Something different: Empowering Birth Stories

Today’s review of Katrina Zaslavsky’s A Modern Woman’s Guide to A Natural Empowering Birth is something quite different from our usual book reviews. As such, there’s a couple of bits of information I need to put on the table before I start.

Firstly, when I had my boys, medical intervention was the order of the day. I was relieved that assistance was available, and my second birth experience, an elective caesarean was what I wanted. But, I must admit that had I been given different information in preparation for having my first son, things might have gone differently, more naturally and certainly more calmly. I thought I had done my research, but when it came to B-Day I found I was completely unprepared.

Secondly, I want to make it perfectly clear that I one-hundred-percent believe that there are as many birth experiences as there are births, and no labour is more ‘right’ than any other. The key component in all things is CHOICE, and information and advice is the first and most important step in ensuring real and free choice for all women.

Essentially, that’s why I’m happy to review this book, even though I don’t necessarily agree with it’s entire approach, and that the experiences contained within it are quite different from my own. I believe that those out there aiming for a natural, low-intervention birth experience will benefit from the positive experiences recounted in A Modern Woman’s Guide to A Natural Empowering Birth…

“I remember being pregnant, searching library shelves; hungry to devour everything I could on the subject to prepare me for a natural birth.

Only I found most books were downright clinical, boring and uninspiring. I was left dissatisfied and disappointed.

I felt like every negative account and symptom just added to the fear and mind pollution. I craved stories that would blow me away. I wanted to revel in the magic, the miracle and beauty of birth. Surely that wasn’t too much to ask?

Find real accounts from everyday mothers who had inspiring birth experiences was indeed a challenge. Rather than be defeated, I took to the streets and compiled the book that I had been looking to find on those library shelves.”

The main thing that stands out to me about Katrina’s book is its focus on empowering woman and encouraging them to insist on recognition that THEY are delivering their baby and that they should be free to seek out, take and act on any advice they see fit.

If they are able to do this, quite incredible things can happen:

“Two years later I was in labour again. This time I was having my baby in the squat position, supported by the doc and nurse. I was squatting on the bed with my arms wrapped around their necks, with my face just millimetres from the nurse when she said, ‘I know you, I was the one there when (pointing to my now toddler) was born. You are a legend. To this day people still talk about you: the lady who had her baby and was in and out of hospital in an hour.'”

The second characteristic of this guide that caught my eye was the importance of getting yourself physically and mentally prepared. This is something that I most definitely didn’t do prior to my first labour and I’ve often thought, if I had, my experience might have been substantially different.

The book itself is full of inspiring stories of positive and rewarding birth experiences. These types of stories can at times be quite difficult to come across when you’re pregnant and so it’s a fantastic way to get access to the ‘good news stories’ of labour. Subsequently, it may help an expectant mother to enter birth in a more positive frame of mind than she might otherwise do.

Katrina is clearly incredibly passionate about child birth, and more particularly about the empowerment of woman during the experience. To support her work in this book, she frequently runs information and education sessions and you can find out more at her website here or her Facebook Page.

This approach won’t be for everyone, but, if you’re looking to explore a range of options for your experience of child birth, I’d suggest you take a look at A Modern Woman’s Guide to A Natural Empowering Birth.

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Christmas countdown can start now…

For a few years now I’ve struggled with the whole advent calendar thing. I can’t stand the ones that you find in the stores, but at the same time I just couldn’t seem to get organised enough to do something hand-made and really special (like this, for example).

This year though, I’ve managed to put a little something together. It’s not overly complicated in the making, and I think the fun will be in the execution. It combines four of my favourite things; twine, books, treasure hunts and chocolates.

First I got hold of some Christmas gift tags…

…then I wrote some numbers on them, ready for the countdown. I love Pigment Ink pens on black card!

On the reverse side I wrote some bookish clues, ready for a chocolate hunt, one each day leading up to Christmas…

I twisted up about half-a-dozed strands of twine to make a clothes-line, and then pegged each tag to it with a mini-peg. I had a couple of 3M hooks and some blue-tac lying around so I used that to string the advent calendar up on the wall.

Finally, I’ll buy some yummy chocolates and one final special gift for the night before Christmas, ready for the kids to go searching. They’ll have to work out Mummy’s favourite reading spot, Evan’s favourite books and where they’d find Dad’s stinky socks, all in order to find each day’s Christmas treat!

I hope it’ll be lots of fun for everyone!

What do you do for the Christmas Countdown?

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What’s up with December TBYL Book Club?

Can you believe that it’s almost the silly season?!

This is the TBYL Book Club’s first Christmas, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do… our discussions normally happen at the end of the month, and I don’t know about you but I plan to have eaten too much, drunk too much and slept in too much to be completely committed to discussing one specific book. As such, I thought I’d better come up with a plan…

And so, for the TBYL Book Club in December we’re going to be doing something a little different to our normal read and chat! Because December is so busy, and our book club week is smack-bang in the middle of the holidays, I’d like to invite you to participate in a series of discussions focusing on the books in our past… books we’d like to re-read, books we’d recommend, books we wished we’d never picked up etc. I think it should be a lot of fun!

Please feel free to join the group, the ‘wall’ is where we’ll conduct our daily conversations. New questions will be posted 31 December 2012, 1 and 2 January 2013 (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) – the last week of December. Hopefully it’ll be a good opportunity to get to know each other a little better!

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Mark Evan’s Dirty Deeds…

This month, I was asked by Mum’s Lounge to review the new rock and roll reminisce by Mark Evan’s, Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside and Outside of AC/DC (Allen and Unwin)…

Mark’s book is a roaring read, full to the brim with the sights, sounds and smells of Melbourne in the 70s. It’s wonderfully authentic, gritty and unromantic. It’s a personal story of growing up rough and as a result, fitting well into the rough-house music scene of Melbourne…

You can read the full review on the Mum’s Lounge website here, and don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy while you’re there!

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First stop on the Penguin-napper Tour…

I was thrilled when Sally Harris invited me to be part of her current blog tour celebrating the launch of her new book Diary of a Penguin-Napper (Frankly Books), and I was honoured to be first cab off the rank, the first stop on the Penguin-napper touring schedule. Here’s what I thought of Sally’s fun book and a few words from the author herself…


The combination of kids and books can create a lot of joy for a bookish parent – there’s nothing quite like watching a kid with their head buried in a book, gasping or giggling, depending on their preferred genre. Nonetheless, it can also present a number of challenges.

There’s the challenge of getting them to read in the first place, and secondly, should you be successful with challenge number one, there’s the further challenge of keeping up an adequate supply of new books for a veracious reader. It’s no mean feat keeping my 12-year-old’s shelves filled with new and exciting books – he reads so fast!

Sally Harris’ Diary of a Penguin-Napper is a fantastic help in meeting both these challenges…

When 11 (and a half) year old Marty is partnered up with Jessica on the overnight science trip, he thinks all of this dreams are about to come true.  It’s his big chance to impress the most beautiful girl in Year 7 (and probably the world) and he wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Only problem is: Marty can’t afford to go on the overnight trip. Yet.

Inspired by the urban myth that it is possible to steal a penguin from the zoo on a school visit, Diary of a Penguin-napper is a hilarious tale of growing up, bending the rules and how one big fuss can be caused by stealing just one little penguin.

It’s light, funny, illustrated and cheeky enough to engage any kid from start to finish. It’s light-heartenedness and mischievous characters and storyline makes it a great pick for a reluctant reader, as does the diary-style interludes which break up the text nicely, making it less daunting for newer readers. Our hero, Marty is in high school, in love and in trouble. He’d try just about anything to be able to afford to pay for the overnight excursion coming up at school, especially as it’ll give him a chance for some quality time with his major crush, girlfriend-to-be (he hopes!) Jessica…

“… To be honest, I’m feeling a bit dubious about the whole thing. Rather than make me look older, I think the outfit makes me look like a kid wearing a slightly-too-large horrible seventies suit. I wish I had some facial hair to make me look more grown up. I have even tried to cover up some of my larger pimples with some of Jen’s make-up and now my face looks about as orange as my shirt.”

One think leads to another and hilarity ensues, complete with a delightful combination of police (and parental) interrogation, tinned tuna and penguin poo.

Diary of a Penguin-Napper would suit well a wide range of readers, both boys and girls and children between about 8 and 11-years-old. It’s similar in style to favourites such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and books by Andy Griffith and you’ll have no trouble keeping the kids engaged in this fast-paced and fun-filled story. What a great way to help get kids reading!

I was very fortunate to have a chance to have a chat with the author Sally Harris…

You’ve been writing since you were a little kid – what first drew you to story-telling?
I think the thing that first attracted me to story-telling was that you could make things up and you wouldn’t get in trouble for it.  In fact, creativity was encouraged!  Mum always gave my sister and I lots of opportunities for imaginative play as children and I think this carried over into my writing and into many other facets of life.  Now, as an adult, I find that when faced with a problem, sometimes I come up with the most elaborate and creative solution, when really there is actually a much more straightforward option available!

Also, I think that it helps that I’ve I never really stopped writing, since I first learned how.  Some people finished high school and were so pleased that they would never have to pick up a pen to be creative again.  I kept journaling and, more recently, blogging, as well as creative writing, and I think that has meant that I’ve never lost the skill or the imagination for it.

What are your favourite authors – kids and adults novels?
Have you got all day?  One of the difficulties I have as a writer is that I tend to write in the style of whatever book I am reading at the time.  I’m like a chameleon! So, I’ve worked out that when I’m working on a new story, it works best if I’m reading books by authors like Roald Dahl, David Walliams and Andy Griffiths.  I also enjoy Cathy Cassidy, Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton (although the list could go on forever!)  When I take time out to read adult novels, I love reading Maeve Binchy and Lisa Jewell, who are really wonderful storytellers and craft such real characters, and I try to get through a couple of classics a year too.  There are just so many great books out there and just not nearly enough time!

What do you hope kids will like most about ‘Diary of a Penguin-Napper’?
I really hope that the story will make kids laugh.  As a teacher and in my current role as a library teacher, I know that kids (and adults) love humorous stories and they love to be entertained.  When I wrote ‘Diary of a Penguin-napper’, I really had reluctant readers in mind.  Those kids who are just not into reading, but who might get interested in books if they knew just how funny they could be.  I really wanted my book to be a title that teachers could give those children and say “Try this.  If you don’t enjoy it I’ll be surprised!”

If you had the chance, would you abscond with a penguin?
Well, if my extensive research for this book has taught me anything, it is that Little Penguins look pretty cute, small and adorable, but that they have sharp beaks.  The keepers that work with them need to be careful or wear gloves, otherwise they can get pretty good nicks on their hands because of that.  I think if I was going to steal an animal from the zoo, I’d go with something bigger and more impressive if you pulled it off.  Like an elephant or giraffe, perhaps?

What’s next on the cards? Will we hear more from Marty?
There is a second story about Marty currently on the cards and, of course, the characters of Fat, Skinny and Turds will also make an appearance.  I’m also working on some short stories and other bits and pieces, so at this stage, I don’t know which project will be finished first!  The school holidays are coming up, so I find that to be a good chance to knuckle down and get writing.


Diary of a Penguin-napper is currently available as a paperback from the TBYL Store.  You can also find it on Amazon as a paperback and for Kindle.  It is also flying off the shelves (or should that be waddling?) in a range of e-book formats from Smashwords.


Win a copy!

We hear at TBYL are pleased to be able to offer a copy of Diary of a Penguin-napper to one lucky reader!

All you need to do is email with the subject line PENGUIN-NAPPER and tell us which animal you would steal from the zoo if you could. Don’t forget to include your postal address in your email.

I’ll draw a winner at random on Monday 26 November 2012. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Finally, as part of her blog tour, Sally will be chatting with Alison Wells over at Head Above Water tomorrow.  You can find out more about Sally and her book at or by following her on Twitter @frankybooks.

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Friday Bits and Bobs

We’re starting another Friday and finishing off another week, edging one week closer to Christmas. For my own benefit as much as anyone else’s I thought I’d make today’s blog article a headline post full of bits and bobs. Here’s a few shots of information to get you into the weekend…

Find That Book You Like… Online
Did you know that you can find TBYL all over the internet? I spend a ridiculous amount of time online, and I find that each online space is a wonderful place to connect with people in different ways. Maybe you’d like to join me?

You’ll find TBYL on Twitter here…

You’ll find TBYL on Pinterest here…

If you’re looking for a place to chat about books, without leaving the house you’ll find our online TBYL Book Club here…

Of course, you should also bookmark our website as a hub for all these different TBYL goodies, including the online TBYL Store.

Blog Tours

That Book You Like… has a busy couple of weeks with no less than three blog tours on the calendar. On Monday, I’ll be chatting to Sally Harris about her new book Diary of a Penguin-Napper and then later in the week I’ll be catching up with the lovely Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing who’ll be telling us a bit more about their exciting new endeavour. After this conversation, I’ll be taking a look at some of Escape Publishing’s newest authors and I might even get to have a chat to some of them. Exciting things happening at Escape, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

New in the TBYL Store

Have you taken a look at our newest editions to the store? My favourites… handmade Book Covers and Lego Earrings. Both are limited edition pieces, handmade with love and beautiful! Shop Now!

New Friends

Hopefully you’ve already checked out Little Birdy Tix after my feature in this month’s TBYL News: All Things Bookish… but if you haven’t make sure you pop on over and visit their website. They’re an amazing membership-based group that will help you to connect with promoters and artists so that you can check out new and exciting performances around Melbourne and Sydney. Best of all, once you’re a paid up member, event tickets are FREE! I’ve got a membership up for grabs as our newsletter give-away this month, so don’t forget to read the newsletter here and get your entry in!

A New Blog

For those of you who are interested in health and fitness, and would be keen to follow along with my current ‘health project’

I’ve started a new blog called Getting Back To Go. I started the blog mainly for my own benefit as a kind of logbook, and as such it’s a lot more personal than TBYL but if you’d like to watch along as I work at getting my fitness back and increase my ‘wellness’ after finishing breast cancer treatments, you’re welcome to have a read.

You’ll find the blog here…

The Reading Pile

Lastly, if you’re looking for any reading ideas for over the summer holidays, there is an absolute stack of great titles on the TBYL Reading Pile at the moment. Can I suggest a browse?

Happy Friday, and enjoy the weekend!

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Nature on Paper: Capturing Flora

Last month, I was invited to view the latest special exhibition; Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Of course, after the gallery’s impressive exhibition last year, the boys and I decided to take a little day-trip to have a look at this latest collection.

It was a beautiful exhibition in an equally beautiful gallery…

The exhibition Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will take visitors through a historical journey of how Australia’s amazing and diverse flora have been recorded, interpreted and popularized by botanical artists from William Dampier and the early explorers to the present day.

The very first thing that came to mind as I wandered around the huge collection of botanical art currently being housed at the gallery, is that this form of art demonstrates the most incredible melding of art and science. I can’t think of another example of art being used so expertly as part of a scientific craft. The work is meticulous, finely crafted and emotive all at once.

Over decades and generations, the practice of botanical art has changed in practice and product, and this exhibition does what no other has done before. It explores the evolution of Australian botanical art over the centuries as well as highlighting the differences in emphasis and technique between botanical artists.

It demonstrates a kind of illustrative dissection, showing with amazing detail the miracles of nature… in the seed, the petal, the leaves of some of Australia’s most iconic plants; Banksias, Wattles, Kangaroo Paws and Gums.

Through it’s historical content the exhibition communicates well the attitudes of these dedicated artists toward their craft and towards the flowers and plants which they paint…

I have never been guilty of curving a stem on my paper… or of magnifying a flower for gay effect – Louisa Anne Meredith, b. 1812

I thoroughly enjoyed Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art and I think gardeners would love it even more than I did. It is both a history lesson, a botany lesson and a fantastic experience of a highly specialised and beautifully crafted art form.

Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art will run until Sunday, 2 December 2012 at Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat. Admission is just $12, Concession $8, and Child and Gallery Members get in free.

For more information, visit the gallery’s website here.

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Green Thumb: The Unfinished Garden

I’m hoping that after reading Barbara Claypole White’s novel The Unfinished Garden (Harlequin), TBYL reviewer Tam J might be in the mood to come over and do some gardening for me…


For Tilly Silverberg, her garden is her refuge, her safe way of dealing with grief and guilt. For James Nealy, the idea of creating a new garden is his way of conquering his darkest fears and the noises in his mind that accompany his terror.

James is a sufferer of OCD and his life is ruled by his fears and his compulsions. This is why we find him having retired in his forties and having decided to create something beautiful: a garden. He can’t do it alone, and to help build his dream, he hopes to hire Tilly, a grieving widow. Tilly loves gardening and is a obvious choice of assistant, but after their very first meeting, she quickly becomes more than just a gardener.

During the garden-build, Tilly is forced to return to her homeland of England to attend to a family emergency. Whilst there, she is reunited with her first love who is now temptingly available. But is Tilly?

This book is full of romantic tension, loads of twists and intense characters as well as beautiful description that will conjure images of colourful gardens and old historic English estates.  Threads of plot will have you enthralled; Tilly’s long lost love, Sebastian, is back in her life; Rowena, Tilly’s lifelong best friend, is hiding a secret; and Tilly’s mother is plotting!

Despite his personal struggles, James’ attempts to walk away from Tilly are unsuccessful, it just isn’t an option and he follows her to childhood village. James discovers that alongside his journey to conquer his fear of dirt and all things gardens, Tilly is fast becoming his greatest obsession.

It’s a beautiful book, and if you are a gardener I think you may be able to appreciate the beauty in this novel a little more than I did. There are a lot of descriptions of the gardens, and being a novice in the world of plants, I’m afraid the images (and names) were a little lost on me at times.

This story is very full of conversation, and I’ll admit that this meant it took me a little while to get into this book as I personally like a little more movement in a novel. Despite this, a few chapters in, the characters really started to pulled me in, and I truly became invested in their journey. It is not a predictable story, the flaws in these characters are fascinating and real, and there are many secrets to discover along the way.


You can find out more about this novel here…

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Picturesque Sydney 360

Before my breast cancer ‘interruption’ I used to travel quite a bit for work. In particular, my job required pretty frequent visits to Sydney.

Of late, I’ve tended to stay a little closer to base, not entirely a bad thing given the amount of things going on at home all the time, but I will admit that I do rather miss the picturesque Sydney sights, and look forward to getting back there in the future.

In the meantime, I’ll be satisfied with Sydney 360, a collection of panoramic photographs by the very talented Con Hionis…

“Come on a whirl-wind tour of a magnificent city, using an extraordinary photographic technique. This stunning collection of cylindrical panoramas cleverly spins the view 360-degrees, showing what’s in front, to the sides and behind all at once. Rarely has Sydney been captured so authentically, and so originally.”

Gorgeously presented (my copy came in a stylish black folder, perfect for gift-giving) this collection of photos of Sydney’s most famous sights is unique and spectacular. The technique used by Hionis really sets this book apart, and took over 12 years to perfect. Each photograph comprises up to 24 images, stitched together to form one panorama.

Spiral Fountain, Con Hionis

Spiral Fountain, Con Hionis

The images are striking and artistic. Con has included urban scenes, works of art and beach-side settings. If I had to choose, my favourite shots it would be of Darling Harbour and Customs House. The beaches look incredibly enticing and the true spirit of the city is captured nicely in his street shots.

Coogi Lifeguard, Con Hionis

Coogi Lifeguard, Con Hionis

This book will have me visiting Sydney with a new eye, I can’t wait to explore some of the new places that this book has introduced me too.

You can find out more about Sydney 360 here…

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Time and Place: Overseas

Have you ever heard of chick-lit-sci-fi? No? Me neither…

Nonetheless, I’m going to use the term here, because I think it’s the simplest way to describe Beatriz Williams’ new novel, Overseas (Allen and Unwin). It’s got a heap of romance, twisted sensuously around a perplexing science fiction plot.

When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire – Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor – pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining… at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

Kate is beautiful, Julian is handsome and their lives are exciting and glamourous. Still, New York is the stand-out ‘character’ for me. I love reading about the Big Apple in any context – Central Park, Manhattan, MOMA – and this story has them all.

It also has Amiens, France, mid-World War One and Julian and Kate are in both time and place.

This story draws you along with a promise of answers; how did Julian (aka Captain Julian Ashford) get to this current time? Why do he and Kate feel certain they’ve meet before and who is trying to undo them both?

Williams has included plenty of romance, with no shortage of intimacy – it gets quite steamy in parts. Kate’s independence and Julian’s chivalry creates a tension between them, a tension which works well to drive the story forward as they both try to work out how to survive in the here and now. Although their conversation gets a little repetitive at times, they are essentially very endearing and I can say that I was genuinely worried for these star-crossed lovers.

“He said nothing for a long time, only went on caressing my hair: long regular strokes to the very tips, letting the strands slip away from this finger-tips to rest on my back and shoulders. I let my eyelids sink downwards, savoring the tickle-soft sensation. Eventually I felt his voice stir the air about my head. “I won’t drift away, Kate. I won’t fail you.” He said it fiercely, as if he were trying to convince himself.”

The story culminates in a science fiction adventure, dramatic and revealing. It’s fast-paced and heart-thumbing and draws this story to a nice conclusion.

I enjoyed this book, even though it did take me a little while to warm to it. If you’re after something a little different, a little less formulaic, then this is a book for you.

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