#AtoZChallenge K – K is for Keating by Kerry O’Brien

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

 

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

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Summary

Paul Keating was Prime Minister of Australia, during the most significant period of political and economic reform in the history of Australia. Twenty years later, there hasn’t been an autobiography published, and Keating has never spoken about this period. There has been no memoir from this ex Prime Minister who was always considered to be a supreme political storyteller. 

This book fills that gap. Well known journalist and TV interviewer, Kerry O’Brien knew all the players, lived the history and has spent many hours with Keating teasing out the stories and testing his memories.

The result is this great book of anecdotes, insights, reflections and occasional admissions from one of the most loved and most disliked political leaders in our time. The format of this book is question and answer interview style.

My Thoughts

I first came across this book when I attended a session at The Bendigo Writers Festival, where Kerry O’Brien was discussing his book Keating, which had only recently been published. I attended this session because I was a fan of Kerry O’Brien but I never expected to read the book as I thought it would be too political and too heavy for me. But after hearing O’Brien speak, I couldn’t wait to get started.

Even though Keating is based on politics, it isn’t a dry text book type read as the style is very conversational. I really enjoyed reading Keating‘s view on events that occurred during his time as Prime Minister and the preceding years.

I remember Paul Keating as being a colourful character with a wonderful way with words. He always seemed to be able to cut his opponent in half with his words.  I love to see old footage of him when he was speaking in Parliament. If only politicians today were so clever with their words.

I did love this book, and I felt it was my privelege to read it. Despite it’s many pages, once I started reading, I coudn’t put it down. It was both serious and very humorous. I was surprised to read that this great, seemingly confident leader suffered with his own insecurities and moments of doubt at times. As well as delving deeply into events during Keating’s time as Prime Minister, this book shows a human side to the man that little is known about.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Kerry O’Brien is one of Australia’s most respected journalists, with six Walkley awards, including the Gold Walkley and the Walkley for Outstanding Leadership in journalism. In a 50 year career, he has worked for newspapers, television, a wire service, and as a foreign correspondent.

Thirty three of those years have been at the ABC, where he was the host of many current affairs programs including Four Corners. He has interviewed most of the influential leaders of his time including Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. He was a press secretary to Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, in the early days of his career.

Published in 2015 by Allen & Unwin
794 pages including notes, photos, sources and a comprehensive index

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#AtoZChallenge J – Julie and Julia by Julie Powellk

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

365 days – 524 recipes – One tiny apartment kitchen

Julie was almost thirty and living a dull and boring life, trapped in a dull secretarial job when she decided to throw everything into cooking to bring some excitement to her life.

Over the period of one year she would cook every single recipe in the blockbuster and legendary Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

Julie doesn’t expect to have any difficulties. But of course she didn’t consider that some of the ingredients would be unusual and difficult to get, not to mention difficult to eat. Very often, meals would be ready until midnight or later due to tracking down ingredients, long cooking times, and difficulties with cooking methods.

Julie deals with all of the challenges she faces with humour and manages to transform her life before she realises it is happening.

My Thoughts

Written very much with a similar type of humour to Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’ Diary. I loved following Julie as she dived into recipes that I couldn’t imagine cooking, much less eating.  I read this book when it was released and have recently re-read it. It didn’t lose anything at all in the second reading, or the intervening years. I enjoyed it very much and laughed very loud in places. I did think her husband must have been a saint during this disruptive period of their lives.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Julie Powell

  Julie Powell was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where she first fell in love with cooking — and her husband, Eric. Her writing has appeared in Bon Appétit, The New York Times, House Beautiful, and Archaeology Magazine, among others. She lives in Long Island City, Queens.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Published in 2005 by Back Bay Books – Little, Brown and Company
Paperback 307 pages

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This blog has been nominated for the Bloggers Bash Awards in the category of Best Book Review Blog. If you would like to vote for me click on the link below and scroll down to the Best Book Review Section. You will find Best Bookish Blog there. I do appreciate you taking the time to vote.

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#AtoZChallenge I -I Was Here by Gayle Forman

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

This story, set in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington USA, follows eighteen year old Cody in the months following the suicide of her best friend Meg.  Cody is feeling numb and can’t believe that her friend didn’t confide in her that all wasn’t well with her. As she searches for answers as to why she has lost her best friend, she goes on a journey of self discovery. Cody starts to question her relationship with Meg, and what death, love and forgiveness mean to her.

My Thoughts

This traumatic subject matter is handled very realistically and delicately by the author, but at the same time is very emotional to read. As well as suicide, there is a romantic story line which I didn’t enjoy at all. I found most of the writing about the romance and the relationship to be quite predictable and not essential to the story.

I Am Here is classified as Young Adult fiction. I’m in two minds about this. I’m not really sure if the story line is suitable for early teens. But then again, this is a topic which affects so many teenagers in modern times, so perhaps it should be brought more into the open.

Recommendation

“I Was Here was a pitch perfect blend of mystery, tragedy and romance. Gayle Forman has given us an unflinchingly honest portrait of the bravery it takes to live after devastating loss” – Stephen Chbosky, author

“Partly tautly paced mystery, part psychological study of suicide and it’s after effects….An engrossing and provocative look at the devastating finality of suicide, survivors guilt, the complicated nature of responsiblity, and even the role of the internet in life and death decisions” – Kirkus Reviews.

Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Young Adult Fiction

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Gayle Forman

 

Award winning author and journalist, Gayle Forman has written several best selling novels for young adults.  She has had written essays and non-fiction work which has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Elle and Time. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughters.

 

 

Published in 2015 by Viking Juvenile. Hardcover – 270 pages

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#AtoZChallenge H is for Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Heartbreak Hotel is a romantic comedy set in Wales. Buffy, a retired actor, needs a change and decides to make the move from London to a rural area of Wales. He has taken possession of a very run down B&B in a very isolated area. Very quickly he realises he needs to something to encourage guests to stay at his establishment.

Eventually, the guests start to arrive and we meet a very diverse group of people, who  arrive to stay in this very quaint establishment. At first glance they appear to have nothing at all in common, but they come to realise that perhaps they have more commonalities between them, than at first thought. 

My Thoughts

Hotel Heartbreak is a comedy, with a huge cast of characters. Some of them, I found to be quite charming. However, I did struggle to keep up with who they all were, and where they fitted in to the story. I found the structure and story line to be very stilted and all over the place.

I listened to this book as an audio book, and was quite annoyed by it. I would probably have enjoyed it more, if I had read the paper copy, as I felt I needed to keep flicking back the pages, to check up on who particular characters were. This wasn’t possible on the audio book, so I did become quite confused.

Heartbreak Hotel is the second book in the Buffy series. As I haven’t read the first book, it is probably not fair of me to rate this book harshly. I kept wondering if I would have enjoyed the book more, had I read the first book that introduced Buffy. 

My Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach is British born and the author of many novels including The Ex Wives, Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things. She has adapted many of her novels as TV dramas and has also written film scripts including the screenplay for Pride and Prejudice. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a huge bestselling and the movie adaptation was an award winning hit.

 

Published in 2013 by Chatto and Windus, an imprint of Penguin,
Random House London

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#AtoZChallenge G is forThe Good People by Hannah Kent

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

The Good People

Summary

In the year 1825, in a remote valley lying between the mountains of south west Ireland, near the Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events.

Norah Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four year old grandson, Micheal. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity, evidence of otherworldly interference – from the back cover

My Thoughts

I don’t usually use the wording from the blurb for the summary. But felt in this case that I had no choice. I loved this book so much that I was concerned that I would give away too much of the storyline if I used my own words to summarise this amazing story.

I heard Hannah Kent discussing this book on a Podcast on ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) She spent time living in Ireland while she researched and wrote The Good People. Her indepth research is obvious as she bases her story on Irish folklore that has been around for centuries. It is difficult to imagine, in these modern, sophisticated times, that people actually believed these ales. But, not only did they believe them, they actually lived their lives around them. Some of their beliefs explored in this novel, made me laugh and others I found horrifying.

I would rate this book as one of my favourite books of all time. I love it so much that I have read it twice and listened to it twice as an audio book.  I’d recommend the audio book as a way to absorb this story. The Irish lilt of the narrator brought this story to life for me.

The characters were very well developed and both lovable and very easy to dislike. Sometimes, the one character would be easy to like and at the same time , very easy to dislike.

There are two pages at the back of the book, written by the author about her research and Irish folk lore which are a wonderful addition to the book.

I’m waiting very impatiently to see what is next from this young and very talented author.

Recommendation

“The Good People, takes us straight to a place utterly unexpected and believable, where amidst the earnest mayhem people impose on each other, there is no patronising quaintness, but a compelling sense of the inevitablity of solemn horrors” -Tom Keneally

Awards

Winner of the Booker Prize and Miles Franklin Literary Award.

About the Author

Hannah Kent

 

Hannah Kent is the co-founder of Australian Literary Journal, Kill Your Darlings. In 2011, she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her debut novel, Burial Rites. Since it’s publication in 2013, Burial Rites has been translated into nearly thirty languages, and has received numerous awards and nominations.

My rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published in 2016, in Picador by Pan McMillan Australia Pty Ltd. Paperback, 3 pages.

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#A-ZChallenge F – Fragments by Toni Jordan

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

In 1939 a beautiful, successful, but reclusive novelist Inga Karlson dies in a fire in New York. She leaves behind the manuscript of her second book and an unsolved mystery that has captivated her fans for decades. Almost half a century later, a Brisbane bookseller, while waiting in line to see an exhibition of the famous Karlson Fragments, starts to talk to another patron who is also waiting.  This conversation changes her life and sends her into a frenzy of having to find out more about the Karlson mystery.

My Thoughts

This literary mystery is set in both New York and Brisbane and told in two timelines. I really enjoyed this format and the mystery that was unfolding, which moved along at quite a fast pace. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. I have been a fan of Jordan’s previous novels and this book is no exception. Jordan is a great storyteller.

Recommendation

“Brilliantly conceived and tightly written…a sensitive and beautiful novel, a slice of Australia’s working class history, that is a joy to read” – NZ Herald on Sunday

“A wonderful, witty, treat of a novel”- Liane Moriarty, author

My Rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Toni Jordan

 

Toni Jordan lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and has written five novels which have been hugely successful and published internationally.

 

 

 

Published by Text Publishing Melbourne in 2018

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#AprilA-Z Challenge E – Elevation by Stephen King

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted. My theme for 2019 is Book Reviews.

Elevation

Summary

Scott is losing weight. Every day, the numbers on the scales decrease, even though he his not getting any thinner. The number on the scales is the same, whether he is wearing clothes or not. This is a riveting and very moving story about how one man’s problem can bring a small town together and bring about change to long held prejudices against others. A story about finding common ground within our differences.

My Thoughts

The above summary is very short. That is because, I really don’t want to spoil this book in any way for the reader. It’s a short read and could be described as a novella. I think it’s best to read it, knowing very little of the storyline.  This is a great story about tragedy, friendship and community, regardless of the underlying horror that is occurring.

I’ve been a huge Stephen King fan for years. But over recent years, I haven’t enjoyed his books as much as I did his earlier novels. Unlike some of King’s story lines, this one is very believable – even though it is totally unbelievable. King has that way of making the unbelievable seem believable.

This is an unusually small book for King.  It’s my opinion that the characters could have been developed more in a larger book. I do wonder if this book is trying to tempt readers who don’t want to invest large chunks of time into reading. I have friends who don’t read anything by King because of the length of his books. I would love to have seen this story be longer. But I’m happy, if the shorter length means more people are attracted to reading one of the most popular authors the world  has seen.

About The Author

King at the 2007 Comic Con

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Many of his books have been adapted into major films and TV series. King received the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  In 2007, he won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and in 2015 he received America’s National Medal of Arts.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist, Tabitha King.

My Rating:   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published in 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton. Hardcover with dust jacket – 132 pages

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#AprilAtoZ Challenge D: The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been published. My theme for 2019 is book reviews

The Dirty Book Club

Summary

M.J. Stark has the perfect life. On the surface that is. When you dig a little deeper, it is obvious that she is very lonely and unhappy. When offered the opportunity to start a new life in California, she can’t resist.

Shortly after her arrival in the small beach town, she befriends her elderly neighbour who moves to Paris shortly after their meeting.

However she has left M.J. with an invitation to a secret book club. The people she meets in that book club, along with the letters they read, written by the original members, create an unexpected bond between them and cause them to share the stories of their own lives. What is said in the book club stays in the book club, so they feel free and safe to be open and honest about their lives.

My Thoughts

Having been a member of a book club for many years, I was drawn by the title, as I do enjoy a story about a book club. I like to make comparisons between the book clubs in novels and my book club. Of course, there is rarely any comparison. In my opinion my book club is the very best of all.

Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is not an erotic novel. It’s a story about relationships, and the friendships that develop between members of a book club who joined together without previously knowing each other.

The writing is humorous and a little racy at times. It took me a while to become interested in the characters, but when I did the story took on a new life for me and I didn’t want to put it down.

There definitely were commonalities between this book club and my own. We are a group of members who came together, mainly through a love of books without having a history with each other. We talk freely and our book club meetings are a safe place to speak our mind. This connection really increased my enjoyment of the story.

Recommendation

Even though I struggled with the first few chapters, once I felt I knew the characters I found myself very involved with the story. I would recommend The Dirty Book Club to anyone interested in reading about friendship and relationships.

About The Author

Lisi Harrison

Lisi Harrison left her position at MTV Networks in 2003, to write The Clique Series. That series has sold more than eight million copies and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two hundred weeks, with ten titles hitting Number 1. The Alphas was a Number 1 New York Times bestseller, and Monster High was an instant bestseller. Her latest YA series is the Pretenders. Lisi lives in Laguna Beach, California, and has been a proud member of her own dirty book club since 2007 – from the backcover

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster in 2017.
Paperback, 313 pages

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#AprilAtoZ Challenge C: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

A very touching, while also very funny account of the author’s experience of handling and dealing with problems attached to ageing parents. Told in the form of comic strip and cartoon and using family photos and documents to tell the story. The themes in this book would be common to many readers, and are issues that many struggle with – ageing and infirm elderly parents leaving their family home to live in an institution, and all the feelings and dramas that brings.

My Thoughts

This is an incredibly touching, while also humorous, account of two lives coming to a close while their only child struggles with doing all she can for them, and at the same time honoring their long lives. The writing is beautifully personal, emotional and very moving.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a beautifully presented hardcover book in cartoon form. Many of the cartoons and drawings are ‘laugh out loud’ funny while at the same time,  heartbreakingly sad.

Recommendation

This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to read it. Since reading it, I’ve also dipped in and out of different sections at times. It’s possible to delve into small sections and still enjoy and indentify with the trials of trying to do the best by ageing parents.

It also made me wonder about my own children and how I could make my ageing easier for them. In my opinion this book is ‘must read’.

“A touching, unflinching, darkly hilarious account of her mother and father’s physical and mental declines, their deaths within two years of each other, and her anxious, loving exertions to ease their passages…..Memorial services seek to provide consolations and perhaps a glimpse of guidance for speaker and mourners alike. Chast’s rich graphic elegy, at once subversive and sustaining, offers both’ – Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe.

#1 New York Times Bestseller

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Roz chast 2007.jpg

 

Roz Chast grew up in Brooklyn. She has been a cartoonist for the New Yorker since 1978 and has written and illustrated many books.

Published by

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#AprilAtoZ Challenge B -Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

 

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

My theme is Book Reviews. I will be posting reviews for every day of the alphabet.

Summary

Burial Rites is a first novel, based on an actual event in Iceland in 1829. A man and woman faced execution for a murder that occurred on an isolated farm. There were no prisons in Iceland at this time, so the young woman, Agnes Magnusdottir, was kept at a farm where she had lived in her earlier years. The farmer and his wife were her guards during the long dark winter before her execution.

The family are horrified at being forced to house a murderer, and at first ignore Agnes, while going about their daily life. But as Agnes’s date with death comes closer, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story that they have heard.

My thoughts

Kent had me hooked from her opening sentence on page one: They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from the men, and now they must steal mine”

This book is definitely not a light, happy, read. The actual event covered in this story, is well known and well documented in Iceland. It is considered to be a dark event in their history.  This novel is about the sad and dark story of Agnes, and her wait for execution during the long long Icelandic winter. There is very little happiness for Agnes as she waits.

Recommendation

Before I read this book, I had expected it to be so bleak that it would be an impossible enjoyable read. But enjoy it I did. I had never previously heard of the true story of Agnes. and Kent had me feeling very sad and without hope for her.

There are multiple narrators to the story and Agnes also speaks to the reader in the first person. I found myself reading her sentences over and over, as they were so beautifully written and poignant.

I have read this book twice, and listened to it once on audio. I never tire of reading and hearing Hannah Kent’s beautiful words that evoke perfectly, the darkness of a long, dark Icelandic winter.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Awards

Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2014)
Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2013)
Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for People’s Choice (2014)
Davitt Award for Debut Novel (2013)
Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction (2014)
Australian Book Industry Award for Literary Fiction (2014)
Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee (2014)
The Stella Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2014)
Specsavers National Book Award Nominee for International Author of the Year (2014)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2013)
International Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)

About The Author

Hannah Kent

 

Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985.  Burial Rites is her first novel and has been translated into over 30 languages and won many awards. Hannah is also the co-founder and publishing director of Australian literary publication Kill Your Darlings

 

 

Published in 203 by Little Brown and Company – Hardcover 336 pages

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