Book Review: The Nancys by R.W.R McDonald

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The Nancys book cover

Blurb

The Nancys is adult crime fiction in the tradition of a whodunit murder mystery, except all the characters are completely out of control and pay no attention to any rules.

TIPPY CHAN is eleven and lives in Riverstone, a two pub town in South Otago, New Zealand. The same town her UNCLE PIKE escaped from when he was a teenager. Tippy loves her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early versions where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery.

Tippy’s chance comes when her mum goes on holiday, leaving Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, DEVON, in charge. When her teacher turns up dead beside the small town’s only traffic light Tippy teams up with her babysitters to form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs in to a risky investigation. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the killer, and an intervention from Tippy’s Mum all conspire against The Nancys. While the town grieves everyone believes the police have caught the killer, including Tippy’s mum. It is up to The Nancys to go against the flow, as well as questionable interior design and fashion choices, to solve the mystery before anyone else dies.

The Nancys is a book for anyone who’s ever felt outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and the courage required to tell the truth, no matter what the cost.

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The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald

My Review

The Nancys is an adult murder mystery inspired by the classic Nancy Drew books, but it’s so much more than that. It also explores complex themes about outsiders, the family we choose, courage and the importance of telling the truth.

Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan is still grieving for her father when her Uncle Pike and his fashion designer boyfriend Devon arrive from Sydney to care for her while she goes on a cruise. Tippy and her mother still live in the same house in the small two pub town of Riverstone New Zealand that Pike escaped from as a teenager, so his return inevitably brings up ghosts from his past. I grew up in small-town myself, so I could definitely relate to Pike’s uncomfortable experiences bumping into ex-boyfriends and old nemeses and all of the weird feelings that can bring up!

When Tippy’s friend falls off a bridge in mysterious circumstances and then her teacher is gruesomely murdered Pike, Devon and Tippy form a club inspired by Nancy Drew to investigate. Using Pike’s network of old contacts, Tippy’s keen sense of observation, and Devon’s fashion sense, The Nancys seem to be getting close to cracking the case. The only problem is making sure they discover who did it before anybody else gets hurt … or Tippy’s mum puts a stop to their investigation.

I loved this book! It’s in a similar format to a classic Nancy Drew mystery, but it also has so much warmth and heart. I was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew books too when I was around Tippy’s age, and I think The Nancys absolutely did them justice. Nancy Drew really is a bit of style icon and I agree that the older books are the best.

I loved the close relationship between Pike and Tippy and the way he helped her and her mother deal with the death of Tippy’s father. Pike and Devon’s relationship was full of crude humour and in-jokes but I have a good feeling that their relationship will last longer than Pike’s previous relationship record of three months … I will hopefully find out the answer to that in the sequel coming out soon!

About the Author

 

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R.W.R. McDonald author photo

Rob McDonald is a Kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and an extended rainbow family including HarryCat and Stevie Nicks the chicken. Rob realised while studying journalism that writing fiction, rather than reporting facts, was his true bent.

The Nancys is being published by Allen and Unwin with a release date June 2019. This is his first novel.

Rob is a 2016 alumnus of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel Stage 1 and 2 where he worked on his manuscript The Nancys. In 2017 The Nancys was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Outside of writing Rob works in international education.

Details

Published:  June 3rd 2019 by Allen & Unwin

Source: Own copy

Read: Kindle Edition, July 2020

Pages: 316

Rating: 5 stars

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Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XiwMi4

Apple: https://apple.co/2KMQh0D

Google: http://bit.ly/2GkccXG

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New Release: Animals Make Us Human Edited By Leah Kaminsky and Meg Keneally

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Animals Make Us Human Edited by Leah Kaminsky and Meg Keneally

 

A fundraiser for our wildlife, from land, sea and sky. Proceeds go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

A response to the devastating 2019–20 bushfires, Animals Make Us Human both celebrates Australia’s unique wildlife and highlights its vulnerability. Through words and images, writers, photographers and researchers reflect on their connection with animals and nature. They share moments of wonder and revelation from encounters in the natural world: seeing a wild platypus at play, an echidna dawdling across a bush track, or the inexplicable leap of a thresher shark; watching bats take flight at dusk, or birds making a home in the backyard; or following possums, gliders and owls into the dark.

Hopeful, uplifting and deeply moving, this collection is also an urgent call to action, a powerful reminder that we only have one world in which to coexist and thrive with our fellow creatures. By highlighting the beauty and fragility of our unique fauna, Australia’s favourite writers, renowned researchers and acclaimed photographers encourage readers to consider it in a new light.

Featuring: Barbara Allen, Robbie Arnott, Tony Birch, James Bradley, Mark Brandi, Geraldine Brooks, Anne Buist, Melanie Cheng, Claire G. Coleman, Ceridwen Dovey, Chris Flynn, Nayuka Gorrie, Dan Harley, Ashley Hay, Toni Jordan, Leah Kaminsky, Paul Kelly, Meg Keneally, Tom Keneally, Cate Kennedy, David Lindenmayer, Ella Loeffler, Maia Loeffler, Jen Martin, Angela Meyer, Sonia Orchard, Favel Parrett, Marissa Parrott, Bruce Pascoe, Jack Pascoe, Sue Pillans, Nick Porch, Holly Ringland, Euan Ritchie, Antoinette Roe, Kirli Saunders, Graeme Simsion, Tracy Sorensen, Shaun Tan, Lucy Treloar, Karen Viggers, Emma Viskic, John Woinarski, Clare Wright.

And photographers: Tim Bawden, Kristian Bell, Rohan Bilney, Justin Bruhn, Andrew Buckle, Matt Clancy, Amy Coetsee, Craig Coverdale, Angus Emmott, Jayne Jenkins, Vivien Jones, Sue Liu, Michael Livingston, Caleb McElrea, Nick Monaghan, Richard Pillans, Gillian Rayment, Linda Rogan, David Maurice Smith, Steve Smith, Colin Southwell, Georgina Steytler, Wayne Suffield, Heather Sutton, Peter Taylor, William Terry, Patrick Tomkins, Matt Wright.

  • Published: 3 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760899813
  • Imprint: Penguin Life
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $29.99

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Lockdown Viewing

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“tv” is licensed under CC0 1.0

I’ve been watching a lot more television lately than I usually do and I’ve had a lot of conversations with people looking for something good to watch, so I thought it was a good idea to write a couple of short reviews of my lockdown viewing.

There is a mix of new releases and classics, and I watch on Stan, Netflix Australia, and Australian free to air television stations.

A year after a devastating flood has killed five locals in an idyllic country town, a mysterious new plant appears. The plant’s phenomenal ability to restore youth is so formidable that attempting to harness it means re-evaluating values.

Creator: Glen Dolman

Stars: Bryan BrownPhoebe TonkinGenevieve Morris, Jacki Weaver

2019 – 2020

Viewed on Stan Australia

 

My Review

Bloom is an unusual Australian drama. In a small country town recovering from a fatal flood, people discover a plant that makes them young again. As people become desperate to harness this apparent fountain of youth they are forced to re-evaluate their priorities.

My household enjoyed the first season of Bloom but thought that the second season felt a little bit forced or overdone. Top-notch performances by Aussie stalwarts such as Bryan Brown and Jacki Weaver and lots of exciting up and coming Aussie actors too.

3/5 stars.

The Bold Type

“The Bold Type” is inspired by the life of “Cosmopolitan” editor in chief, Joanna Coles. The show is a glimpse into the outrageous lives and loves of those responsible for a global women’s magazine. Their struggles are about finding your identity, managing friendships and getting your heart broken, all while wearing the perfect jeans to flatter any body type.

Creator:

 Sarah Watson

2017 – ?
Viewed on Stan Australia

 

 

My Review

I bloody love this silly show! The Bold Type focuses on three best friends – Jane, Sutton and Kat – who work at New York’s best women’s magazine. With the help of their fabulous editor in chief they are figuring out their lives and careers, all while looking fabulous.

This is definitely classified as a ‘girls’ show in my household, so it’s my duvet day treat any time I need a pick me up. It’s refreshing to watch a show about women where they are all so god damned supportive of each other and it never fails to put a smile on my face.

5/5 stars.

Cold Justice

Cold Justice is a unique and thrilling Indigenous crime series – the first of its kind in Australia. The series is a raw and unfiltered look at the injustice Indigenous Australians face when it comes to unsolved deaths.

The award-winning first series investigated the 1988 death of Aboriginal teenager Mark Haines who was found dead on railway tracks in Tamworth, NSW.

Allan’s reporting on the unsolved death of Mark Haines lead to the Oxley LAC reopening their investigation into the case after 29 years. This year, on the 30th anniversary of Mark’s death, the NSW Police announced a $500,000 reward for any information that could solve the case.

Over four weeks, the second season of Cold Justice will investigate the unsolved deaths of Stephen Smith, Theresa Binge and Lois Roberts. The new season will give these Indigenous victims and their families a voice while holding the police and authorities to account of their investigations.

Presenter for Cold Justice, Allan Clarke said the families shared their most harrowing and traumatic moments of their lives which still remain raw today.

“Their trauma compounded by frustration with a justice system that has failed to deliver them closure. The question is does the justice system view Aboriginal victims differently?” he said.

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Viewed on SBS On Demand
My Review

Cold Justice is presented by award-winning journalist Allan Clarke. It is clear that Clarke is a skilled and empathetic journalist. He has done an outstanding job of researching these cases and developing warm and genuine relationships with their families.

These stories are heartbreaking and the lack of justice is cruel and unfair. It is unconscionable that this is the first documentary to ever investigate Indigenous cold cases in Australia and I hope that this series is a step in the right direction towards achieving justice for these families and many more.

5/5 stars.

Ozark

The Byrdes and their teenage kids, Charlotte and Jonah, are, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary family with ordinary lives. Except for the job of Marty, a Chicago financial advisor who also serves as the top money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico. When things go awry, Marty must uproot his family from the skyscrapers of Chicago and relocate to the lazy lake region of the Missouri Ozarks.

Creators:

 Bill DubuqueMark Williams

2017 – ?

Viewed on Netflix Australia

 

My Review

I suspect a lot of people are already up to date with Ozark as it’s so popular, so I won’t make this review too long. This series has been a big hit for both of us in my household, which is a huge achievement. There’s a thrill a minute and I feel like all three seasons are quite equal. I don’t think I’ve ever not enjoyed a Jason Bateman performance and the rest of the cast is fantastic. A truly excellent thriller with just the right amount of drama.

5/5 stars.

 

Book Review: The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

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The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village

Blurb

A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It’s never too late to grow old disgracefully …

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy’s day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower – treasurer of the Residents’ Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village – to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn’t seen in five decades – the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine – sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’ and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

My Review

The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village is a warm and uplifting book about love, friendship and the importance of growing old disgracefully.

79 year old Peggy Smart lives a beige and boring life at her retirement village. She is grieving for her late husband and growing increasingly frustrated with the way that her children and doctor are treating her as a frail old lady. She doesn’t want to be shipped off to a scary nursing home, and rightly so if you pay attention to what actually happens in those places! The only excitement in her life comes from her secret crush on an eligible bachelor until her old school friend Angie shows up at the Jacaranda Retirement Village and sets Peggy on a journey of self-discovery.

I enjoyed the ways that Peggy and the other elderly characters were portrayed as real people who were much more complex than almost any other elderly character I’ve come across before. Many of their issues and character arcs were related to their age, but they were so much more complex than that. It’s refreshing to see elderly characters depicted in this way and I commend Nell for the way she has crafted these realistic and lovable characters. I particularly enjoyed Peggy’s humorous Freudian slips and the politics that went on between the residents of the retirement village.

About the Author

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Joanna Nell

Joanna Nell is a Sydney-based writer and GP. Her bestselling debut novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village was published in 2018 with rights sold internationally. Her second novel The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker was published 24th September 2019.

Joanna’s award winning short fiction has been published in a number of magazines, journals and short story anthologies including Award Winning Australian Writing. She has also written for The Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum and Sunday Life magazines.

Joanna’s third novel ‘The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home’ will be in stores October 27th 2020!

Details

Published: September 25th 2018 by Hachette Australia

Source: Library

Read: Paperback

Pages: 400

RRP: $29.99

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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 

Blurb

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

My Review

Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those rare books that I would recommend to almost anybody. Beautifully written and evocative, it is an incredibly unique coming of age story wrapped up inside a compelling murder mystery.
 
The book is set in North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. By he age of seven, Kya is abandoned by her entire family and left to live alone in a broken down shack on an isolated marsh. She manages to survive and to evade the school truancy officers by imitating the animals around her and with a little bit of help from the kind-hearted owner of a local gas dock and bait shop.
 
Kya opens up when two young men take an interest in her as she develops into a beautiful teenager, until, something unthinkable happens. This is where the murder mystery comes into play, so I don’t want to spoil that part for anybody.
 
Even though the townspeople view Kya as a wild “Marsh Girl” we learn that she is actually sensitive and intelligent young woman. Learning how to read and write as a teenager seems to be very easy for her (perhaps a little bit too easy?) and she spends her entire life observing and collecting incredibly detailed information about the marsh.
 
The accurate and beautifully written descriptions of the marsh and the animals that lived in it were the strongest and most evocative part of the novel. Delia Owens has spent years writing non-fiction about nature and that is evident throughout. The author has also done a brilliant job of weaving in the Southern feeling and accents. “Magnolia mouth” as one of the characters aptly describes it.
 
The ending of the book left me feeling so very sad for Kya and angry about all the people in her life who let her down. It’s heartbreaking to imagine such a young and vulnerable child/young woman being abandoned and let down by almost every single person in her life. I was furious when her mother’s story was revealed and I found many of the actions of many of the townspeople to be unforgivable.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those stories that I know will stick with me for a long time. The wild and ferocious beauty of the North Carolina marsh where Kya spent her time, the almost unbearable loneliness she experienced, and the questions it raises about the way our society treats our most vulnerable people are all rolled up inside a mystery that will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime.
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Where the Crawdads Sing with Zeus Cat

About the Author

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in NatureThe African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel

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Author Delia Owens

Book Review: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

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Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

 

Blurb

No matter how far you run, the past will always find you. A gripping, page-turning mystery for all fans of Kate Furnivall and Sara Foster.

A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A woman on the run.

Juliet’s elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime – and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl’s missing signet ring.

When Juliet’s estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

What secrets did Karl Weiss have that could have led to his murder? A German soldier who migrated to Adelaide, Juliet knew Karl as a loving grandfather. Is it possible he was a war criminal? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII Germany that will put both her and her sister’s lives in danger …

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?

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Ziggy the cat with Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Review

“A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth.”

Inspired by Sonya Bates’ own family history, Inheritance of Secrets is a tense dual timeline thriller that travels from WW2 Germany to contemporary Australia. A story about family, secrets and how the past can catch up with you when you least expect it, Inheritance of Secrets intrigued me from the very beginning and kept me guessing the entire way through.

The historical sections of the novel are set just after World War 2. German soldier Karl Weiss decides to leave his devastated homeland after the war is over to build a new future in Australia, even though that means leaving behind his girlfriend who remains to care for her sick mother. Onboard the ship, he is grateful for the financial support and company of his hometown friend, but Hans is having a difficult time accepting that the Nazis were as evil as everyone says they were.

In contemporary Adelaide, Karl’s granddaughter Juliet is devastated when her warm and loving grandparents are murdered in their home. At first, she thinks it must have been a random break-in gone wrong, but she quickly realises that somebody from Karl’s past in Germany is responsible and his missing signet ring is the only clue. As it becomes obvious that whoever murdered her grandparents is still around, and searching for something, Juliet needs to figure out who exactly she can trust, and whether her estranged sister can be trusted.

There are so many things that I love about Inheritance of Secrets. I’m a sucker for dual timeline novels, and I’ve been drawn to a lot of novels set during WW2 lately. There’s something deeply satisfying about being taken away to such a tumultuous time in history, especially with all the terrible stuff going on at the moment.

I don’t often read war novels told from the perspective of a German soldier, and I really appreciated reading this point of view. It was interesting to read about the average German people who were unwillingly caught up in the Nazi party’s insanity and did what they needed to do to survive during and after the war. It must have been difficult for those people to accept that they had been on the ‘wrong’ side and move on to another country alongside people who had been the Nazi’s victims. I think Sonya Bates described this scenario with a great deal of sensitivity, most likely because the Karl character is inspired by her own father. 

The mystery surrounding the murders and how they related to Karl’s past and the missing signet ring was equally satisfying. I usually find myself drawn more to the historical sections when I read a book with a dual timeline, but I found Juliet’s contemporary section just as thrilling as Karl’s story. I had no idea what was really going on, or if they were going to make it out alive, until the very end.

Inheritance of Secrets has a lot going on, but Sonya Bates has expertly woven all the threads together to provide a seamless reading experience between the present and the past. An engaging and tense historical thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Many thanks to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book to review.

About the Author

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Sonya Spreen Bates is a writer of adult and children’s fiction living in Adelaide, South Australia. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018 for the unpublished manuscript for Inheritance of Secrets, and several of her children’s books have been commended by CCBC Best Books, Resource Links, or the Junior Library Guild in the USA.

Born in Iowa City, USA, Sonya grew up in Victoria, Canada. She studied Linguistics at the University of Victoria before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Speech-Language Pathology at Dalhousie University. She worked in paediatric Speech Pathology for 25 years, first in rural British Columbia, and then in Adelaide, South Australia when she moved there in 1997, and currently works as a casual academic in clinical education.

Sonya’s first children’s book was published in 2003. Her short stories and novels have been published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and foreign rights to her chapter book, Wildcat Run, were sold to a Chinese publisher. She started writing for adults in 2015 and her debut adult novel Inheritance of Secrets will be published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2020.

Details

Published: April 20th 2020 by HarperCollins Australia

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, May 2020

Pages: 432

RRP: $32.99 AUD

Rating: 5 stars

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My Favourite Comfort Read: Anne of Green Gables

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It’s taken me a while to decide which book to choose for my comfort read. It’s always tough for me to choose just one book as a Scatterbooker who reads such a wide variety of genres, so I have decided to cheat a little bit and write about the Anne of Green Gables series.

I think almost every bookish young girl can relate to Anne Shirley on some level. Like Anne, I grew up with my nose in a book and a talent for letting my imagination (and my hot temper!) lead me into some crazy situations. I still have to make an effort not to burn everything I try to cook and the time Anne accidentally died her hair green reminds of the time my grandmother had to cut my hair out of her curler … or the time I decided to put chewing gum behind my ear like Violet Beauregaurde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Anne: “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice”.

Marilla: “I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones”.

But one of the most important features of Anne’s personality is her unwavering optimism, even after the harshness of her life before she arrived at Green Gables. Anne undoubtedly endured some of the very worst that human nature has to offer in her early years, but she worked so hard to look on the bright side and to always seek out the best in others. Yet somehow she manages to strike a perfect balance and avoid being overly sweet. She always went out of her way to make ‘kindred spirits’ of the oddballs and outcasts she met and she was usually greatly rewarded with rich and interesting friendships for her efforts.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

A lot of people just focus on the first book of the series, but the rest of the Anne books were just as important to me because we get to follow Anne from her time at college, her teaching career and romances, her marriage to Gilbert Blythe (of course!) and raising her own children through to the end of WW2. The way that Anne managed to hold onto her unwaveringly dreamy and optimistic nature while she matured and navigated her life is such an important and comforting message: that it’s ok to maintain these bookish and optimistic qualities, even after we grow up and life becomes tough.

“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”

I also love the picturesque Prince Edward Island setting and still live in hope that I’ll get to see it for myself one day. Did you know that you can visit the real Green Gables in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island that you can visit?

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.”

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Green Gables, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

 

Tap to read the entire Comfort Reads Series

 

Author Eliza Henry-Jones shares her favourite comfort read: the books of James Herriot

Today’s comfort read is brought to you by the wonderful Australian author of contemporary adult and young adult novels Eliza Henry-Jones

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My favourite comfort read is the series written by James Herriot (the pen-name of Yorkshire based vet, James Wight).

Wight writes with warmth and humour about his experiences as a country vet during the 1930s through the war and into the 1950s. While parts of it haven’t dated well (unsurprising, given the first book was written in the 1960s!), his books never fail to make me laugh out loud and feel very cosy and cheery. I first read them when I was nine and stayed in Yorkshire a few years ago, so it’s sort of nostalgic on two fronts.

About the Author

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Author Eliza Henry-Jones

Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist, researcher and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.

Her debut novel In the Quiet (2015) was published as part of a three book deal with HarperCollins Australia. She has since published Ache (2017), the young adult novel P is for Pearl (2018) and How to Grow a Family Tree (2020). Eliza’s novels have been listed for multiple awards.

Eliza has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. She has completed a first class honours thesis exploring representations of bushfire trauma in fiction and is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University.

Eliza is a proud ambassador for the Satellite Foundation, which supports children and young people who are impacted by parental mental illness.

Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia,  the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.

Eliza is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and writer. You can find out more about her writing and other services here.

Click/Tap the titles to read my reviews of Ache, P is for Pearl, and How to Grow a Family Tree

Book Review: How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

Blurb

From the author of P is for Pearl comes a heart-warming book about family, friendship and what home can mean.

Stella may only be seventeen, but having read every self-help book she can find means she knows a thing or two about helping people. She sure wasn’t expecting to be the one in need of help, though.

Thanks to her father’s gambling addiction, Stella and her family now find themselves living at Fairyland Caravan Park. And hiding this truth from her friends is hard enough without dealing with another secret. Stella’s birth mother has sent her a letter.

As Stella deals with the chaos of her family, she must also confront the secrets and past of her ‘other’ family. But Stella is stronger than she realises.

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

My Review 

Stella is 17 years old and she has read as many self-help books as she can get her hands on. She loves to help people, even if they haven’t asked her to, and her friends and family need all the help they can get.

Her father’s gambling addiction has grown so out of control that they have been forced to move to the local dodgy caravan park. Her younger sister is so angry at the world that she was expelled for allegedly setting fire to the school library. Her best friend is coping with parents who work so hard they barely spend any time with him. And on top of all that, Stella has received a letter from her birth mother who she’s never met.

These are all huge issues that Stella is forced to deal with, and I would definitely recommend this book for older and more mature teenagers, but the story is written so sensitively and with so much hope and love, that I found myself crying happy tears by the end.

I fell in love with the characters, but especially Stella and her endearing awkwardness. There were so many times that I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a great big hug and I think I sort of will be able to when all this craziness is over, because I feel certain the Henry-Jones has poured her heart and soul into this story. It really is something very special the way she is able to describe so accurately something that is so painful and difficult to put into words. I wish I’d had this book to help me navigate such a tricky situation when I was a teenager.

I’m not adopted, but I do have a deadbeat Dad who I’ve never met before, and I have often felt the same guilt and shame as Stella does. It’s not easy to realise that you look and behave exactly like the villain of your own origin story, especially when they have proven that they have no interest in redeeming themselves. I loved that the ending with Stella’s birth mother was not the happy fairy tale that so many people expect from family reunions like this, because they are definitely the exception rather than the norm, but I did feel like there was still hope of a relationship/friendship of some kind in the future.

How to Grow a Family Tree has been the perfect book to help me get out of my reading slump. Full of big feelings, endearing characters, and issues that will resonate with so many teenagers and adults, Eliza Henry-Jones has once again demonstrated that she is the master of pulling at your heartstrings.

5 stars!

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

About the Author

Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist, researcher and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.

Her debut novel In the Quiet (2015) was published as part of a three book deal with HarperCollins Australia. She has since published Ache (2017) and the young adult novel P is for Pearl (2018). Eliza’s novels have been listed for multiple awards.

Eliza has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. She has completed a first class honours thesis exploring representations of bushfire trauma in fiction and is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University.

Eliza is a proud ambassador for the Satellite Foundation, which supports children and young people who are impacted by parental mental illness.

Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia,  the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.

Eliza is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and writer. You can find out more about her writing and other services here.

Details

Published: March 23rd 2020 by HarperCollins – AU

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, 336 pages, April 2020

Age: From 14 years

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New Release: Wasteland by Terry Tyler

My favourite dystopian author (who came very close to predicting 2020 in Tipping Point) has a new release perfect for lockdown. Set in 2061, Wasteland is the sequel to Hope, but can be read as a standalone novel as well. I can’t wait to give myself nightmares with this one!!

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Wasteland by Terry Tyler

‘Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society. The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.’

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is a megacity girl through and through, proud of her educational and career achievements, until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to Hope, and is the second and final book in the Operation Galton series.

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Amazon

 

About the Author

TerryTyler
Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler

@TerryTyler4 on Twitter… I am a writer, with 21 books on Amazon. I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead and all things post apocalyptic, also love South Park, Game of Thrones, autumn and winter, history, and most books/films/TV series to do with war/battles/gangsters. I’m a vegan who falls off the wagon now and again. Live in the north east of England with my husband, who I love even more than Daryl Dixon.