While You Were Reading by Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg.jpgTitle: While You Were Reading

Author: Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Published: July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Words are messy. Love is messier.
A hilarious, insightful new novel from the creators of Books on the Rail

Meet Beatrix Babbage – 29-year-old dog-earer of books and accidental destroyer of weddings.

After ruining her best friend’s nuptials, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start, including meeting new people, living life to the fullest and finally pulling off balayage.

But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.

​Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel, inscribed with notes. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author … and along the way, she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle.

Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, the value of true friendship and, most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it … Often.

A love story for book lovers that celebrates much more than romance.

~*~

Another offering from Book Ninjas, Ali and Michelle, While You Were Reading is another love letter to readers, books and the friendships forged through a love of reading. Beatrix Babbage is at her best friend’s wedding when everything in her life falls apart. She inadvertently ruins the wedding and is cut off from her friends. So, she moves to Melbourne to start over, and gets a job with a marketing agency, and befriends a poet-barista called Dino, his business partner, Sunday, and Mystery Writer, whose inscriptions in a book called Meeting Oliver Bennett guide her through her time in Melbourne. Yet her life stagnates, and her only regular contact is with Dino, her books, and her cleaner, Ramona, and the girls at the bookstore at the centre of Ali and Michelle’s previous book, The Book Ninja (there’s no need to read them in order, as they are both stand alones – more on this later.)

As the book moves on, Bea takes herself on a journey to discover who the Mystery Writer is, charting this online as Frankie did in The Book Ninja, and some of our favourite commenters pop up in her mentions, providing another delightful link back to The Book Ninja. Yet a chance meeting with Zach, another with Ruth and her unfolding friendship with Sunday, see her embroiled in a love quadrangle – with various people and books, as well as her constant attempts to reach out to her friend from Perth, Cassandra with disastrous results at one of her Next Chapter nights.

With Next Chapter – speed dating for books – Bea hopes to find Mystery Writer and connect with other readers – but her sister, Lizzie, an ex-Bachelor contestant, has other ideas that involve dating, romance and things Bea would rather not conflate her idea with.

The journey Bea takes has its ups and downs with people, work and books – leading to a fantastic result towards the end that gives her an amazing drive, and gives her much more to search for than romance. Instead, she makes friends with a group of people she least expected – of these, I think Mia was my favourite. followed closely by Sunday, because she followed her passions.

While You Were Reading is a cleverly written rom- com – the kind that is as much an ode to romantic love as it is an ode to friendship, knowing and loving yourself, and most importantly, for me, a love of books and the written word. It is driven by the marginalia of Meeting Oliver Bennett, leading to an author and connection that came as a complete surprise to me – and even though this is a well-used trope, the way it is executed is original and ensures the mystery is kept up to the final pages.

2019 BadgeIt is filled with bookish and popular culture references that I appreciated, and I love that the title refers to a certain movie starring Sandra Bullock from the nineties. Having a book where I can relate to the character, and where many of the references are at my fingertips, is wonderful, and I loved that the list of books mentioned is given at the back – many of which I have read and have on my shelves.

I adored that it referred back to The Book Ninja, and in a way, follows on several months after the end of that book. However, as it is a passing mention, it is not necessary to read that one first, but it is fun to be able to pick up on the references and nods to that book, and the way both books use narrative (mainly) interspersed with blog or Instagram posts and messages, and notes. Because these are interspersed with the prose, they enrich the story and are given context and cues to help the reader navigate the story.

Books about books are something I love – most books with a hobby or something people enjoy tend to be about sport – so for book lovers like me, this is refreshing because it allows us to see what we enjoy celebrated, and I look forward to more from these authors.

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell

the dragon in the library.jpgTitle: The Dragon in the Library

Author: Louie Stowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Save the library, save the world!

Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

The first book in a fantastically exciting, imaginative and brilliantly funny new series.

~*~

It’s the first day of the summer holidays, and Kit can’t wait to go out and climb trees and get muddy. But her best friends, Alita and Josh, want to go to the new library and check out the latest book in a series they love, Danny Fandango. While they are there, they meet the new librarian, Faith. Alita and Josh head off to scour the shelves, leaving Kit alone to explore the library. When she finds herself pulled into a book of dangerous animals, and has to be rescued by Faith, Kit learns that she is a wizard – the youngest wizard in the world in fact. Showing her powers earlier than usually expected, Kit has to keep the secret from her family – but Alita and Josh overhear, and the three friends and Faith are soon pulled into a quest to save the library from a horrible man called Hadrian Salt – a developer who wishes to take the new library and build a shopping centre. So Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita set out to save the library – and uncover a much more sinister plot, involving the secret hidden beneath the library.

Kit is the third of five children – and at the start of the novel, feels quite left out between her perfect older sister, her rebellious big brother and the youngest children, a toddler and a baby. So when she discovers she is a wizard, she finally has something that makes her special – but like in most stories about wizards, she cannot let anyone know, and her newfound powers are unpredictable.

Louie Stowell combines wizards, dragons, and libraries with a diverse and adorable cast of characters, whose passions for magic and the written word were my favourite aspects of this book, and everyone who reads this book will be able to see various aspects of themselves in all the characters in the book, whether it is what they look like, or what they love or their personality, which is really delightful and fabulous.

Their fight against Hadrian Salt is only just beginning – his quest to buy the library is more sinister than imagined, and it will be up to Faith, Kit, Alita and Josh to save the library – but of course, as the first in the series, there will be much more to come, and I think we will see much more of Salt in subsequent books.

With a reluctant reader as the main character, supported by a diverse cast – Alita, Josh and Faith – Kit is the a wonderful and fun character, and hopefully this book will appeal to eager readers who will see themselves in Alita, Josh and Faith, reluctant readers like Kit, and readers of all ages, genders and races, who will find something about each character to relate to, which I find really nice, and Louie Stowell has pulled this off in a brilliant way to show aspects of the real world alongside magic and fantasy elements.

As the first in a series, it does a fantastic job of setting up the plot and the characters and the challenges they will be facing in subsequent books. I love the idea of a dragon living below the library, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stainton

the bad mothers book clubTitle: The Bad Mother’s Book Club

Author: Keris Stainton

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Trapeze/Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 266

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This book club only reads wine labels – the laugh-out-loud novel from ebook bestseller Keris Stainton

Since moving to the Liverpudlian seaside after her husband’s career change, Emma Chance’s life consists of the following: long walks on the beach (with the dog), early nights (with the kids) and Netflix (no chill).

Bored and lonely, when Emma is cordially invited to the exclusive cool school-mums’ book club, hosted by Head of PTA and footballer’s wife, Jools Jackson, she thinks her luck may finally be about to change. She soon realises she may have made a grave mistake when she realises it’s all about books, and less about wine and gossip – but it’s always better to stick things out, isn’t it?

Or not.

After a few months and a few awkward moments involving a red wine on white carpet accident and a swear-word incident involving Jools’s daughter, Emma is ungraciously kicked out of the book club. Exhausted and exiled, she decides it’s about time she fights back against the shame and humiliation. Enlisting the help of some similar-thinking mums, Emma sets up her own book club – no cleaners, polite conversation or reading required: this is the BAD MOTHER’S BOOK CLUB.

 

~*~

 

Living near Liverpool after moving for her husband’s new job as a football manager, Emma Chance finds herself in a new environment to navigate – school parking politics, the PTA and managing to be herself whilst at the same time, putting a good face forward for her husband as he works with the footballer husband of Jools Jackson, who invites Emma to her exclusive book club. However, this book club turns out to be more than what Emma bargained for, and an incident involving Jool’s daughter sees her kicked out. So with fellow mum’s – Beth and Hanan – they start their own book club – The Bad Mother’s Book Club as they all try to navigate school, being a mum and the delicate politics of the PTA and surviving Jools – that is, until something Jools has been trying to hide comes out and she finds that letting Emma in is only going to help her.

In a refreshing story about female friendship, this novel combines light-hearted elements and humour with the struggles that we don’t always want others to see, but that we can’t always hide and eventually, need to ask for help with. It is not depressing, though has a few moments of gravitas that hit home that anyone can be vulnerable and imperfect – but it shows that these moments are okay because whoever we are, we all have them.

It is a great read for anytime – for sitting at home, a holiday or just a touch of light reading – there are many layers in this book to be enjoyed and it is nice to see imperfect characters of all types who acknowledge their flaws and where characters are allowed to be themselves and have concerns, and talk them out without being dismissed. Between mystery appointments and school, the women of the book club, Emma Beth and Hanan must also manage to find a way to raise their children and ensure each child is not ignored. For Emma, this means doing whatever she can to help her son settle in at school, ad watching him struggle, whilst her daughter, Ruby, pushes herself with more work and stress than Emma first realises until each family joins together for a trip for a school project and barriers are broken down and they come together to help each other – another element of the book I enjoyed, showing that everyone is different and has a different path, but no matter what these differences in race, gender or sexuality, friendships can be formed through common bonds of parenthood and hobbies – in the case of this novel.

I enjoyed taking a break from my usual hefty reading in historical fiction, fantasy and literary fiction to explore this world, where friendship is the key to the story, and it is something that we need more of for all readers – whatever their age or gender, and wherever they are at their stage of life.

March Round Up 2019

I read twelve books in March, and like previous months, some reviews are yet to go up, whilst others were just work books or books I did not review. Below is my progress for each challenge:

Overall/Dymocks 52 Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

27. The Incredible Hulk by Alex Irvine

  1. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  2. The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  3. The Deep: Selkie Warrior by Finn Black
  4. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide
  5. Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  6. Free Rein: The Steeplechase Secret by Jeanette Lane
  7. Esther by Jessica North
  8. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas
  9. Cuddles by Ellen Miles
  10. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  11. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Challenge

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

First book read for this challenge – Northanger Abbey

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Book Bingo

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers

  1. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – Reviewed
  2. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  3. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  4. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  5. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed

 

 

March Round-Up

 

Book Author Challenges
The Incredible Hulk Alex Irvine #Dymocks52Challenge, General
Four Dead Queens Astrid Scholte general, #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, Book Bingo
The Wolf and the Watchman Niklas Natt och Dag general,

#Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar

 

The Deep: Selkie Warrior Finn Black general,

#Dymocks52Challenge

Zebra and Other Stories Debra Adelaide general,

#Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo

Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further

 

Kelly Sue DeConnick general,

#Dymocks52Challenge,

 Free Rein: The Steeplechase Secret Jeanette Lane general,

#Dymocks52Challenge

Esther Jessica North general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, PopSugar
Cuddles Ellen Miles general, #Dymocks52Challenge.
The True Story of Maddie Bright Mary-Rose MacColl general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, PopSugar
Northanger Abbey Jane Austen General, book bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge

A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino

A Dream of Italy.jpgTitle: A Dream of Italy

Author: Nicky Pellegrino

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 26th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The No. 1 bestselling author makes southern Italy come alive in her most captivating, delicious drama yet

Here is your chance to buy your own home in southern Italy for less than the price of a cup of coffee. The picturesque mountain town of Montenello is selling off some of its historic buildings for just ONE EURO each. To be considered as a future resident of Montenello contact the town’s mayor, Salvio Valentini. 

Many people read Salvio’s advertisement with excitement. Elise is in her twenties and desperate to get on the property ladder. Edward wants to escape a life he finds stifling. Mimi is divorced and starting afresh. And there is one person whose true motivation won’t be clear for some time.

These four people all have a dream of Italy. And it’s going to change their lives. The passionate and gorgeous new novel by Nicky Pellegrino, the bestselling author of A Year at Hotel Gondola.

~*~

I had never read Nicky Pellegrino’s books until I received A Dream of Italy. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I knew it was going to be the intertwining stories of several people who purchase run down homes in an Italian village for one Euro under a cunning plan by the town’s mayor to repopulate Montenello.

Elise, who longs for more than what she has, heads off on her own, leaving her fiancé when he refuses to follow her. She is joined by Mimi, divorced and looking for something of her own. A gay couple from Australia join them, and a fourth whose true motivation isn’t clear. What is clear is that they each have dream of a life in Italy – but what these dreams are might not be clear to them when they arrive.

Reading is my way of travelling to different times and places, and this one took me to Italy where I really want to visit one day. For now, I will read about it and travel that way.

It is hard to pin down a favourite character, as I liked them all and they all had something unique to offer to the story and each other. I can say that I liked that the friendship bonds that formed between the characters across the story were more important than romance, and when there was a hint of romance between two characters, it was not forced or pushed when it didn’t work out. For me, this added an air of realism that I have, in the past, found romance novels do not always have, and the relationship is forced, and feels stifled. This one did not, and the relationship that does eventuate is not the one that is expected, making for a delightful twist.

This is one that I enjoyed, but perhaps won’t read again. It is one I know people will enjoy and look forward to sharing it with people, and passing it onto others who will enjoy it.

The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

9781760631871Title: The Honeyman and the Hunter

Author: Neil Grant

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Rudra is an Indian-Australian boy at a crossroads, poised to step into the world of adulthood and to discover his cultural heritage and how that might truly define him. A wonderful exploration of dual heritage, cultural identity, family and the power of storytelling.

The sea is inside his blood. Cursed, or blessed, on both sides.

When sixteen-year-old Rudra Solace dredges up a long-hidden secret in his father’s trawl net, his life in the sleepy fishing village of Patonga shifts dramatically. It is not long before Rudra is leaving Australia behind, bound for India on a journey of discovery and danger.

A wonderfully compelling tale of belonging and loss, of saltwater and mangroves, of migration and accepting change; a story of decisions that, once made, break through family histories like a cyclone swell.

~*~

Rudra Solace is sixteen, and about to start year eleven at school on the Central Coast of New South Wales when two things happen: his didima, his grandmother, arrives for a visit from India, and whilst on his father’s fishing boat, Rudra finds a tiger skull, and this sets forth a series of dreams and events that lead him and his mother on a journey back to India, and the village Nayna grew up in on a quest he never thought he would ever have to go on, let alone think about. What culminates is a family story crossing countries, cultures and continents, where the intersection is Rudra himself, and he is the anchor for all these stories.

I read a lot of Australian literature, and there is always something familiar about it, even if it is set in a place I have never been – perhaps this is because there are many versions of Australia we see in our media, and movies and television, so even if one has never been to a country town, if you’ve watched Blue Heelers orDoctor Doctor, you still understand the feel. Yet there is nothing like reading something set somewhere you have been or live and recognising the places and names. Not many books are set on the Central Coast of New South Wales, so when this one arrived and I saw that it was, I was very interested to see how the region would be used in the story.

Recognising the names and picturing the locations made the experience of reading the first half enjoyable and immersive, but the section set in India was just as immersive and felt just as real to me. It is a story driven by family and culture, by heritage and stories, where beliefs come into conflict with each other as Rudra works through what he knows, what he is taught and what those around him believe – and how to make sense of these things for himself in his own mind. Incorporating migration and how family histories affect us, The Honeyman and the Hunter does a good job of bringing all these themes together.

Book Bingo Week Two 2019

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Comedy Square

Welcome to week two of 2019’s book bingo with Theresa, Amanda and I, and everyone else using our card as part of their own 2019 reading challenges and goals. I’ve only crossed one square off again this week – as many of the books to come are scheduled reviews, so my bonus squares will come later on in the coming months.

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With Comedy being a fairly subjective genre, I was at first unsure of how to approach this square, as there have been books I have read that have funny stuff in them but might not necessarily qualify as comedy in terms of genre or style. So when I received Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills for Christmas, I knew I could easily check off the comedy square with this wonderful book.

best foot forward

Adam Hills, former host of Spicks and Specks, is one of my favourite comedians. My full review of the book is here – what I loved about this book was that Adam was honest and entertaining – and he never let having a prosthesis hold him back. Though he had some challenges, Adam found he could do most of the things he wanted to do, and I enjoyed reading about his life and how he came to be the host of Spicks and Specks,as well as co-hosting a show at the Paralympics and finding a community of disabled people there.

The second of February will be my next book bingo – keep an eye out for it!

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