Thursday, October 29, 2020

Review: Senior Moments

Title: Senior Moments
Author: Angus Fitzsimons

Publisher: 27th October 2020 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 220 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary, nonfiction, humour

My Rating: 3.5 cups


Senior Moments is the go-to Christmas gift for all thoughtless children and shrewd seniors.

Have you had a Senior Moment yet? Maybe you know someone who's had a few? Check this list to know for sure:

You can remember being told the King was dead (George, not Elvis).

You still say 'colour television', and you watch television on a television.

Your home phone rings and you answer it. (And you still have a phone, not a 'landline'.)

You boast about 'doing it' three times a night and that's just getting up to pee.

You realise that your wardrobe has become ironic. You're not back in fashion, but you're hip. (And ironically, you now have an artificial hip).


If you answered 'yes' to one or more of the above, congratulations! You are officially a Senior and this book is here to guide you through your best years (i.e. the past). Stroll, or maybe shuffle, down Nostalgia Avenue and bask in the glory of growing old disgracefully.

(If you are a Young Person, this is the easiest Senior gift idea ever. You're welcome!)

My Thoughts

‘As a Senior you will have noticed that among the many ways Modern Life is disappointing is the disappearance of ... familiar staples of yesteryear. What happened to them?  ... (for example) ... Women Called ‘Peg’: Used to be everywhere, now vanished. Laundry Pegs are the sole reminder that they used to flourish amongst us.’

Senior Moments is a by-product from the successful theatrical version of the same name. Comedy writer, Angus Fitzsimons, took some of the love and laughter from his live show which stars the likes of Max Gillies and John Wood. This show first premiered in 2016 and has continued on through sold-out national tours across Australia since. Seeing as we cannot presently enjoy a live show, this book brings much light relief to our isolated COVID days.

Filled with a long list of topical issues for Seniors this book could be viewed as part instructional guide on how to not only survive but thrive in the Senior years. Some of the great one liners (obviously from the show) are now penned in this tome with many useful tips and tricks on how to be a Senior. Chapters include everything from surviving major events such as Christmas and birthday parties, to exercise and moments in the supermarket. There are even a couple of ‘Senior Moments Quizzes’  or memory tests to see how you are faring. So be prepared!

‘After your Physio Session, you will nod at various stretches shown to you on pieces of paper which you promise you will do at home. Seniors do many things at home - mainly napping and gardening - but no Senior in history has ever followed instructions from a Physio.’

It is also a nostalgic trip with various famous people and key events from days of old reminisced about. From what may have been on TV such as Colombo or Murder She Wrote to musical icons from a range of styles across the decades. If you are looking for a good giggle or maybe ideas on how to grow old disgracefully, look no further than Senior Moments. It is sure to bring a smirk to the faces of anyone over the half century age bracket. 

‘Remember to remain on your guard and stick to ‘I don't remember’ if they ask you any leading questions like: ‘Did you make me use a dummy?’ (Make them! They used to suck your thumb like a vampire after you dipped it into two fingers of Scotch and then they went out like a light. Tell no one.)’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Review: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home

Title: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home
Author: Joanna Nell

Publisher: 27th October 2020 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 384 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: fiction, contemporary

My Rating: 5 cups


At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her 'room with a view' of the carpark, she dreams of escape.

Fellow 'inmate', the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces -- and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

Full of wisdom and warmth, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a gorgeously poignant, hilarious story showing that it is never too late to laugh -- or to love.

My Thoughts

‘My grandson told me there’s something called an app on it that ages your face

and makes you look old.’ ‘There’s one of those in the bathroom,’ chuckled Murray.   ‘It’s called a mirror.’ 

The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home is the third novel by Australian author, Joanna Nell and is another winning delve into aged care adventures. Having read Joanna’s previous two novels, I continue to be impressed how she shines the spotlight on this age bracket, achieving a balance between whimsical and enlightening. 

 ‘That’s my point. We’re all past our use-by date in here.’ ‘I prefer to think of it as a “best before” date.’ Miss Bloom looked as surprised as anyone to hear her words spoken aloud.’ 

If you have ever had any dealings with ‘Seniors’ then you will surely find something to relate to in Joanna’s stories. This time around she shines the light on Nursing Homes (pre COVID) presenting a clever take on the escapades of some of the residents. The array of typical characters jump off the page with their witty dialogue and reflective moments. If you have ever been to an aged care home you will undoubtedly recognise not only the resident types but also their carers and the health and safety standards that often rule these lodgings. It is the backstories of some of these characters that prove memorable and force you to recall that they were young once, active and independent. 

‘It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable, isn’t it? Feels wrong, I imagine. When you’ve been so independent all your life. Look at me. I was head of department at a high school. I am a justice of the peace, a father of two accomplished women and a grandfather. Now I need a twenty year old to wipe my backside.’   

To counterbalance this, Joanna also details the heartfelt sorrows with a realistic portrayal of how some of our elderly spend their final days. It is here that Joanna truly makes her statement in a most empathetic manner with a message that is powerful and I hope heard by many.  She ventures into the more serious themes of loss of independence in all its many forms and no longer being responsible for your own life decisions. With routine often being the cornerstone of such accommodations, it is the freedom and individuality that is often sadly lost. I adored Joana’s thoughts on the ‘Night Owls’ club and think that sometimes these ‘rules’ need bending. 

‘The doors at the main entrance were locked, as was to be expected after hours, preventing the outside from getting in  and the inside from getting out ... In theory, loved ones were free to visit at any time with permission of the nurse in charge. After-hours visits were not encouraged. Nor were after-hours excursions. Tonight, however, Hattie wanted to see the stars, if only for the reassurance that the universe was still infinite. Woodlands was crushing her, squeezing her chest like a pair of giant hands around her lungs. She had to hold on to the idea that life would return to normal, that one day all this would be behind her. She would get home, not just for the owls, but for her own sake.’

I applaud Joanna for continuing to highlight Seniors/retirees/elderly particularly after the disaster to this sector during the pandemic. This genre is anything but boring when you consider what these precious people have lived through. I love old people. Joanna offers  all her knowledge and experience to bring not only humour to this category but also a real sense of realism and purpose. I call on people to read Joanna’s books which just keep getting better and better and remember that, even though ageing may be a harsh reality, it does not have to be at the cost of loss of character. 

‘Everyone spoke affectionately, nostalgically, about their day, some elusive time they would only recognise when looking back in years to come. For most, it was when they were too young or carefree to realise that this was as good as it got and to enjoy it. But what if her day wasn’t already behind her? What if today was Hattie Bloom’s day?

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review: A Tale of Witchcraft

Title: A Tale of Witchcraft (A Tale of Magic #2)
Author: Chris Colfer

Publisher: 29th September 2020 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 432 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: fantasy, fiction, children/middle grade

My Rating: 4 cups


Brystal Evergreen changed the world, but the journey is just beginning...

Brystal and her friends have saved the world from the evil Snow Queen and secured worldwide acceptance for the magical community.

However, when a mysterious new witch arrives at the academy, the celebrations are cut short. As the witch begins recruiting faeries into her rival school of witchcraft, it becomes clear she has dark intentions. And soon Brystal's friend Lucy becomes embroiled in an ominous plot against mankind.

Elsewhere, the fragile peace is on the brink of shattering. Outrage has spread throughout the kingdoms in opposition to the legalization of magic. And, a dangerous and centuries-old clan known as the Righteous Brotherhood has resurfaced, with one goal in mind: to exterminate all magical life forever...starting with Brystal....

The enchanting sequel to the New York Times bestselling A Tale of Magic..., filled with brand-new adventures and a cast of memorable characters, both familiar and new.

My Thoughts

A Tale of Witchcraft is the second novel in a new series by Chris Colfer. Having heard so many positive things about his writing, I was eager to see for myself and I was not disappointed. Yes, on the surface it appears as a simple tale of good versus evil. However, aimed at a younger audience, Chris really hits the mark about feelings, particularly sad or anxious ones, and that both can be a normal part of life. 

‘Happiness is difficult for me at the moment,” she confessed. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to be happy. There is so much to be grateful for, but for some reason, I can’t stop having negative thoughts about everything.’

At its heart this book is all about informing young readers that it is okay to feel down or depressed. It tackles these seemingly adult issues in a very relatable way for a younger audience. Just enough information for their ‘aha’ moment to occur. Chris’s creativity and ability to do that is impressive. To create this magical world yet make it relatable to the everyday with the inclusion of many relatable themes and morals. He hits the right balance between sharing the dark and scary moments with light and laughter. 

‘Changing hearts and minds is never easy, especially our own,' Madame Weatherberry said. “Sometimes, changing how we think and feel are the most difficult transformations a person can make. It takes time and effort like nothing else. You have to discipline your thoughts before they dictate your mood. You have to control your reactions before your reactions control you.’

The plot itself had so much action and adventure, it was non stop from the start. That is great for engaging young readers. It is fun, fast paced with a great selection of relatable characters and fabulous world building. I also have to comment on the cover - simply stunning! There is even a section at the end with omitted chapter header illustrations and explanations. Here Chris explains and recalls how some were too ‘dark’ to be included for middle graders. His explanation of excluded scenes provided a fascinating insight into both his reasoning and thought process. I loved it. 

‘Everything seems unfair when you measure it with the wrong tools,” Mistress Mara said. “Life isn’t supposed to be measured by time, by luck, or by privilege. Life is supposed to be measured by purpose. Everyone is born with a purpose whether they choose to believe it or not. Some are meant to learn lessons, some are meant to teach them, while others are simply meant to observe. Naturally, a lot of people resent life when their purpose isn’t easy or when it doesn’t match their hopes and dreams but no one leaves the world without completing exactly what they were meant to do. That’s the rule of life.’

The finesse of this author to cleverly portray themes such as equality, acceptance and kindness in a magical yet relatable story is a sure fire winner. Although written for middle graders, ‘children’ of all ages will both enjoy and appreciate this story. There are lessons to be learnt and it is not just for the young. A refreshing book and highly recommended for a younger audience. 

‘Lucy, do you vow to always live authentically, do you promise to never compromise your potential, and do you swear to never suppress your true feelings, no matter what approval, popularity, or affection you may receive in return?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Review: The Family Inheritance

Title: The Family Inheritance
Author: Tricia Stringer

Publisher: 15th October 2020 by Harlequin Australia, HQ Fiction & MIRA

Pages: 480 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary

My Rating: 4 cups


A toxic will plays havoc in the lives of three generations of women when they discover they have been living a lie. A keenly observed story of the danger of secrets, the legacy of betrayal and the power of family from a bestselling Australian author.

Sometimes an ending is really a beginning ...

Felicity Lewis's fiftieth birthday party in her newly renovated home, loving husband and daughter Greta by her side, is going off with a bang when disaster strikes. Her father, Franklyn, with his usual impeccable timing, has keeled over and died.

For some members of the family, his wife Hazel for example, Franklyn's death is not the great loss it first appears to be. But when his toxic and inexplicable will is read out, it becomes clear that long-buried secrets are about to surface, starting with the astonishing reappearance of Hazel's long-lost sister.

Indeed, Franklyn's death sets in motion a chain of events that will cause three generations of Gifford family women to question everything they hold dear - their relationships, their loyalties, even their identities. Until, that is, they choose to fight back against their dark inheritance ...

A clever, sympathetic and thought-provoking look at how a legacy of lies can seep through the generations and poison all it touches, and how the truth can set you free.

My Thoughts

The Family Inheritance is the latest offering from Aussie favourite Tricia Stringer. Tricia's talent extends across a range of genres from historical through to contemporary and her readers are always guaranteed some wonderful escapism. On this occasion Tricia gives us a multi generational, heartbreaking family drama - from Hazel in her 70s, her daughter Felicity celebrating her 50th, to Greta the 20 something granddaughter. So, already you can see, there is sure to be something for everybody to relate to.

‘There was comfort in them all being together.’

Tricia consistently delivers drama that is always engaging and leaves the reader wondering what they would do in such circumstances. The women, of this particular family, find their world turned upside down after the grandfather, Franklyn, passes away and leaves a most contentious will. This certainly opens a can of proverbial worms that brings into play the varied personality traits of both the women and men of this family. Can they rise above and see this as an opportunity to reevaluate their lives or will it destroy their family? Secrets and lies abound aplenty. 

“Your anger that day was greater than your fear and it propelled you forward. Make your love greater than your hate.”

One thing to appreciate is the light Tricia shines on issues such as inheritance and wills, cystic fibrosis and anxiety issues. Both through certain characters' stories and in her endnotes, Tricia draws attention to what it might feel like and where people could find help for these range of topical issues. 

This book is cleverly crafted around the passing of the controlling patriarch and the fallout when, from the grave, he attempts to cause division and devastation. With a family laden in secrets, readers are sure to be engaged to discover life changing results. 

‘Four women across three generations, two of them sisters, but all connected by the tangle of often tenuous threads that made up their family and a past that .. threatened ... to destroy them.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Review: Nala's World

Title: Nala's World
Author: Dean Nicholson

Publisher: 1st October 2020 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 258 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: nonfiction, travel, autobiography, animals

My Rating: 5 cups


Instagram phenomenon @1bike1world Dean Nicholson reveals the full story of his life-changing friendship with rescue cat Nala and their inspiring adventures together on a bike journey around the world.

When 30-year-old Dean Nicholson set off from Scotland to cycle around the world, his aim was to learn as much as he could about our troubled planet. But he hadn't bargained on the lessons he'd learn from his unlikely companion.

Three months after leaving home, on a remote road in the mountains between Montenegro and Bosnia, he came across an abandoned kitten. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health.

Soon on his travels with the cat he named Nala, they forged an unbreakable bond - both curious, independent, resilient and adventurous. The video of how they met has had 20 million views and their Instagram has grown to almost 750k followers - and still counting!

Experiencing the kindness of strangers, visiting refugee camps, rescuing animals through Europe and Asia, Dean and Nala have already learned that the unexpected can be pretty amazing. Together with Garry Jenkins, writer with James Bowen of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob, Dean shares the extraordinary tale of his and Nala's inspiring and heart-warming adventure together.

My Thoughts

I had always been good at fixing and building stuff, but I hadn’t built much of a life for myself ... I felt that by hitting the road and spending time in another part of the world, I might somehow find myself. Or, at least, find a way of being myself. Someone said to me once that I hit the road to find a road. That seemed about right.’

I have been an avid follower of Dean and Nala since they were featured by The Dodo video. Every morning I need my ‘Dean and Nala’ fix to get me through the day. Being both a lover of travel and cats, there was just so much to enjoy about his Instagram account. Could there really be any more to share than what we had seen across social media? There certainly was and this highly anticipated book lived up to expectations. 

I was super excited to read this book. It provided so much more detail and insight into the journey of Dean and Nala since they first met. Through reading this, Dean has grown in my esteem tremendously so with the integrity and honesty he has displayed throughout this epic adventure. The way he truthfully details his own personal growth and the love he has for Nala - and indeed the entire animal kingdom - is inspiring. 

‘Nala had splayed herself out next to me, as content as could be, soaking up the last rays of the sun and without a care in the world. I looked at her and shook my head. In some ways, I envied her. She had no work responsibilities. No bills to pay, no possessions, no pressures. Lucky her. I’ve always felt that the more people have, the more they have to worry about. Life should be about the simple pleasures. Moments like this. Sunsets, sunrises over     deserted beaches. A couple of beers with friends. It doesn’t have to be complicated.’

To think about how much this man’s life has changed through the meeting of this sweet kitty is mind blowing. To then have Dean take this uncalled for fame and turn into promoting and supporting needy charities is highly commendable. His passion for the environment and animal rescue is inspiring and he has used all that has fallen into his lap for the promotion of positive change. Who does not want to read about that? 

Nala’s World is an exceptional memoir by Dean  - a travelogue, a cat story, a pedestal for the promotion of the environment and animal welfare - all tied together with a personal growth story of this lively Scottish soul. Dean and Nala, and indeed the range of people who cross their paths, take large leaps in restoring one’s faith in humanity. I am so excited to continue to witness their journey through social media and hope that there might be future instalments to read once COVID allows it to be so. 

‘At another time, in different circumstances, I might have felt disappointed or frustrated to be doubling back on myself. But I didn't feel that way at all. For a start, if the past few months had proven anything it was that my journey around the world wasn’t going to look like anyone else’s. It wasn’t going to run in a straight line or conform to some well-trodden path. I was travelling in Nala's worlds after all. And as long as I had her beside me, that was fine. We’d look after each other.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Review: War Lord

Title: War Lord (The Last Kingdom #13)
Author: Bernard Cornwell

Publisher: 15th October 2020 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 352 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


England is under attack. Chaos reigns. Northumbria, the last kingdom, is threatened by armies from all sides, by land and sea – and only one man stands in their way. Torn between loyalty and sworn oaths, the warrior king Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg faces his greatest ever battle – and prepares for his ultimate fate…

My Thoughts

Bernard Cornwell's legendary creation, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, returns for the 13th and final novel in The Last Kingdom series. What a ride it has been. This is such an excellent series, so much so, it was adapted by the BBC for television and is about to start filming its fifth season. I am such a fan. 

‘It's coming, and what I should do is raise the ramparts of Bebbanburg and shut out the whole damned world.'  He grunted at that. 'And you think the world will leave us alone?'  'No.'   

Cornwell is a master storyteller and sadly states, this is the final instalment in the legendary Uhtred’s journey. However, I can happily say it was a most fitting finale to what has been an epic tale. From the very beginning it has revolved around Uhtred’s great love for his home of Bebbanburg and in this final instalment with Aethelstan fighting to unite all the kingdoms into Englaland and the Scots invading from the North, Bebbanburg and Uhtread find themselves right in the middle.

‘I drew Serpent-Breath. I was angry, not with Kolfinn, nor even with Guthfrith, but with myself for not recognising what was so damned obvious. There was Englaland, almost formed, there was Alba, with its ambition to rule still more territory, and between them was Northumbria, neither pagan nor Christian, neither Scottish nor ├ćnglisc, and soon it must be one or the other. Which meant I had to fight whether I wanted to or not.’

Outside of the Tudors I did not know that much about English history. I have enjoyed every step along the way as initially Alfred began with a vision of a united England. Uhtred is, of course, fictional however so much of the rest of the story contains fabulous historical research. Cornwell’s notes at the end of every story are a revelation in themselves as his merging of fact and fiction is seamless. 

Cornwell is a fabulous writer, he has a legion of followers and to write 13 books in one series of this calibre is astounding. Fans will be happy with the characters - some old friends and some new faces. There is the usual action (how I will miss my shield wall!) and the total immersion in Uhtred’s world. Gosh! It has been a wonderful journey. I cannot recommend enough for you to spend some time with this pagan war lord, he may be getting old and finding it harder to fight but he is ‘Uhtred, son of Uhtred’ and will forever be a force to reckon with on any battlefield. 

‘He's risen above me. He's King of Britain and I'm old and irrelevant. He wants a new Britain dominated by Englaland and I'm a small pagan stone in his royal Christian shoe.' 'So what will you do?'  

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Review: Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to Happiness

Title: Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to Happiness
Author: Bill Bailey

Publisher: 13th October 2020 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 213 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary, nonfiction

My Rating: 4 cups


What makes us happy? Is there a knack to it? Is it the joy of playing a round of crazy golf, or of just being in a forest?

In this beautiful and uplifting book, Bill Bailey explores all this and more while delving into the nature of happiness, all in his own, remarkable, way.

From paddle-boarding down the Thames in a Santa hat, to wild swimming in a glacial river and cooking sausages on a campfire, Bill revels in the exhilaration of the outdoors, as well as the quieter pleasures of letter-writing, or of simple reflection.

Packed with wisdom and humour, and with delightful illustrations by the comedian himself, Bill Bailey aims for the heart of pure joy and contentment - and how we can all achieve it.

My Thoughts

‘We ve all been forced to spend more time with ourselves, in the company of our own thoughts. And I’m thinking that maybe a little more self-awareness and personal reflection is something that we could retain when we come through this. It won’t necessarily lead to InstaMag happiness, but it’s good training for long term contentment.’

Our pandemic world 2020 has seen many places around the world in isolation/lockdown and a complete rethinking of what makes us happy. I was therefore totally onboard with funny man Bill Bailey offering his take on what this might look like in these COVID days. Here you will find a most relatable compilation of obviously funny, yet personal and somewhat reflective thoughts on what makes us happy. 

‘As I write this on a late May evening, trees are featuring heavily in my lockdown sensory enjoyment. In so-called normal times, there would be many more layers to my neighbourhood soundtrack, a deal more cars’ engines roaring, television chatter, dogs barking, and the evening burble of conversation and laughter from outside the pub on the corner. Tonight, I’ve heard nothing except the sound of the wind in the trees.’

Firstly I have to comment on the book itself. A sensational little hard back that just looks (front cover mugshot and all) inviting. All the sketches (very cute) included are by Bill himself and add that relatable touch to it. Touch ... the paper (so earthy and tactile) and the layout make it so readable ... just what we are after to regain that sense of normality.

The book itself is divided into short chapters or essays covering topics from nature and simplicity, to golf and paddle boarding. His manner is easy going, not preachy at all but rather telling a story that then ties in beautifully with his theme of happiness. Whether it be the relationship with your pet or cycling through a forest, Bill gives a most achievable guide to happiness in this crazy COVID world. 

‘In my dealings with happiness, I find it helps to be easily pleased, I am a simple soul for whom simple pleasures bring ample rewards. Removing the peel from a satsuma in one piece, making the perfect cup of tea and finding one last oatcake in the packet will elicit from me a clenched fist pump of victory.’

The key here is in its simplicity, that in the face of this massive worldwide wellness industry, Bill offers respite and moments of contentment that, in truth, result in happiness from the everyday. I recommend a moment of respite as you delve into Bill Bailey’s remarkable guide to happiness.

‘In this book, I am not telling you how to live your life. I just want to share with you a few accounts of fortuitous moments and remarkable times when I experienced something which felt to me like happiness. They might strike a chord; they might just make you smile.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.