Review: A Year in the Mud and the Tea and the Toast, My (Semi) Rural Kind of Life – Georgie Brooks

A Year in the Mud and the Toast and the Tears

Georgie Brooks

Bad Apple Press

ISBN: 9780648556916

RRP$27.99

Description:

After buying an old cottage in the Adelaide Hills, Georgie and her young family are transfixed with dreams of becoming hobby farmers, tending chooks, sitting by log fires, growing their own veggies and generally immersing themselves in the joys of nature. However, a stubborn cow named Ginger, acres of mud, a feral crop of artichokes, the coldest winter of the decade and a husband whose job means he is away from home most of the week but leaves him time to repeatedly bog the tractor on the weekends does not make their introduction to rural living ideal. Surely things can only get better from here …?

 

For anyone who has either made the escape from city living or dreams of doing so, A Year in the Mud and the Toast and the Tears is an entertaining and humorous story about a tree change with more than a rocky start.

 

My View:

This is the perfect tonic for these trying times. There are many genuine laugh out loud moments and situations that I could identify with. Let me share a few with you:

In this instance the water pump has stopped working ( the house relies on a rain water tank for its water supply) After unsuccessfully trying to solve the issue herself Georgie rings her husband who is at work (a doctor): pps82,83

Husband: “OK where are you?’

Georgie “Out by the water pump thing.”

Husband: “Have you turned it off and on again?”

“Yes,” through clenched teeth.

“Right, well, you’ll need to check the valves. Go and find the black most westerly valve on the eastern pipe.”

‘Trumping through the long grass looking desperately for pipes.’ “I can only find one pipe.”

“Is it far east?”

“I don’t know which way is east.” ( Yep that’s me 😊)

“Is it pointing to the big pin oak?”

“It sort of points between the two pin oaks?”

“Okayyy….” Muffled sigh. “Can you see a valve on it?”

“There are two black plastic turny things.”

“They control the valves. Can you turn the westerly valve off?”

Wait for it….I can just imagine having this sort of conversation with my husband…😊

“I don’t know which way is west.”

 

And so on…you can tell this is probably not going to end well. 😊

 

Then we get to the story of Portuguese Millipedes.  I thought this phenomenon was only local to the Perth hills and south west of Western Australia, I was wrong, South Australia suffers from them too.  “The millipede is small, black and shiny and looks a little like a centipede (except its named for its supposed thousand legs, rather than the centipede’s hundred legs). You have to peer very closely at it to work out the front form the back, but there’s a tiny pair of black antennae differentiating the front engine of the millipede/ Millipedes are about 2 centimetres long with a dense row of grey legs, and a little moustache like, underneath. They are attracted to light and to white things and when disturbed roll into a spiral. At first, we thought just see a few millipedes.  In fact, the baby is munching on the odd millipede and spitting it out in horror as she makes her way over the floor tasting everything in her path, is the first way I realise that the millipede is coming. Millipedes have a horrible smell and when you crush them this becomes even more potent. The baby soon stops putting millipedes in her mouth. Apparently, the millipede’s terrible taste and smell is part of its cunning plan for world domination, as nothing else on the planet wants to eat the millipede. They don’t seem to have a part in the food chain or any reason for their existence, except as a reminder of how minor irritations can overwhelm your life…It is as if some seasonal signal has awoken a zombie army of millipedes. They literally swarm into the house…”  (p92/93)

This problem is real. I feel Georgie’s pain as I sit here typing in the almost dark, too frightened to turn on the light in case I am assaulted by a million tiny wriggly legs… every morning walking around the house with a dust pan and brush (or vacuum cleaner) to sweep up a carpet of these pests. I hear you Georgie 😊

 

And then we have stories of uncooperative cows, gardening 101, the driveway (or rather ski slope to the road), renovations etc etc. But its not all hilarious gloom (if there is such a thing I think Georgie invented it) , Georgie peppers the tales with laughter, a good dose of Aussie self-depreciation, and with observations of the beauty of nature and her new life in the country.

 

This read is the perfect pick me up, the laugh you need right now. Thanks Georgie for sharing your warts and all tree change story.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: I’m Staying At Richard’s – Bernadette Agius

I’m Staying at Richard’s: Raising the Exceptional Son I Never Expected
Bernadette Agius
Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501174568

 

Description:
This inspiring, heartfelt, and powerful memoir by a mother of a child with Down syndrome explores the incredible blessings and challenges of raising a child with disabilities.

When Bernadette Agius—an ambitious career-focused woman—became pregnant, she imagined her unborn child attending the best schools and dazzling everyone with his impressive wit, charm, and intelligence. But when the doctors placed her baby boy in her arms and told Bernadette he had Down syndrome, those dreams instantly disappeared.

While her first impulse was to fight against this new reality, she soon found the strength to become the champion her son, Richard, would need and deserved. With the help of her husband and a newfound village of professionals, Bernadette forged a new life, discovering along the way that everyone has a different version of normal. Ultimately Richard, now thirty, was able to defy expectation and become an independent adult.

Grounded in love, offering a message of hope, and told with humor and honesty, I’m Staying at Richard’s shines a light on the fierce, unwavering love of a mother for her son.

 

My View:
This is a very powerful story of unconditional love. Reading this memoir felt a lot like stepping into somebody else’s shoes and for that insight I am grateful.

If you want a powerful, heartening, optimistic and joyful (mostly) story about finding your path and yourself when life throws the totally unexpected at you, read this poignant story.

Best Reads of 2019 – Non Fiction

Most of the books in this category will shock your with their honesty, their rawness, their personal story of struggles and sometimes, their successes. I hope you find something here that will stimulate your mind and tug at your heart.

 

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

 

Imperfect

Lee Kofman

Affirm Press

ISBN: 9781925584813

 

Bowraville

Dan Box

Penguin Random House Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780143784395

 

 

The Hormone Diaries

The Bloody Truth About Our Periods

Hannah Witton

Wren & Rook

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781526361462

Review: The Little Girl on the Ice Floe: Adélaïde Bon

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

RRP $35

 

Description:

“Life itself is in these pages: in this candid, poetic style there is storytelling of real quality” – LEILA SLIMANI, author of Lullaby

 

A powerful and personal account of the devastating consequences of childhood rape: a valuable voice for the #MeToo conversation.

 

Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family, lots of friends and seemingly limitless opportunity lying ahead of her. But one sunny afternoon, when she was nine years old, a strange man followed her home and raped her in the stairwell of her building. She told her parents, they took her to the police, the fact of the crime was registered … and then a veil was quietly drawn over that part of her childhood, and life was supposed to go on.

 

Except, of course, it didn’t.

 

Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, Adélaïde struggles with the aftermath of the horror of that afternoon in 1990. The lingering trauma pervades all aspects of her life: family education, friendships, relationships, even her ability to eat normally. And then one day, many years later, when she is married and has a small son, she receives a call from the police saying that they think they have finally caught the man who raped her, a man who has hidden in plain sight for decades, with many other victims ready to testify against him. The subsequent court case reveals Giovanni Costa, the stuff of nightmares and bogeymen, finally vanquished by the weight of dozens and dozens of emotional and horrifying testimonies from all the women whose lives and childhoods he stole.

 

My View:

I am ready to call this The Best Memoir of 2019!

 

This is an amazing story – Adélaïde Bon’s childhood was stolen from her by a calculating and despicable man, the dark cloud of his actions remained with her for many years, unconsciously influencing her every decision and mood. Adélaïde is a brave and resourceful young woman who has used her personal story to further the #MeToo discussion.

 

Let me share a scene that I found profound. This is a scene from one of Adélaïde’s discussion with her psychiatrist (p179-180):

Psychiatrist: “Her father may have been violent. Your assailant had carefully chosen that girl. It’s quicker, less dangerous and even less tiring to assault someone who has already experienced violence.   A victim who hasn’t had any therapy disassociates herself almost immediately, assailants know how to identify them, know they won’t put up a fight, and that they probably won’t be able to say anything afterwards.   The fact that you were doing fine, that you lived in a close knit, loving family, where there was no domestic violence or corporal punishment, meant that he had to make more of an effort to make you disassociate. That’s certainly why he went so far with you. To guarantee his impunity. “

 

Adélaïde: “So afterwards, I was easier prey than the others? Is that why I attract all the perverts for miles around?”

 

Psychiatrist: “Yes. Unfortunately, the main risk factor in being the victim of violence is to have already experienced it. But you are recovering.”

 

This explains so much of life.

 

Unbelievably brave, I do not know where Adélaïde found the strength to allow love into her life and to recover from the trauma she suffered and then to write her incredibly haunting journey into the book that is “The Little Girl on the Ice Flow”.  This is a powerful and moving read, written by an incredibly talented and strong woman. I salute you Adélaïde Bon.

 

PS the translation is pitch perfect.

Guest Review: My Polar Dream – Jade Hameister

My Polar Dream

My Polar Dream

Jade Hameister

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781760554774

 

Description:

Fourteen-year-old Jade Hameister had a dream: to complete the Polar Hat Trick.

In 2016, she skied to the North Pole.

In 2017, she completed the Greenland Crossing.

In 2018, she arrived at the South Pole.

This is the story of an adventurer who never gave up – who set herself incredible challenges beyond her years and experience. An adventurer who endured extremes of cold and blizzards; tackled treacherous terrain where one wrong step could be fatal; struggled through sastrugi, ice rubble and emotional lows to achieve an extraordinary goal.

Along the way, she made a sandwich for online trolls, inspired young people, and made international headlines.

At sixteen, Jade Hameister became the youngest person in history to complete the Polar Hat Trick.

Jade is:

*The youngest person to ski from the coast of Antarctica to South Pole unsupported and unassisted

* The first Australian woman in history to ski coast to Pole unsupported and unassisted

* The first woman to set a new route to the South Pole

* The youngest to ski to both Poles

* The youngest to complete the Polar Hat Trick.

 

Brenda’s Review:

What an amazing, inspirational young woman Jade Hameister is! Over a period of three years she completed three goals so achieve the Polar Hat-Trick. In doing so, she became the first in many of her endeavours. Her final journey, in Antarctica to finish at the South Pole, was over late 2017 into 2018 and was the most grueling but not once did she contemplate giving up. The support of her Dad and the other people of the team with her helped her through the worst.

Each trek was unassisted and unsupported, which meant no outside help whatsoever once the journey started. The thrill of forging a new path through the snow and ice to the South Pole meant the hard work and extreme temperatures; the dangers of a hidden crevasse on the mind constantly; the storms and blizzards which meant losing time when the danger was too intense – were all worth it. Jade’s satellite calls to her Mum and brother back in Melbourne, Australia each night were a lifeline as well.

Now she’s trying to settle back into “normal” life with schooling as her main priority. She’s sixteen years of age and has done more in the last three years of her life than most people would ever do. I wonder what she will do next? Highly recommended. 5 stars!

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd

Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781405923545

RRP $34.99

 

Description:

A gripping memoir by one of the UK’s most prominent and experienced pathologists. His work has turned cases on their heads and put murderers behind bars. But his obsession with trying to learn what the dead are telling us began in medical school during his first autopsy. Holding the heart of the patient in his hands, he thought of his late mother, who’d died young from coronary heart disease. He wanted to help the living by learning about death. And, in the case of his criminal work, he wanted to see justice.

 

Intelligent, insightful, chilling – sometimes bizarre – and always unputdownable.

 

Unnatural Causes is the true crime book of the year from an expert who’s opening his records and sharing his casebook for the first time.

 

 

My View:

For a pathologist this author makes a wonderful wordsmith!

 

This is an intriguing narrative, a creative memoir that discusses the changes in society and attitudes to policing, medicine and science in an easy to read format that is engaging and illuminating. The discussion around autopsies, mass shootings/acts of terror and suspicious deaths are handled sensitively and considerately, the writer’s humanness shines through these sections of the book.

 

The author is open, honest and empathetic.  This is a sensitively and intelligently written book that will appeal to lovers of memoir, history, true crime and social science.

 

 

 

Fathers Day Is Just Round the Corner, it’s Friday Freebie Time Again.

On the 2nd of September this year we celebrate Fathers Day in Australia.  It is a day for people to show their appreciation for fathers and father figures.  Is there a special person in your life that you know would appreciate a story of  “a grandson’s story of an ordinary man’s war…. an incredible tale of survival and the indomitable Aussie spirit”?

I have 2 copies of this heroic narrative to give away. It easy to enter, you must be an Australian resident and in the comments section on this post tell me the last book by Hachette you read or that want to read. Entries close on the 24th of August 2018.   https://www.hachette.com.au/hachette-australia/

 

 

***Winners have been notified** Books will be posted this week.

The BullDog Track

The Bulldog Track

Peter Phelps

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733639777

 

This is the story of Tom Phelps and the ‘other Kokoda Track’. Seventy-five years later, Tom’s grandson, award-winning actor and writer Peter Phelps, is sharing this inspiring tale of resilience and survival.

March 1942: The world is at war. Too old to fight and with jobs scarce at home, Tom Phelps found work as a carpenter in the goldfields of the New Guinea Highlands. No one expected the Japanese to attack in the Pacific. But they did.

Tom and his mates weren’t going to hang around and wait to be killed. With escape routes bombed by the Japanese, their only option was to try to reach safety by foot, through some of the most rugged terrain on Earth – the Bulldog Track.

Back home in Sydney, Rose Phelps, their son, George, and three daughters, Joy, Shirley and Ann, waited for news of Tom’s fate. George watched the horrors of war unfold on newsreels knowing his dad was ‘over there’.

Travelling by foot, raft, canoe, schooner, train, luck and courage, Tom Phelps, half-starved and suffering malaria, would eventually make it home. His stories of New Guinea would lead his son and grandson to their own experiences with the country.

The Bulldog Track is a grandson’s story of an ordinary man’s war. It is an incredible tale of survival and the indomitable Aussie spirit.