Review: Our Members Be Unlimited – Sam Wallman

Our Members be Unlimited

A Comic About Workers and Their Unions

Sam Wallman

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713053

Description:

An original and visually powerful exploration of unionism.

In our current political climate, people are looking for answers — and alternatives. The promise of unions is that their ‘members be unlimited’: that they don’t belong to the rich, the powerful, or special interests, but to all workers.

How did the idea of unionism arise? Where has it flourished? And what are its challenges in the 21st century? From Britain to Bangladesh, from the first union of the 18th century to today, from solidarity in Walmart China to his own experiences in an Amazon warehouse in Melbourne, comics journalist Sam Wallman explores the urge to come together and cooperate that arises again and again in workers and workplaces everywhere.

With a dynamic and distinctive art style, and writing that’s both thoughtful and down to earth, Our Members Be Unlimited serves as an entry point for young people or those new to these notions of collective action, but also as an invigorating read to those already engaged in the struggle for better working conditions — and a better world.

My View:
This book is so relevant! I hope you get a chance to read this; it is well written, the illustrations are excellent and really help to get the messages across. There is so much detail here…I can appreciate all the work that went into creating this epic, illustrated, narrative.

This book reminds us (workers worldwide) of the progress made in ensuring better pay and conditions over the years and yet illuminates that there are still much more we can aspire to change if we unite. The Amazon case cited here has surprised and disappointed me, I thought “we” were better than this, better than the practices here.

This narrative is honest – unions are made up of people and people are not always perfect, but the majority are working towards a common goal – of making work conditions fair, safe and beneficial to all involved, making “work” equitable and “seen” and hopefully at some point “work need not necessarily be awful.” Collective action rules the world.

This is a great read!

Review: I Am A Killer -Danny Tipping & Ned Parker

I Am a A Killer

Danny Tipping & Ned Parker

Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 9781529065176

Description:

What goes through the mind of a killer when they commit murder? Based on the massively successful Netflix documentary series of the same name, this book features ten of the most compelling cases from the first two series and is full of exclusive never-seen-before material.

The authors, Ned Parker and Danny Tipping secured exceptional access to high-security prisons across America. The majority of the killers will die in prison – either by serving their sentence of life without parole or they are on Death Row, waiting to be executed. In each of the cases the inmate speaks openly about themselves and reflects on their life and their crimes. To gain a complete picture of the impact of the murders the authors spoke to both the families of both the perpetrators and the victims, and those in law enforcement who were involved in the case, leaving it up to the reader to make up their own mind about the killers and their crimes.

The book draws on handwritten letters from the inmates and full transcripts of the interviews to tell each story, and features exclusive material including personal pictures, crime scene images, and original police and court documents, this is a fascinating and detailed look at some of America’s most gripping murder cases.

My View:

This was a fascinating read. It did not glorify the crimes or those who committed them it merely reflected on circumstances, spoke to a few people involved in the situations to try and share a balanced view of the prisoner and life before and after they committed murder, on the what if’s ( or maybe that was what I added in my own head as I read), spoke of the legal systems; its complexity, it’s regional variances, it’s failings.

The book ( the lives of most in this book) is a sad reflection on how society has failed so many. Pick it up, read it and make your own conclusion. I would like to think that most in this book will get a second chance to have all their stories heard and then be judged accordingly.

I hope that those who determine where our taxes are spent read this book and realise money spent on drug rehabilitation programs ,on education for all, on domestic violence shelters and support, on child welfare, is money well spent. Think long term results or consequences, it’s your choice.

What I Am Reading This Week

Banjarwarn

Josh Kemp

UWA Press

ISBN:9781760802141

Description:

Winner of The 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript

Garreth Hoyle is a true crime writer whose destructive love affair with hallucinogenic drugs has sent him searching for ghosts in the unforgiving mallee desert of Western Australia. Heading north through Kalgoorlie, he attempts to score off old friends from his shearing days on Banjawarn Station. His journey takes an unexpected detour when he discovers an abandoned ten-year-old girl and decides to return her to her estranged father in Leonora, instead of alerting authorities. Together they begin the road trip from hell through the scorched heart of the state’s northern goldfields.

Love, friendship and hope are often found in the strangest places, but forgiveness is never simple, and the past lies buried just beneath the blood red topsoil. The only question is whether Hoyle should uncover it, or run as fast as his legs can take him.

Banjawarn is an unsettling debut from Josh Kemp. Echoing Cormac McCarthy’s haunting border trilogy and narrative vernacular that recalls the sparse lyricism of Randolph Stow and Tim Winton, this is a darkly funny novel that earns its place amongst the stable of Australian gothic literature.

This week ….

This week sees another work by a West Australian author land in my post box. I think this is the year that WA authors will shine. Banjarwarn is the debut novel, winner of The 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript written by Josh Kemp, a resident of the South West of Western Australia.

This book is about landscapes both familiar and alien, and sometimes they are both at the same time. 🙂 The red dirt, the remoteness, the regional towns of Kalgoorlie and Leonora are all too familiar, we took a caravan trip through these towns ( and further) last year ( and lots of my recent abstract landscapes were inspired by these areas, their remoteness, their bold colours, their atmosphere). Kemp captures these moody, vast, isolated, locations perfectly.

The landscape of drug abuse – PCP and ‘meth is one I am not so familiar with and Kemp paints a picture that shocks and yet informs and somehow is empathetic.

This book defies being defined as this or that. It is a love story, it has gothic echoes, it is a story of drug abuse, it is a story of compassion and friendship…it is a story of a harsh landscape and ultimately it is a story of hope.

I do hope you get an opportunity to read this one.

PS the cover art perfectly depicts the remote and wild country that the book rests on.

Happy New Year

On reflection 2021 has been a time of family, of joy, of creating (art), of love, of new beginnings ( new grandchild arriving April 2022) of rescue dog love (Maggie) of art and more art ( did I mention art?) of reading… so many good books and so many new friends…

Happy New Year and thanks for following this journey with me.

The last painting of 2021 and the start of the first for 2022

Art with grandson
Maggie Dog

Cheers🎉🎉🍾🍾🍾 Happy New Year

Review: The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

The Borough Press

ISBN: 9780008314163

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

 

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

 

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

 

 

My View:

Intelligent, poignant, insightful, lyrical…this is a remarkable read.

 

This is a story, well actually two stories, that are the same but oh so different; modern England family life juxtaposed against lives in a war torn refugee camp.  A story of isolation, of family, of identity, of violence, of death and coming home….Beautifully imagined and executed, heartbreakingly poignant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Wearing Paper Dresses – Anne Brinsden

WEARING PAPER DRESSES

Anne Brinsden

Pan Macmillan Australia

https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760784850/

RRP $32.99

Description:

You can talk about living in the Mallee. And you can talk about a Mallee tree. And you can talk about the Mallee itself: a land and a place full of red sand and short stubby trees. Silent skies. The undulating scorch of summer plains. Quiet, on the surface of things.

 

But Elise wasn’t from the Mallee, and she knew nothing of its ways.

 

Discover the world of a small homestead perched on the sunburnt farmland of northern Victoria. Meet Elise, whose urbane 1950s glamour is rudely transplanted to the pragmatic red soil of the Mallee when her husband returns to work the family farm. But you cannot uproot a plant and expect it to thrive. And so it is with Elise. Her meringues don’t impress the shearers, the locals scoff at her Paris fashions, her husband works all day in the back paddock, and the drought kills everything but the geraniums she despises.

 

As their mother withdraws more and more into herself, her spirited, tearaway daughters, Marjorie and Ruby, wild as weeds, are left to raise themselves as best they can. Until tragedy strikes, and Marjorie flees to the city determined to leave her family behind. And there she stays, leading a very different life, until the boy she loves draws her back to the land she can’t forget…

 

‘In the same vein as Rosalie Ham, Brinsden weaves a compelling story of country Australia with all its stigma, controversy and beauty.’ Fleur McDonald

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

As far back as Anne can remember she has loved stories. Mostly, she would read them. But if there were no stories to read, she would make up her own. She lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne now with a couple of nice humans, an unbalanced but mostly nice cat and a family of magpies. But she lived all of her childhood in the Mallee in northern Victoria before heading for the city and a career as a teacher. She received the 2017 Albury Write Around the Murray short story competition, judged and presented by Bruce Pascoe; and was highly commended in the 2018 Williamstown Literary Festival short story competition. Wearing Paper Dresses is her first novel. Find out more at: http://www.annebrinsden.com

 

My View:

This is by far one of the stand out reads of 2019 and deservedly will find a place on my “Best of 2019 “reads.

 

This book evokes country Australia, small town, impoverished, drought struck Australia. It is all hard angles and tough decisions. It is mesmerising. It is relatable. It is real.  It is mental health issues in an accessible relatable format. It is life. It is love. It is family.

 

Read it. You MUST.

 

PS

Check out my #FridayFreebie post this week for a chance to win this amazing book.

 

Review: Boxed – Richard Anderson

Boxed

Richard Anderson

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713657

 

Description:

When life delivers you gifts you don’t want.

 

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

 

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

 

 

My View:

Last year I read Richard Anderson’s debut Retribution – it was a stunning read – tension filled, evocative…with some thought provoking social commentary set in rural Australia, I loved it. When I was offered an opportunity to read Richard’s latest book “Boxed” I leapt at the chance and I was not disappointed.

 

Boxed is set in another rural small town – mysteries abound and personal tragedies /grief inform the mood of the narrative. (No spoilers here).  I love that contemporary issues are woven into this mystery, that there is hope and a wonderful sense of community, that the characters are richly drawn and empathetic and that the mystery element shines brightly. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

 

Richard Anderson has a talent for storytelling that is mesmerising. I cannot wait to read what he writes next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

The Children’s House

Alice Nelson

Penguin Random House Australia

Vintage

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Marina, ‘the gypsy scholar’, a writer and academic, and her psychoanalyst husband, Jacob, were each born on a kibbutz in Israel. They meet years later at a university in California, Marina a grad student and Jacob a successful practitioner and teacher who has a young son, Ben, from a disastrous marriage. The family moves to a brownstone in Harlem, formerly a shelter run by elderly nuns.

 

Outside the house one day Marina encounters Constance, a young refugee from Rwanda, and her toddler, Gabriel. Unmoored and devastated, Constance and Gabriel quickly come to depend on Marina; and her bond with Gabriel intensifies.

 

When out of the blue Marina learns some disturbing news about her mother, Gizela, she leaves New York in search of the loose ends of her life. As Christmas nears, her tight-knit, loving family, with Constance and Gabrielle, join Marina in her mother’s former home, with a startling, life-changing consequence.

 

Alice Nelson skilfully weaves together these shared stories of displacement and trauma into a beautifully told, hope-filled, outstanding novel.

 

 

My View:

Can a book both be intense and yet subtle? Can it be meditative yet urge you to take action? Can stories of displacement, war and war crimes, isolation and suicide have a more or less happy resolution? This highly complex yet very easy and engaging read broaches many contemporary issues in an eloquent and unassuming voice; this is accessible literary fiction at its best.

 

A fantastic read.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Reviews in One! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart: Holly Ringland

This book is so amazing it gets two reviews! 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holy Ringland

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9781460754337

 

Description:

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

 

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

 

 

My View:

This is a very very, very special read– unique; the sense of place, the credible, flawed characters (I have come across people who share some of the characteristics portrayed here), a narrative of such sadness juxtaposed against the overarching optimism of the prose, the way unique Indigenous stories and culture are woven into the narrative…I could continue to rave and rave.  But I won’t, this is a book you must read for yourself, with no spoilers and no hints of what awaits Alice’s life.

 READ IT.

 One more thing – the cover art is award winning!

 

Brenda’s Review:

The days when her father wasn’t home were the best of all for young Alice Hart. She and her mother would tend the garden together, finding a calm and peace that was never around when he was there. Alice adored her mother and was terrified of her father. But at nine years of age, a tragedy meant Alice had to live with her grandmother – a woman she had never met – on a flower farm a long way from the seaside that was the only home Alice had known.

Gradually Alice came to love the flowers and their meanings. The way they spoke when words were too hard. Learning the language of flowers created a peace within Alice – until her peace was shattered. With her heart broken, she fled the farm and all it had meant to her, driving without knowing where she was headed. Alice’s unexpected destination was deep in the Australian desert where the Sturt’s desert pea was prolific and filled with meaning.

Haunting and dangerous – that was her time in the middle of Australia. But would Alice ever find solace? Could she make peace with her past and finally look forward to the future?

Enchanting; heartbreaking; divine! Stunning; spectacular; poignant! What a debut! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is all that and more, by an Australian author I’ll be keeping an eye out for from now on! Holly Ringland’s debut novel is full of depth and emotion; the story of a young girl who had to find the strength to live a life which was so different from the one she had envisioned. The cover of the book is beautiful – I was drawn to it – the beginning of each chapter with the type of Australian native flower and its meaning adds more to the story. Holly Ringland has captured the essence of Australia, and I have no hesitation in recommending The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart highly. 5+ stars!

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read and review.

 

Post Script: Imagine – John Lennon, Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Imagine

Imagine

John Lennon

Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Allen and Unwin Australia

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books In Assoc with Amnesty International UK

ISBN: 9781847808967

 

Description:

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

 

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace. Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization, Amnesty International.

 

 

My View:

5 big stars for this beautifully imagined and illustrated book – this really is art with heart!  Call me sentimental, I will agree with you that I am, this book just strikes so many chords with me. A book for those who can remember John Lennon’s important song of love and peace (and for those who still sing his inspiring relevant message even if just in their own heads) and for the next generation – who will love the prose, the illustrations and the optimism.

 

Buy this for someone you love – young or old.