Wednesday, 14 January 2015

summer reading 2015: the undertaker's daughter, all fall down, mothers and daughters

From life in an American funeral home to the relaxing waters north of Broome, books have taken me on quite a journey this summer. I've enjoyed swapping the hustle and bustle of the school holidays for some much-needed down time between the covers of some great reads. Kate Mayfield's memoir The Undertaker's Daughter recounts her time growing up in Jubilee, Kentucky and the steady influx of the deceased and those who mourned them. It's a surprisingly gentle account and written with a strong and absorbing Southern voice. Highly enjoyable.

Jennifer Weiner's All Fall Down is a race from start to finish, the inside scoop on Allison Weiss and her supposedly perfect life. We soon learn that Allison gets through the days aided by 'mother's little helpers' - pick-me-ups that assist with her fast-paced, adrenalin-filled schedule. When Allison's world comes crashing down, she has no choice but to sit back and let her family take over. Recovery is impossible without this leap of faith and Allison doesn't believe it's possible without her front and centre. Not a very relaxing read (Allison's pre-fall schedule is exhausting!), but a timely warning about doing too much as we begin a new year.

Australian Kylie Ladd's Mothers and Daughters picks up where All Fall Down leaves off: what happens once our children become teenagers and forging identities of their own? And what does that mean for their parents? When four mothers and four teenage girls holiday in the north with limited access to technology, tensions arise. The blissful, holiday brochure accommodation the travellers conjured in their imaginations doesn't match the scenery. Meanwhile the friendships they've held so dearly look to be falling apart at the seams. An engaging and entertaining read.

Have you read any good books lately? What should I seek out in 2015? I'm doing Pip Lincolne's A Year of Australian Writing and plan to read as much homegrown talent as possible. I can't give up my international reads though, so it's going to be a busy time!

PS Picmonkey collage using images as follows: The Undertaker's DaughterAll Fall Down, Mothers and Daughters.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

happy new year 2015 - the writer's edition

The final 2014 writer's edition slipped by in the busy whirl of Christmas preparations, end of school and bushfires. When the countryside around us flared up on 19 December it affected many people we know and brought the year to an abrupt end. Finally declared safe in the past week, the fire burned through over 5000 hectares, affecting many local landholders, native fauna and flora. Rehabilitation works have now commenced and people are able to start planning for the future.

My own 2015 has got off to a flying start. I will be working 12 hours a week as a journalist on our local newspaper, something I'm delighted about and will complement my novel writing at home. I officially started this week, however I did write a couple of stories for their final December edition. The juggle of childcare has commenced, although with a great team behind me I think we have it covered! It's actually quite good starting during the school holidays - hopefully we will have found some kind of routine before Term One begins at the end of the month.

While there has been little time for my second manuscript in recent weeks, I'm pleased to announce that at just over 37,000 words, I am almost half-way through my first draft. This is something I only started in October and it seems incredible that I have already reached that point. The basic gist of it is a tree change gone wrong - a retired couple are heading to the country to start a new life, but tragedy strikes on the eve of their move.

My first manuscript (a Fly In, Fly Out mining couple discover that all that glitters isn't gold) is still out for consideration and I don't expect to find out anything more for the next couple of months. It's been wonderful to reflect on the past year and see how far I've got with my writing. I don't know what will happen with this manuscript, but to realise I've achieved a lifelong dream and I'm only 41 is amazing. It leaves so much time to achieve the next dream (and the next and the next!), which is of course to write another book (and another and another)!

What does 2015 have in store for you?! I hope it's all that you wish! Thank you for joining in with my writing journey at Stonefruit Season and I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming year.

PS The pic was taken at a roadside flower stall near Jamieson, Victoria - so cute!

Friday, 19 December 2014

30+ days of books for christmas - the full list

And that's a wrap! My 30 days of books for Christmas has taken more than 30 days to put together and includes 32 publications - but what a list! I've been putting this post together with a warm fuzzy glow, thinking about all the wonderful titles featured during this series. From the multi-award winning Narrow Road to the Deep North to the exquisite Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon, there's something for everyone. I can't wait for my Christmas presents - something tells me I'll have my head in a book, with more to blog about in 2015! Roll on the New Year and more great reads to come.

The complete list of 30+ days of books for Christmas:
  1.  Delicious Ruth Reichl
  2. We are all completely beside ourselves Karen Joy Fowler
  3. Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon Kate Bruning 
  4. Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty
  5. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant Owen Beddall
  6. The Tea Chest Josephine Moon
  7. The Mapmaker Chronicles - Race to the End of the World AL Tait
  8. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes Anna McPartlin
  9. The Good House Ann Leary
  10. The Signature of All Things Elizabeth Gilbert
  11. The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd
  12. The Age of Miracles Karen Thompson Walker
  13. The Art of Adapting Cassandra Dunn
  14. My Salinger Year Joanna Rakoff
  15. The One Plus One Jojo Moyes
  16. The Vacationers Emma Straub
  17. Big Stone Gap Adriana Trigiani
  18. The Relatives Came Cynthia Rylant
  19. How Lucky You Are Kristyn Kusek Lewis 
  20. Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham 
  21. Dork Diaries Rachel Renee Russell
  22. Where'd you go Bernadette? Maria Semple
  23. Burial Rites Hannah Kent
  24. God is an Astronaut Alyson Foster
  25. We are called to rise Laura McBride
  26. The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
  27. Think Like a Publisher Randy Davila
  28. An American in Oz Sara James
  29. A recipe for dreaming Bryce Courtenay
  30. Father Christmas Raymond Briggs
And two bonus books!
Gardens are for Living Judy Kameon
Pippi Longstocking Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child

Collage image credits as follows:
Top Row Pippi Longstocking, Not That Kind of Girl, God is an Astronaut, An American in Oz
Middle Row Where'd you go Bernadette, The Vacationers, Big Stone Gap, Burial Rites
Bottom Row We are called to rise, Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon, The One Plus One, Think Like a Publisher

30 days of books for christmas - pippi longstocking

Could you imagine a more perfect collaboration than Astrid Lindgren and Lauren Child? Children's classic Pippi Longstocking has been updated in a large picture book format with beautiful, bright illustrations. Child, of Charlie and Lola fame, has created a visual feast, with Lindgren's story just as relevant and appealing today as when it was first published. My daughter Sophie (8) is mad on Pippi Longstocking's individuality, captured by the idea of someone who sleeps upside down in her bed,  feet on the pillow and head under the covers. Soph has whipped through her copy (a belated birthday present from Auntie Kate) carting it around and reading whenever she can. When a book so completely absorbs your child, it's sure to be a hit with other children too - there's still time to put one in the Christmas stocking (pardon the pun!) and enjoy!

PS Cover image via here and Picmonkey collage.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - gardens are for living

The warmer weather turns our attentions outdoors. Parties, barbecues, drinks with friends and loved ones. Cast your eyes around the garden - does the setting match your ideal, or are you still hazy on the design front? Look no further than Gardens are for Living if you need help! Judy Kameon's book has fabulous ideas for all kinds of spaces. It's an American publication, but with many plants relevant to Australian conditions including succulents and our very own kangaroo paws.
Just stunning! I love the path interspersed with the ground cover thyme. And the door! Anyone familiar with photos of my own house will know I love a brightly coloured door. The tiles and plantings on the right are amazing too - I've seen what a difference variations in height have made in our garden. So much inspiration here - this copy is courtesy of our local library, but I plan on tracking one down for our own bookshelves. It looks like we'll have a busy time ahead - how about you?!

PS Cover image via here, bottom left and right. Picmonkey collages.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - raymond briggs' father christmas

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas books were a highlight of my childhood and contributed to my great love of reading. That the big man was portrayed as cantankerous workaday hero was so delightfully subversive it appealed to my sense of humour. There wasn't a lot of text, but together with the pictures, each page told such a huge story. Behind the scenes Father Christmas was just like any one of us - stoking the fire, cooking dinner, leaving behind his cat and dog while he went to work. Perhaps the fact he had reindeer to feed was a little bit different, but all part of the big picture! Still in print over 40 years later, make Raymond Briggs part of your Christmas - guaranteed for a lifetime of reading pleasure.

Did you have any of Raymond Briggs' books when you were a child? Do you still have your well-thumbed copies or have you had to buy them again?!

PS Image via here.

Monday, 15 December 2014

30 days of books for christmas - a recipe for dreaming

How often do you give yourself permission to dream?
Acclaimed Australian novelist, Bryce Courtenay, said 'The combination of learning to dream and getting into the habit of asking yourself questions is, I believe, the beginning of a way to live a happy and original life.' His small treasure of a book, A recipe for dreaming, has been on my bookshelves since 1996 when I heard him talk in Geelong. The charismatic creative signed my copy and waxed lyrical about the importance of dreaming in our lives - something I realise I've been too busy for lately and, on the occasion of my 41st birthday, plan to reclaim next year.

'If you don't know where you're going, then how will you get there? Visualise! Make pictures in your mind. See the destination. Imagine your arrival. Dream in perfect detail. See yourself the way you want to be when you arrive. See yourself arriving. Make yourself a road map and study it every day until you know the way and the destination by heart.' (Bryce Courtenay, A recipe for dreaming)

Courtenay, who passed away in 2012, leaves behind a wonderful written legacy. A recipe for dreaming is just as relevant today as it was when first published in 1994. A beautiful stocking filler, track one down for the family this Christmas.