is an author I would love to hear speak in person…his ability to connect with the reader/the room is amazing.

A great read.

Review: Here be Leviathans – Chris Flynn

Here be Leviathans

Chris Flynn

University of Queensland Press

ISBN:9780702262777

Description:

A collection of funny, brilliant, boundary-pushing stories from the bestselling author of Mammoth. A grizzly bear goes on the run after eating a teenager. A hotel room participates in an unlikely conception. A genetically altered platypus colony puts on an art show. A sabretooth tiger falls for the new addition to his theme park. An airline seat laments its last useful day. A Shakespearean monkey test pilot launches into space. The stories in Here Be Leviathans take us from the storm drains under Las Vegas to the Alaskan wilderness; the rainforests of Queensland to the Chilean coastline. Narrated in Chris Flynn’s unique and hilarious style by animals, places, objects and even the (very) odd human, these short fictions push the boundaries of the form by examining human behaviour from the perspective of the outsider. 

My View:

What an impressive range of styles, voices and ideas this collection showcases, I could read more. There is something here for everyone to enjoy but a couple of these stories are standouts for me; the first, which gives a brilliant, witty insight into the thinking of a grizzly bear – hilarious. But my very favourite was the last, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, set in the underground sewers and the sky scrapers of Las Vegas. A story that illustrates how hope, joy and love can be found anywhere. Loved this one.

PS I was really fortunate to be gifted a set of “chapter cards” with brilliant artworks on the front and extracts of each chapters on the back. What a fabulous idea!

5 star read!

Review: The Pachinko Parlour – Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

The Pachinko Parlour

Elisa Shua Dusapin

Translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922585172

Description:

From the author of Winter in Sokcho, which won the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature.

The days are beginning to draw in. The sky is dark by seven in the evening. I lie on the floor and gaze out of the window. Women’s calves, men’s shoes, heels trodden down by the weight of bodies borne for too long.

It is summer in Tokyo. Claire finds herself dividing her time between tutoring twelve-year-old Mieko in an apartment in an abandoned hotel and lying on the floor at her grandparents: daydreaming, playing Tetris, and listening to the sounds from the street above. The heat rises; the days slip by.

The plan is for Claire to visit Korea with her grandparents. They fled the civil war there over fifty years ago, along with thousands of others, and haven’t been back since. When they first arrived in Japan, they opened Shiny, a pachinko parlour. Shiny is still open, drawing people in with its bright, flashing lights and promises of good fortune. And as Mieko and Claire gradually bond, their tender relationship growing, Mieko’s determination to visit the pachinko parlour builds.

The Pachinko Parlour is a nuanced and beguiling exploration of identity and otherness, unspoken histories, and the loneliness you can feel within a family. Crisp and enigmatic, Shua Dusapin’s writing glows with intelligence.

My View:

Another beautifully written book which has been excellently translated, a joy to read.

Shua Dusapin writes with intelligence and with a deep understanding of what it is to be human. Her writing evocatively reflects on aging, culture, belonging … The writing has a sense of innocence that is peaceful yet confident; vignettes of the ordinary that are so revealing.

Review: Legitimate Sexpectations – Katrina Marson

Legitimate Sexpectations : The Power of Sex Ed

Katrina Marson

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922585516

RRP $ 32.99

Description:

Can we promise future generations a life free of sexual violence, in which their sexual wellbeing will be protected? Is this a promise we can keep?

As a sexual offences prosecutor, Katrina Marson works for an institution that can only respond, one case at a time, to sexual violence once the damage is already done. During a decade of looking back, she kept returning to a single question: what could have been done to prevent this?

In 2019 she stepped out of the justice system to travel abroad on a Churchill Fellowship, where she witnessed first-hand the power of comprehensive relationships and sexuality education to safeguard sexual wellbeing and act as a protective factor against sexual violence. Combining her coalface experience in the criminal law with her international research on sex education, Marson’s perspective is unique, looking in two directions at once.

Legitimate Sexpectations exposes the limits of the criminal justice system and the fault lines in our society when it comes to sex, sexuality, and relationships. Through storytelling that moves between heartbreak and hope, Marson makes the case for a cultural shift towards valuing sexual wellbeing and preventing sexual violence in the first place. In doing so, she calls on us all to play our part to ensure that young people’s sexual experiences are not just free from violence, but far from violent.

My View:

A life changing book! A book I wish was around and being talked about when I was a child. Child you ask? YES! You are never to young to be empowered about your own safety and to be given permission and the language to talk about sexual abuse at whatever age, child/teenager/adult.

A well balanced, clear and rational discussion regarding “consent”.

Be warned there are triggers in this book – and yes it triggered so many things for me that even now as a 63 year I am still trying to deal with.

This book should be in the hands of every educator, politician, parent, library, resource centre, school…that’s right YOU SHOULD READ THIS

5 stars

Guest Review: Verity – Colleen Hoover

Verity

Colleen Hoover

Sphere

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781408726600

RRP $32.99

Description:

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Rachel’s View:

In a stark departure from her run of popular young adult romance novels, Colleen Hoover has delivered a dark, tense thriller.

When a successful novelist who writes from the chilling perspective of the villain is involved in a terrible accident, struggling writer Lowen is brought in to finish the final contracted books. Staying in the house with the famous but now irrevocably changed Verity Crawford and her husband Jeremy, Lowen begins sifting through a room full of the author’s notes.

As she sets about outlining the new novels, she stumbles across something almost too horrible to read – but read she must. And as the pages unfold, Lowen is given a disturbing insight into what really happened surrounding the tragedies of the Crawford family.

Ill at ease from the dark words she has discovered, Lowen begins to question her own sanity as she sees things around the house that don’t add up.

With a last minute twist you’d never expect, Verity is a compelling page turner. Of course there are elements of the romance Colleen Hoover is so well known for, with a few of the common tropes thrown in for good measure. Still, it is an exciting and creepy read that’s easy to finish in a matter of hours.

But reader beware – if you’re a new mum like me, there are parts that will make your stomach turn!