book reviews

The Comfort of Lies

I’m welcoming another brand new TBYL Reviewer today, Katie Haden. Katie is a fellow book-lover, adores the classics and can’t wait to tell us all about how she’s reading differently with TBYL.

Today Katie is sharing her thoughts on the recently released The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers (Allen and Unwin)…


I’ll admit, when I started reading The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers, I was a bit sceptical. I’m not a huge fan of traditional ‘chick lit’ and I tend to stick to the safety of the classics. But… if you’re like me, have no fear: in this novel Randy Susan Meyers takes you on a journey that is so personal and intriguing you won’t want to put the book down.

comfort of liesSet in Boston and surrounds, the book is as much a story of the city and its history as the people that call it home. Three women, from different areas, backgrounds and lifestyles are drawn together as the result of an affair six years ago. Tia is young, and gave up her daughter for adoption after having an affair with Nathan. Caroline, a doctor is the adoptive mother of Tia’s daughter, and doubts her ability or love for motherhood; and Juliette is Nathan’s wife, who discovers the truth about Tia and sets out to uncover all the facts.

All three women have different stories to tell. Some readers have said that when reading this book, they didn’t understand the point of view of one, or even two of the characters, but I loved all of them. They gave me a chance to see the same situation from three very different perspectives. I personally loved the character of Caroline, because she represented a voice that is often drowned out or too scared to speak up: the woman who isn’t sure about her instincts. Offering a unique perspective from the eyes of an adoptive mother, Meyers tackles the challenges of motherhood and work, and the guilt that sometimes comes from trying to choose both. Juliette similarly has to make decisions about her home life in order to fulfil the role of what she sees as the ‘perfect wife and mother’, while Tia must confront her past in order to move forward.

Overall, I think Meyers is showing the reader how deciding to tell little lies to protect people may at times be the right decision, whereas in other circumstances it may prove to be the worst possible course of action. All three main characters lack confidence and this in itself is one of the greatest challenges they must overcome. The Comfort of Lies has a powerful message about finding your voice and sharing a truth that should definitely be heard.


If you’d like to find out more about The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers visit here…


Enigmatic: Shooting Stars

If you ask me, we all need an excuse to reminisce every now and then, and for me, that was one the best thing about the book that I’m reviewing today, Shooting Stars, by new author, Clayton Zane (Odyssey Books).

Shooting StarsI had a ball reading this rock ‘n’ roll adventure, all the time with myself and my friends in mind, traversing the halls of our high school, guitars in hand, heading for one hell of an adventure.

The Beatles sang “All you need is love”, but whatever happened to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?

For one young Sydney musician, life is like a shooting star – fast and beautiful. He has unparalleled talent, a record contract with his band, and after fleeting relationships with a parade of gorgeous girls, he has finally met the enigmatic girl of his dreams. But love isn’t always written with four chords and a major key, and soon he finds himself heartbroken in his very own fairytale.

I’ll admit, our teenage fun included a little less sex and drugs in favour of a little more rock ‘n’ roll, but still I had no trouble imaging the wildness and debauchery that this motley crew of musos enjoyed.

The story’s hero is a musical prodigy, spoilt and protected, yet still capable of finding himself in harms way…

I had an upbringing any normal person would have considered enviable, spoilt beyond comprehension and spoon-fed everything I ever desired. I just felt blank, merely existing rather than living, and always searching to fill that enigmatic void.

He had parents to catch him on his fall from grace, a sports car with which to impress and a rent-free flat complete with grand piano set up for noise and joviality, much to the neighbours displeasure. Despite all of this, at the opening of his story, we find him in a grave state of intoxication – moving in slow motion, blurred and hopeful for death. And, possibly the worst of it – in love…

The album had to be perfect, because it was my ticket back to her, the key to my plan. I began to think that my whole life had been leading me to this piece of music. All my years of musical training, excessive partying and brotherly adventures had all been just a prelude to a boy convincing a girl that he loved her, and that would be enough.

Ah, what’s a rock song without a little heartbreak?

Shooting Stars is entertaining, well painted, but it’s real strength lies in its authenticity. Our hero’s voice is so true, at time I thought perhaps I might have been reading an autobiography. The novel’s cast are all grit and wildness, the girls husky and beautiful, and the scenery romantically dingy, lit by club lights and smelling of smoke and booze.

The authenticity, as you might expect, helps to endear you to the protagonist, despite the fact that he is irresponsibly, a little emotionally stunted and hopelessly self destructive. In the end, you accept that this is all part of the price one pays for musical genius. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.

This is a pretty wild ride, but the wonderful referencing of literature and music keeps the reader grounded, helping to diffuse the slight head spin you might get from all the friends and foes, and crazy corners these boys find themselves backed into. A thoroughly entertaining read, one which I’d recommend.

You can find out more about Clayton Zane, and his writing here…


Second Guessing: Gone Girl

Yesterday, on Facebook, I was asked by one of TBYL’s friend whether or not I’d read and/or review Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (Hachette). As it happens, I read it a couple of months ago but haven’t reviewed it. As luck would have it, a spot has opened up on the review schedule today, and so I thought I’d post my thoughts on this fascinating book. Carrie, this one’s for you…


I’ll say it again – one of the best things about being part of a book club is being encouraged to read books that you’d otherwise not read. I’d heard of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but had overlooked it. I hadn’t paid much attention to it, despite the rave reviews and awards. Little did I know that I was missing out on a crazy, head-spinning, second-guessing read.

Gone GirlJust how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war.

Ominous in many measures, Gone Girl starts, page one, paragraph one by raising your suspicions…

“When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angle of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skill quite easily.

I’d know her head anywhere.

And what’s inside it. I think of that, too: her mind. Her brain, all those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast , frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. 

What are you thinking, Amy?’ The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: ‘What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?'”

The suspense grows, chapter by chapter, as the reader is provided with details – details of a missing wife, a nervous husband, a wife’s memories held safely in her diary, discovered at just the right time.

But, as you might expect, things are rarely as they seem. Nick gives us plenty of reasons to distrust him, and it’s easy to assume his lies are akin to an admission of guilt. Still, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Nick’s search for Amy appears genuine, as does his curious fear of her. And then, of course, there are the clues…

The only thing that’s certain is that we’re not being told the whole truth – by anyone.

Flynn has put together one of the most compelling thrillers that I’ve read. It reminds me of other novels that I’ve enjoyed, Before I Go to Sleep and Dark Horse, for instance, but I think it’s even cleverer than these titles. There’s nothing particularly exceptional about the writing as such, but the voices of the characters are written flawlessly, and the feeling of manipulation, claustrophobia and psychosis is consuming.

But what of the ending? When I mentioned that I was reading Gone Girl most people warned me off the conclusion of this story, and have since asked me what I thought of it. Do you know what? I liked it. I know, lots of people didn’t, but personally, I don’t think I would have liked it to end any other way.

Of course, I can’t say much more of what happens than that, that’d ruin the fun, but what I can say is that Gone Girl will have you sitting on the edge of your seat until the very last word…

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Shades of Grey: The Storyteller

One of the things about reading a lot, one book quickly following the one before it, is that you notice patterns, themes in subject matter that you might not otherwise notice.

Over the last two years I’ve had many books hit my reading pile which are set in WW1 and WW2. It’s not a topic I’d previously been that interested in, but after reading titles like In Falling Snow, and Overseas I’ve become a bit taken in by the period.

the storytellerThe specific focus on holocaust and displacement recollections in The Book Thief, The Treasure Box and now Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller (Allen and Unwin) are particularly compelling. Horrifying yes, but at each moment they feel important, a story that must be told, that we can, indeed must, learn from.

Jodi’s most recent novel is the story of Sage, her new friend Josef and her grandmother, a holocaust surviver…

Sage Singer is a young woman who has been damaged by her past. Her solitary night work as a baker allows her to hide from the world and focus her creative energies on the beautiful bread she bakes.

Yet she finds herself striking up an unlikely friendship. Josef Weber is a quite, grandfatherly man, well respected in the community; everyone’s favourite retired teacher and Little League coach.

One day he asks Sage for a favour: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses.

Then Josef tells her that he deserves to die – and why.

As you’d expect from this teaser, Picoult’s novel is full of moral dilemmas. As she does so well, at many points in the book you’ll be asking yourself ‘what would I do?’ and probably coming up with a pretty interesting answer. There are lots of shades of grey in the story, as Sage ponders on what to do with the secret she’s been entrusted with by Josef. Still, in typical Picoult style, Sage’s eventual decision and actions are decided, determined and uncompromising. This creates a really punchy plot, and leads to Sage’s own repair.

At the heart of this novel are the long buried memories of Sage’s grandmother, Minka.  A proficient storyteller, Jodi avoids simply telling us the story of Minka’s torment, rather she provides a context, current and perplexing into which Minka’s story is weaved. Her experience as a Polish Jew, persecuted and punished in many terrifying ways is peppered with survival and small miracles. Her recollections of her father’s aromatic baking are as important to her story as those of the cold and filthy work camps in which she was held. These contrasts give a strength to both the light and the dark of her memories. In addition, her own treasured writing, her story of the upiór – the Polish version of a vampire – draws haunting, largely unintentional parallels between these dark fictional creatures and the German soldiers who tormented her.

“If you had to pack your whole life into a suitcase – not just the practical things, like clothing, but the memories of the people you had last and the girl you had once been – what would you take?…

…In the end I took all of these things, and the copy of The Diary of a Lost Girl, and Majer’s baby shoes, and Basia’s wedding veil. And, of course, my writing. It filled four notebooks now. I tucked three of them inside my case and carried the other in a satchel. Into my boots I wedged my Christian papers, beside the gold coins. My father was silent as he held the door to the apartment that was not ours open for the last time.”

The catharsis that comes with the release of these memories is moving indeed.

The Storyteller is a fairly long novel, and it did take me a little while to get through it. Still, at no point did I find myself rushing ahead or wishing for the ending. I was drawn into Minka’s memories, Josef’s remorse and Sage’s struggle to come out of hiding. Well worth the time taken to read this story.

If you’d like to read an expert from Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller you can do so here…


Heart Like Mine

Thank goodness for the TBYL Reviewers – without them, I’d never be able to tell you about so many amazing books! I’m so lucky to have some wonderful people reading and reviewing for us, and today’s review is from the wonderful Carolyn Jones. Read on to find out more about Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) and about how you can enter to win a copy of your own…


Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) shares the story of three woman, all very different from each other but connected nonetheless. There is Grace, 36 years old, a successful CEO and a woman comfortable in her decision to never have children of her own. Then there’s Kelli, a young single mother of two and the ex-wife of Grace’s fiancé. Finally, there is Kelli’s beloved daughter, Ava. Thirteen years old and completely devoted to her mother, Ava is desperate not to form a relationship with her father’s new partner. Very early in the story Kelli sadly and unexpectedly dies, meaning that Ava and her younger brother must live with their father and in turn, Grace. As you might expect, this sudden upheaval complicates the already strained relationship between Ava and her step-mother Grace.

Heart Like Mine alternates between narrating around the relationships shared by the three women and their overlapping stories, giving the reader a chance to see all sides of the difficult situation.

heart like mineI loved this book. I found it very easy to read but more importantly, I did not want to put it down. Amy Hatvany distinguishes the different narrators very clearly, with chapter headings and distinctive tones, whilst ensuring that the story flowed smoothly and never confusing the reader as to whose turn it was to tell their story. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in the book as I enjoyed not knowing which way the story was going to take me. However, this is a book review, so I do need to provide something more to entice you to read this book…

There are some strong themes throughout the novel about womanhood, love and family. The age of thirteen is when a child becomes an adolescent and should be a time for greater independence, boyfriends and girlfriends, and discovering oneself. However, the three leading ladies in Heart Like Mine all encounter a life-changing event when they are thirteen. These individual events force these girls from early adolescence into adulthood much too young.

The main theme that Amy Hatvany explores is that of motherhood, from all perspectives; choosing to become a mother or having it thrust upon you unexpectedly…

She paused and gave me a dreamy smile. “But you really don’t know what love is until you’re a mother. You can’t understand it until you’ve had a baby yourself, but it’s the most intense feeling in the world.

I winced a little when she said this, as though she meant that a heart like mine was somehow defective because I hadn’t had children. I didn’t think of myself as less able to feel love. But her comments made me question myself and wonder if by missing out on motherhood, I was missing out on something that would make me a better person.

Grace, Kelli and Ava are incredibly strong women in their own right and through their narration we, the readers, feel their insecurities and share in their personal struggles to keep going through very tough times. I loved how Amy Hatvany developed these characters and didn’t dwell too much on clichés about stepmothers and daughters. I really believed their story. I highly recommend Heart Like Mine, whether you can identify with elements of it or reflect on your own growing up this book will stay with you for days. It’s a wonderful story, a drama of the challenges that comes with losing something too soon. If you take pleasure in a meaningful tale, or like me, love to weep in a book then I think you will enjoy Heart Like Mine.


This month, a lucky reader will win a copy of Heart Like Mine courtesy of Allen & Unwin Books.

To enter, email, subject line ‘HEART’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 30.06.13 and notified by email.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany shop now at the TBYL Store…

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Mountain Chills: Dark Horse

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was a bit under the weather this long weekend just gone. I offered my thanks to the kids for sharing their bugs, and got cozy on the couch. It’s winter after all, and under a blanket in the lounge room isn’t the worst place to be. Plus, there’s always a definite upside to being a bit laid-up… plenty of reading time!

The first book I enjoyed thrilled me silly. The moody, misty thriller Dark Horse, by Honey Brown (Penguin) had me sitting on the edge of my comfy couch.

dark horseFrom the first sentence, Dark Horse had me knocked off my feet…

“The blow put Sarah on the ground. That she was suddenly horizontal registered in her mind, then the pain came rushing through, washing over every other detail. A sigh escaped her lips and she lay motionless, struck dumb by the brute force of the hit. She tasted blood…”

I was hooked, and was immediately endeared to Sarah, a character who was clearly floundering at rock bottom…

“It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 She settles in to wait out Christmas.

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy”

I felt sorry for her as she copped an earful from her father when she reneged on Christmas lunch, and I didn’t blame her when she packed her bag, saddled her horse, and set off for the bush. I knew that her plan would lead her into danger, but I could understand her decision completely, taking off into the mountains that day seemed to make perfect sense. At the time.

As Sarah and her horse Tansy proceeded into the mountains which surrounded her valley home, I was immersed in a scene of trails, gums and obstacles. For me, the picture painted to set this scene was a highlight of this well-constructed novel. As you’d expect from a thriller, Honey Brown creates a beautiful and oppressive moodiness with her descriptions of the mountains. It’s summer, but unseasonably wet, creating an unpredictability in the environment and in the story itself.

I love the mountains, the mist, fog and hush that falls over the hills when it’s wet, but the storm that hits Sarah and Tansy is a whole different beast…

“Night fell in a moment. It was only midday. Sarah pulled the hood of her coat over her cap. She tightened the drawstrings around her face. The clouds didn’t open so much as lower to the ground and pound the earth with water. Chicken Little was right: the sky had fallen. Sarah and Tansy continued up the track, water streaming down their bodies. Sarah was wet through to her skin. A veil of water ran off the peak of her cap. Her raincoat couldn’t be expected to hold up against this kind of onslaught.”

Drenched, tired  and hungry, Sarah makes it to Hangman’s Hut, sanctuary from the elements, and seemingly from civilisation. That is, until Heath arrives. With him, he brings mystery, fear, contradictions and desire. His mystery creates an unease for Sarah, but also an attraction. She hides her gun from him, she questions him and doubts him, but at the same time they settle effortlessly into a strange kind of domesticity – she manages the food, he builds the fire, they choose sides of a shared bed, and confide in each other, albeit selectively.

The attraction is electric and perfectly balanced with the suspense of the story. It ensures that the reader is left wondering, guessing right up until the very end…

“Sarah liked the reaction his body made as she raked her fingers down his legs. And she liked, too, the things he said, the way he seemed determined to make the moment special. The romance was sweet and reassuring. The sounds he made down in his chest were sexy. They got her breathing keenly too. They made her bolder.”

Their relationship is decadent and lusty, but also quite true. Still, given the many unanswered questions about Heath, it makes it hard to imagine the relationship ending well.

Now, I can’t say too much more about the mystery that unfolds as Sarah and Heath wait for rescue, I’d hate to spoil the ending for you. It twists and turns with nightmarish frequency and will probably have you worried for Sarah, falling for Heath and waiting for the sky to clear so both rescue and resolution can come.

What I will say is that I’d most definitely recommend Dark Horse as a great winter read, the sound of the rain on the roof will only add to the atmosphere of the novel. Don’t be scared, it’s a fascinating read.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Dark Horse, by Honey Brown shop now at the TBYL Store…

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Tam loved it! Saving Grace

I think TBYL Reviewer Tam J might have liked Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum (Harlequin) just a little bit…


Well, I have to start by saying I loved this book!! I loved the characters, the friendships and the intrigue, the imagery of the beautiful countryside and of course, the touch of romance.

saving-graceWhen Emily Oliphant married John Stratten, she thought it was the beginning of an exciting new adventure — standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the most eligible farmer in the district and pitching in to build a thriving agricultural business. Three years later, however, Emily sees her marriage for what it is — a loveless tie to a callous man.

When John’s cruelty reaches new heights, Emily is forced to move out, braving both her husband’s wrath and her mother’s glaring disapproval. With the encouragement of her new friend Barbara, Emily moves into an abandoned property and takes on the mammoth task of turning the unloved house into a home. In the process she discovers a new business venture, meets new friends and finds an inner strength she never knew she had.

Emily’s fragile confidence is soon tested, though, when the owners of the property make her a tempting offer. Will she risk everything and invest in the ramshackle house that has finally given her a sense of purpose? Or will Emily listen to the views of the community — and the voice of her mother — and go back to her life with John?

Emily is the leading lady in this beautiful book of great sadness and great courage. After discovering that she has made a terrible mistake marrying John Stratten she endures the abuse for three long years, until one day she can bear no more and raises the courage to finally stand on her own and leave him.

Emily adopts a dog of her own, Grace, who becomes her greatest companion. Grace was Emily’s attempt at comfort, in the hope of helping her cope with the cruelty of John and the long hours that she was forced to spend alone in the house while her husband worked on the land (which he forbid Emily from helping with) or while he drank at the pub and did God knows what else.

It’s through Grace that Emily comes to meet Barbara, a woman who has married a local but who was originally from out of town. Barbara is looking for friendship just as much as Emily, and as such, develop a fast friendship. It’s wonderful to watch the bond between them grow, and see just how must they help each other through life’s challenges.

This novel is very relatable and the pictures that Fiona McCallum paints with her words are just stunning. I felt as though I was living right alongside Emily in the old abandoned house which she moves into and does up. I was right alongside her as she picked apricots for her jam, I felt like I was alongside her as she spent dinners with her cold and disapproving mother, and I felt her grief as she mourned her Gran, a much-loved Grandmother who passes away at the beginning of the story.

This was a book I found difficult to put down and as it become obvious toward the end of the novel that this story was far from over, I became even more immersed. As the book draws to a close, Emily is only just starting to develop a new relationship with the handsome Jake from Melbourne, her jam is starting to sell at the markets and perhaps the most intriguing story left unfinished – what is left to find out about Gran and Prince Ali and what happened to the gift of “seven of Golconda’s finest”. Will Emily accept the offer to own the property she has moved into? Will she make her dreams of a B&B come true? Will she see Jake again? And will she solve Gran’s mystery?

I can barely wait for the conclusion of this story as I have been left feeling like Emily was a dear friend and want to see what her next moves will be! Hoping that the sequel to this story is not too long a wait!!


So I guess if the next instalment comes my way, I’d better send it on to Tam, don’t you think?

If you’d like to find out more about Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum you can do so here…

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Lessons Learnt: A Grandmother’s Wisdom

Is there anything better than a cold night, a quiet house and a comfy doona? How about if we added a sweet, single-sitting book? If you ask me, with that combo, you’ve got a pretty perfect evening.

a grandmother's wisdomLast week I decided to turn in early and have a read of Catriona Rowntree’s A Grandmother’s Wisdom: Lessons learnt at my Nan’s knee (Allen and Unwin). An inviting little hard-cover book sharing ‘the beautiful relationship which exists between a grandparent and their grandchild.’

Catriona Rowntree loves her Nan. She grew up in the same household and it was to this wise, loving woman that the young Catriona took all her worries and joys. Always there was a sympathetic ear and advice worth following. And as Catriona grew up, left home, started her media career, found and lost boyfriends, met her future husband, married and fell pregnant – her Nan’s words of encouragement, warmth and love helped to guide Catriona’s behaviour and choices, and they continue to do so.

In A Grandmother’s Wisdom, Catriona shares her Nan’s homespun wisdom, based on the experiences of a lifetime. Heartfelt and funny with a straight-talking edge, this is a book to treasure.

Catriona Rowntree has been a regular on our TVs for years, showing us around gorgeous corners of the globe with her big smile and enthusiastic commentary. More recently, she surprised many by embarking on a more rural life with her farmer husband James – the magazines had a field day!

She’s been such a feature of the Australian television landscape that it was quite interesting to find out a little bit more about what made her tick. As a character, Catriona has always struck me as a little old-fashioned, a little old-school. After reading A Grandmother’s Wisdom I think I better understand why. She was incredibly close to her Nan and took her Grandmother’s advice to heart, living by pearls such as…

‘Be careful who you listen to – surround yourself with positive people and don’t listen to doomsayers.’

‘Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of the newspaper.’

‘Try to avoid being photographed with alcohol in your hand.’

I can understand why she would pay such heed to these words, as her Grandmother Riria was clearly a clever, strong and caring woman, worthy of great respect. This book was a really wonderful reminder of the the importance of maintaining the connections between woman, young and old. There is a great deal to share and learn.

The book itself would make a lovely gift, it’s a quick read, and a really interesting recollection of Catriona’s own career. It’s a sweet way to spark your own memories of mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers… special woman who play an important role in guiding us through life.

If you’d like to find out more about Catriona Rowntree’s A Grandmother’s Wisdom: Lessons learnt at my Nan’s knee you can here…

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Tough and Inspiring: My Wild Ride

Today’s review is from TBYL Reviewer Kate Barber. Kate recently read the inspirational story of horse-rider Fiona Johnson in her memiors My Wild Ride from Allen and Unwin. Here’s her thoughts on this tough but inspiring read…


My  Wild RideMy Wild Ride is the true story of Fiona Johnson who, at 25 years of age seems to have it all. She is newly married to the man of her dreams, has just bought a 5 acre property and is about to embark on building her first home when, in the prime of her life, she is diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukaemia.

And so begins the biggest battle of her life. She begins a rigorous round of chemotherapy complicated by numerous setbacks and emotional uncertainty. She completes her chemotherapy with the amazing support of her adoring husband Matt, her family and her newly found faith in God.

Fiona goes into remission but her fight is not over. She recommences chemotherapy but is then faced with the choice of have a transplant or not – as she is given on 50% chance of surviving the next 5 years either way. On top of all this she desperately wants to have a child and her chances are slim after such intensive chemotherapy.

Fiona’s love of horses and determination then sees her embracing the rodeo circuit in the quest to forfill a life long dream of competing on the Australian Rodeo Circuit and, against all odds, to have a child.

Fiona’s story is told with honestly and it really is quite inspiring, the way in which she has been able to overcome everything that has been thrown her way with resilience and determination. Her love of horses and the rodeo circuit is spoken about with a lot of enthusiasm and is quite informative – great if you don’t know anything about this sport. As will most autobiographies of this nature it is very sad at times, however her positivity and determination definitely shines through.

Fiona is now the mother of 2 children and is cancer-free.


To find out more about Fiona Johnson’s My Wild Ride visit the Allen and Unwin website here.

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Love Stories? The Last Girlfriend on Earth

Last week was incredible – I spent hours playing in parks, chatting with Oscar and hanging out with my Mum. I got out of house, away from the computer and enjoyed what was probably the last bit of decent Melbourne weather that we’ll get for a while. Not much writing got done. It’s the first proper week off I’ve had for a long while, and it has done me the world of good.

But now the kids are back to school, and it’s time to dust off the desk chair and plant my bum in it, eyes glued firmly to the computer screen. I’ve got a dozen reviews to write and a brand new TBYL Event to arrange.

I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I decided to chat about a book that on the face of it, seemed pretty light hearted.

The last girlfriend on earthDuring the break I read an intriguing collection of short stories, The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories (Allen and Unwin), a new book from the author of What in God’s Name, Simon Rich…

It doesn’t matter if you’re a robot, a caveman, or an alien from outer space: sooner or later, some girl’s going to break your heart…

“On the third day, God’s girlfriend came over and said that He’d been acting distant lately. ‘I’m sorry,’ God said. ‘Things have been crazy this week at work.’ He smiled at her, but she did not smile back. And God saw that it was not good.”

Simon’s short stories are fantastic, bite-sized tales full of crazy and heart. They’re funny, and at times, quite dark – they’ll leave you feeling slightly love-lorn whilst you giggle quietly.

They’re modern stories, mostly from a male point of view and taken from every possible perspective – alien, heavenly, mythical and suburban.

There’s “Victory”, featuring Josh as he receives presidential accolades for a successful evening of romantic endeavour (he scored!) and then there’s poor Brent, who falls for the oldest trick in the book in “Sirens of Gowanus”…

He heaved his amp over his shoulder and headed towards the singer. She had moved on to another tune by now – a b-side by Big Star. The streetlamps grew sparser as he neared the Gowanus Canal, but he was able to spot her in the moonlight. She was under the Carroll Street bridge, sitting on a round, smooth rock. Her silky eyelashes fluttered as she sang. And whenever she hit a high note, she playfully splashed the water with her feet. She was naked from the waist up, two large breasts protruding from her slender, bird-like frame.

There’s also a quiet cynicism, which you’ll find in stories like “Children of the Dirt” – the mythical tale of the Children of the Moon, Sun and Earth, all of whom are insufferable to the lesser known, and lesser loved, Children of the Dirt.

And of course there’s self-sacrifice, real love, which will make you sigh a little in between your laughter.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of stories. I’ll admit that I found a couple of them a little bit cliched, but mostly they were funny, sweet and cheeky. If you’re after a quick, light read The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories might do the job nicely.

If you’d like to find out more about Simon Rich’s book, you can visit the Allen and Unwin website here…

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