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.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Reads of 2019 – Romance/Life Lit/Womens Lit/Rural Fiction

In this category I prefer to read romance with a twist – a twist of social issues, a twist of crime or mystery, a twist of ….humour and fun.  Here are a couple of my favourites from 2019:

 

Love Song

Daughters of the Outback #3

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784562

 

 

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

 

 

 

Review: When it all Went to Custard – Danielle Hawkins

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

Description:

Odds of saving marriage – slim. Farming expertise – patchy. Chances that it’ll all be okay in the end – actually pretty good …

 

 

I wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of 23 February even before I learnt that my husband was having an affair …

 

The news of her husband’s infidelity comes as a nasty shock to Jenny Reynolds, part-time building control officer and full-time mother – even though, to her surprise and embarrassment, her first reaction is relief, not anguish. What really hurts is her children’s unhappiness at the break-up, and the growing realisation that, alone, she may lose the family farm.

 

This is the story of the year after Jenny’s old life falls apart; of family and farming, pet lambs and geriatric dogs, choko-bearing tenants and Springsteen-esque neighbours. And of just perhaps a second chance at happiness.

 

 

My View:

I cannot get enough of this authors writing! (I am still looking for a copy of Dinner at Rosie’s if anyone has a copy on their shelf somewhere).

 

Danielle Hawkins writes rural fiction with charm, wit, humour and engaging contemporary issues. Take a peek at the lives reflected here and you will see situations, landscapes (albeit New Zealand landscapes but they do translate well to Australian settings), and characters that remind you of places and people you know.

 

Danielle’s books always light up my day. More please.

 

 

An Insiders Perspective…Book Publishing: (Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time

The Best Dogs Of all Time

(Definitely the Best Dogs of All Time

Jadan Carroll

Illustrations by Molly Dyson

Scribe Publications

ISBN:  9781925713510

Jadan Explains:

It happened in an all staff meeting in February this year. We were discussing our end of year list when Henry, our publisher, mentioned that he was looking for light-hearted gift books to publish in November for Christmas, and finished by saying ‘So if anyone has any ideas…’

He may have meant that comment to be taken rhetorically, but I took it quite literally.

Dogs are the best. There are, and have been, so many great dogs in this world. I reeled off a list of my favourite dogs from throughout history and suggested that we publish a humorous illustrated gift book about the best dogs of all time and call it (Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time. I was happy enough just to make the rest of the office laugh, but everyone seemed to be very on board with the idea. I took a couple of nights to write up a proposal and it was jointly commissioned by our Senior Commissioning editor Marika Webb-Pullman and our Art Director Miriam Rosenbloom the following week.

The whole thing was turned around very quickly; I researched and wrote it in about three months at night or on weekends. Miriam Rosenbloom, our art director, suggested approaching Molly Dyson to illustrate it, I already knew Molly and was a huge fan of her work so I was quite thrilled by that happy coincidence and even more so when she said yes. She did such an amazing job working to a very tight schedule and the finished book looks amazing. She has such a unique style, and is fast becoming a highly in-demand designer and illustrator in the music and arts scenes in both Australia and Germany, so I felt very lucky to have her involved.

Our production manager Mick Pilkington described it as ‘shot-gun publishing’ and this seems like an apt description. It was such a fun project to work on and I’m very proud of it.

 

My View:

This is a fun and interesting read, the perfect gift for all dog lovers- however as the English Staffordshire Terrier is not represented on these pages – I have rectified that omission with this image of Bob the Dog – our furbaby and best friend.

Bob the Dog

 

 

Review: Restoration – Angela Slatter

Allow me to introduce to you a fantastic, Australian, new to me author, (and I ask WHY haven’t I heard about this author before now???)

angela slatter

Angela Slatter is the author of the urban fantasy novels Vigil (2016) and Corpselight (2017), and Restoration (2018) as well as eight short story collections, including The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and A Feast of Sorrows: Stories. The third novel in the Verity Fassbinder series, Restoration, will be released in 2018 by Jo Fletcher Books (Hachette International). Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

Angela is represented by Meg Davis of the Ki Agency in London: meg@ki-agency.co.uk

She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, an Australian Shadows Award and six Aurealis Awards.

Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction. Her work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, French and Romanian. Victoria Madden of Sweet Potato Films (The Kettering Incident) has optioned the film rights to one of her short stories (“Finnegan’s Field”).

Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships. In 2016 Angela was the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth. She has been awarded career development funding by Arts Queensland, the Copyright Agency and, in 2017/18, an Australia Council for the Arts grant. (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)

She is the author of the novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (Tor.com) and Ripper (in Horrorology: The Lexicon of Fear).

And all of the above is why, when I was offered the opportunity to read the new release Restoration (part 3 of the Verity Fassbinder series) I leapt at the chance. Angela Slatter is possibly the most awarded writer I have ever had the pleasure to review.

 

 

           Restoration

Verity Fassbinder #3

Angela Slatter

Hachette Australia

Jo Fletcher Books

ISBN: 9781784294380

The Verity Fassbinder series is what may be compartmentalised as urban fantasy or paranormal fiction; looking closely, this called also be  called an engaging, quirky, Australian narrative about love, family, reconciliation, retribution and tolerance – yes there is a lot happening in this novel. Did I love reading this book, this series? Yes I did.

Snappy, sharp dialogue with contemporary pop culture references ensure this above all else this is a fun read. Larger than life characters, escapades, a few deaths, Verity Fassbinder’s life is busy. Add to the mix a new boyfriend, an ex she still works for and uncle with a third eye in the back of his head all living in downtown Brisneyland, Queensland, Australia and you have a cast and locations that will keep you entertained for hours!   (*Authors Note – The city is not the city. Though I do live in Brisneyland and have used as the backdrop…I must confess that I have played fast and loose with some of the details. I’m sorry West End and I am really sorry Gold Coast.  I’m a writer. It’s fiction…while the reader will recognise certain landmarks and suburbs, Verity’s city is not quite the city you know. It just looks a bit like it, seen through a glass darkly. Enjoy the journey) *Authors Note – page 7 Vigil

 

Reading this series reminds me that I have not read much in this genre since the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I did enjoy that series, for the most part, but Verity Fassbinder series is so much more. The snappy dialogue dripping with sarcasm, the locations,  the intrigue and above all – the honest and grounded character that is Verity Fassbinder make this a fabulous must read. I am sure you will enjoy it too.

 

Angela Slatter can be reached  here: me@angelaslatter.com

Post Script: Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes

PLife Law and Not Enough Shoes

Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes: Life As A Criminal Lawyer

Judith Fordham

New Holland

ISBN: 9781741105391

 

Description:

Judith Fordham has worn zebra –print shoes into a courtroom, represented transsexuals, bikies, alleged murderers and rapists, and raised four children on her own…this is her story, from early life struggling on welfare to becoming a barrister and Associate Professor of Forensics.

Her bold approach to life and law is inspiring, and her stories about the world of crime and justice are fascinating. From a well-known baby-shaking case to the forensic science of decomposing flesh, this is a no holds-barred account of crime and the law.

And then there’s the shoes. In lighter moments, she tells of suing a pink shoe phone in her early career (much to the annoyance of her then boss). Now she has the State Director of Public prosecutions sipping champagne out of her designer shoe.

Judith Fordham has managed to find fun outside the dark world of forensics and crime.

 

 

My View:

Reading an honest and open creative memoir is a joy, a little like sitting with an old friend, enjoying afternoon tea and reminiscing. Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes is one such read – some laugh out loud moments, a peak at the judiciary system from within, some heartrending moments and a quick look at an inspiring life – I almost want to go back to university to learn forensics, almost 🙂  Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining reading.

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: Amber and Alice – Janette Paul

Amber and Alice

Amber and Alice

Janette Paul

Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780143783084

 

Description:

Take a hilarious road trip into the Australian outback in this witty romantic comedy, with an enticing family mystery thrown in!

When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage’s speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .

Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.

And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.

But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets – and Amber must decide which horizon to follow . . .

 

Brenda’s View:

The speeding car, the disorientation, the torn stockings and the bird’s-cage in her mouth had Amber completely confused – where was she, why was she here, and most importantly; why was she with her sister?! Sage wasn’t someone Amber spent a lot of time with; she was the complete opposite to Amber’s meticulous, sensible and organised self – but as the memories gradually returned, she was struck with a horrid slide-show of the previous night…

Sage had “kidnapped” Amber, determining she needed a change in her life and the road trip with a tag-along tour group to Alice Springs was just the thing. But Amber was used to hot showers, her morning coffee from a nearby café and shopping. How would she do camping – in a tent; AND with her sister? But when Sage mentioned Amber’s father – the man she had never met – and the fact that their mother had made the same trip where she’d met him twenty eight years previously, Amber finally and grudgingly agreed…

Nothing seemed to go right for Amber right from when they met up with the tag-along group in the little town of Denman in NSW. Each and every member of the group thought Amber was either crazy, or an alcoholic. And the more Amber tried to get it together, the more it all fell apart. Would their long road trip make things better or worse? Would Amber find her father? And was it possible that she and Sage could be close again?

Amber and Alice is a laugh out loud journey through Central Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs, with towns like Dunedoo, Coober Pedy and Uluru along the way. Aussie author Janette Paul has written a wonderful novel about finding your inner self, and the trouble you can get into along the way. I loved it! I found myself having to smother my laughter quite a number of times – it was such fun! 5 stars! Highly recommended.

With thanks to Penguin Random House AU for my ARC to read and review.