Book Reviews Alice to Prague and The Mother-in-Law

Alice to Prague

Tanya Heaslip

A Parra Reads Book Club title for May 2020. ‘Alice to Prague’ was one of two titles picked for our newly established online book club and it was an enjoyable read!  

In it, Tanya shares her personal experiences as she leaves behind her life as a lawyer in Alice Springs to teach English in the Czech Republic. With no prior teaching experience or grasp of the language, Tanya certainly shows us she is a person of considerable determination with an unstoppable strength of spirit.

Alice to Prague is a well-rounded read with a good balance of ‘something for everyone’ through the story. History and travel, a life adventure and even love.

Well worth a read!

Keep an eye out for Tanya’s new book ‘An Alice Girl’

Jody

The Mother-in-Law

Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth’s ‘The Mother-in-Law’ is one of those reads that grabs you from the first page, and doesn’t let go. Told from two points of view, daughter-in-law Lucy, and mother-in-law Diana, and spanning alternate timelines, it is fast-paced and engaging.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana is extremely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying her son Oliver, that they’ll never have the closeness she’d been hoping for. Diana is picture perfect. The pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. And yet, while Lucy tries time and again to please her, Diana remains cold and distant.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…

Creating a character that you both love and hate is never an easy feat, but Sally Hepworth manages to do just that. I found myself conflicted, changing my opinion of Diana constantly between chapters, which is refreshing. In fact, I liked the nuanced character of Diana more than I did Lucy. As Sally Hepworth peeled back the details of the experiences that shaped her personality I wanted more. She seemed very reflective of the time in which she was born, and recognisable.

While people expecting to read a thriller might find themselves disappointed, I found the book to be an ideal mix of thriller and domestic drama.

A must read!

Jody

Book Review – The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

The City Bake’rs Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Summary

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.

Comments

The City Bakers Guide to Country Living is a window into the life of a small town in North East USA, Livvy, an accomplished pastry chef escapes to Guthrie; Vermont and her high school friend Hannah, after causing a fire during a high profile event at her Boston workplace.

This story of friendship, love, compassion, rivalry and acceptance draws you in with Louise Miller’s great descriptive writing. I laughed out loud in parts. She brought alive the landscape and traditions of the area.

As an ex-caterer I was right there in the kitchen; it was so real. A compelling easy read!

Tina, Dundas Readers 8/10

June Wrap Up: Book Clubs & Reading Groups

City of Parramatta Libraries, Book Clubs and Reading Groups seem to grow each month; in June we welcomed another Book Club into our Club’s.

Before June comes to end I find myself already preparing July’s Book Club and Reading Groups Kits; with twenty seven kits already to for July!

The popular title and author this month was Jane Harper, with two groups reading The Lost Man and other reading Force of Nature. In fact Jane seems to re-appear each month on the list of book club reads. I can understand why too. I loved both The Dry and The Lost Man.

If you are also a Jane Harper fan then you might like to check out her website for more information and updates on the up-coming film version of The Dry; starring the talented Eric Banner as Aaron Falk!

As always you can read our Book Club and Reading Groups reviews on Parra Reads. Just search the Categories Book Club Kits and Book Reviews.

Happy Reading!

Jody

Book Review: The Wife Drought

The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb

Book Summary

‘I need a wife’

It’s a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women. 

Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.

But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits? 

The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.

Crabb’s call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that’s long overdue. 

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Book Review: Working Class Boy

Working Class Boy

Working Class Boy

Jimmy Barnes

Book Summary

The time I have spent writing this book has caused me a lot of pain. Sometimes because of what I have remembered about my childhood and sometimes because of what I couldn’t remember. It is funny how your mind blocks things out when those things can hurt you. There are a lot of things I wish I didn’t remember…

A household name, an Australian rock icon, the elder statesman of Ozrock – there isn’t an accolade or cliche that doesn’t apply to Jimmy Barnes. But long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, long before the tall tales of success and excess, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan – a working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock’n’roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have.

Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny – Jimmy Barnes’s childhood memoir is at once the story of migrant dreams fulfilled and dashed. Arriving in Australia in the Summer of 1962, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family – Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the 60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol, and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair. This is the story a family’s collapse, but also a young boy’s dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock’n’roll band and get out of town for good.

Comments

This Book gives the reader a warts and all insight into the lives of the poor and underprivileged in our country and the resilience of those like Jimmy Barnes who overcome their circumstances. This could be a depressing read but Jimmy’s sense of humour shines through.

After several attempts to document his early life as a ten pound Pom who arrived in Elizabeth in South Australia as a pre-schooler, until he left home at seventeen, he finally managed to tell his amazing story.

This is more than an autobiography; for Jimmy it was a therapeutic journey through very hard times. He has included several pages of contact details for help and support organisations to encourage those who may need help.

Shocking but realistic true portrait of growing up in Glasgow, amazing survival & black humour!

Read By

Dundas Readers – 6/10