December 2014 archive

Best Reads of 2014

Best Books 2014 Collage

I used to write a book blog. And I loved it. Then after Sweet Pea was born two and a half years ago my ability to read, review and generally absorb books declined sharply! In all that time though my passion for books and reading has never declined and one of my new year’s resolutions (dare I say that word??!!) is to engage more not only with reading, but also documenting and sharing my reading experiences.

So, in a small step in that direction, today I’m talking about my favourite reads from the past year…

My Story – Julia Gillard – If I’m being totally honest (and I am!) I haven’t quite finished this book yet so I might be jumping the gun a little by adding it to this post but I feel that this book, if not exactly the most riveting and engaging at all times, was definitely my most anticipated read of the year. As I wrote about in this post I feel this is a book that needed to be written and needs to be read by the Australian community and I have particularly enjoyed the first section of the book where Ms Gillard writes about her personal and professional experiences of being Prime Minister. This is a book that I want my daughter to read in years to come for the message it sends about not only being a strong and determined woman but about being a strong and determined person.

All The Birds Singing – Evie Wyld  – This is an extremely powerful, and at times harrowing, novel about a woman, Jake, running a sheep farm single handedly in a small and isolated community. The books perspective travels back and forth from the present to the past helping the reader to build up a picture of how Jake has come to be living where, and how, she is. Wyld’s writing is almost poetic so if you enjoy lyrical writing with beautiful descriptions of place and character this is definitely for you.

Us – David Nicholls – I think this book would come in as my number one read for the year. It took a little while to get into but once I did I found everything about it almost perfection. This is another book that travels from the present back to the past to build a story – this time of the relationship between the main character, Douglas and his wife, Connie after Connie has (unexpectedly to Douglas) asked for a divorce. This book flows easily between comedy, drama and sadness and the ending was perfect I thought.

My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff – A memoir about a young woman’s first job in New York in the 1990’s working for the literary agent who represents J.D. Salinger was a funny and insightful look into not only the publishing industry at that time but also the personal journey of the author herself. Don’t worry if you are not a Salinger fan (I’m not much to the shock of some die hard fans!) as you definitely don’t need to be to enjoy this one.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell – I’m a bit late to the Rainbow Rowell fan parade but I am definitely on board now. For those of you who haven’t heard of this writer I am guessing she could be compared to a bit of a Judy Blume for her her generation?? She writes beautiful, sensitive, painful and topical novels for young readers which I think are just as applicable to adults (case in point – I’m almost 40 but I think her books are just as relevant to me now). Eleanor and Park is a gorgeous book that centres on the developing relationship between the two title characters but which also covers bigger issues of race, class, domestic violence and poverty in the American community. Read it now if you haven’t already.

Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey – This book was published a few years ago now so I am late to the party again. The book is set in the 1960’s in a rural Western Australian community and while it is ostensibly about the relationships occurring in the town told from the perspective of the main character, 13 year old Charlie Bucktin, it is another book delving into much bigger issues of prejudices in small communities and how they can impact more broadly. This novel is so beautifully put together and told – you truly feel like you are in this Australian town in the 1960’s and living the experiences with the characters.

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters  – I am a huge Sarah Waters fan – she is one of the few writers of whom I will automatically buy their new book without knowing a thing about it – which is pretty much what I did with this one! Set in post WW1 London the book centres around an upper middle class daughter and her mother who are forced to take borders into their home to make ends meet. Waters has an incredible skill for making you think a story is going in one direction and then suddenly you are going down a completely different path – unsettling at times but it makes for exciting reading!

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham – This book has divided a lot of reviewers, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the best book I have read I did love it for it’s raw honesty and the message it has for young women about valuing yourself.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr – I wrote about this book here as part of our Paris in July event. It is a book that has stayed with me since reading it and I have recommended it to anyone who has asked for a wonderful book to read.

Big LIttle Lies – Liane Moriarty – I must admit I usually try and avoid these best sellers – I can find them a bit lacking in depth and the characters often feel wooden and/or stereotypical – and while there was certainly a little bit of that in this book the roaring plot and fast pace more than makes up for that! This would be the perfect beach/holiday read I think…

How about you? What were your favourite reads from 2014? Please share – I need more to add to my list!




Approaching forty

Keep Calm 40

Another reason I love the Christmas season so much is that my Birthday just happens to coincide with it and this year I have one of those Birthday’s ending in ‘0’ approaching. That’s right, 7 days before Santa arrives I will turn 40! ARGHH!!!!

Except, not ARGHH!!

I am surprisingly, and quite unexpectedly, calm and considered in my approach to turning 40. This will come as quite a shock to all my friends and family who have watched me melt in disbelief at turning another year older on each of my previous Birthday’s. There is an episode of “Friends” – The One Where They All Turn 30 –  where the character Joey in particular has a difficult time in facing the ageing process and Rachel bemoans the fact that she hasn’t done anything she had planned to do by the time she turned 30. I was only 27 when this episode originally aired but 3 years later my best friend used quotes from the episode to create a Birthday photo wall for me to reflect just how horrified I was that I was actually turning 30. I mean 3 – 0 – that’s OLD!!! This was not a feeling that came upon me suddenly, from a young age I have feared getting older – I even distinctly remember feeling “old” when I turned 18!!

So with 40 approaching I fully expected the fear to rain down upon me.

And I’ve been waiting for it.

And waiting.

But it hasn’t shown up! And instead I just feel so grateful for being able to turn another year older. Another year that I have spent with my beautiful partner and Sweet Pea. Another year I have laughed and cried with my dearest friends and family. Another year I have been (basically) happy and healthy. Another year when I haven’t always known what the hell I was doing but I’ve had a good time trying to figure it all out. Another year.

So bring it on 40 – I’m ready and waiting!


1 2