Foundations: Warrior Princess

Today, Carolyn finds out more about what it takes to be a real-life warrior princess…

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Do you like autobiographies? Are you inspired by personal memoirs? If you answered Yes to either of these questions then I think Warrior Princess by Mindy Budgor (Allen and Unwin) should be the next book on top of your reading pile!

warrior princess

Warrior Princess tells Mindy’s story, in particular, her quest to become one of the first female Maasai warriors. One of forty-two Kenyan tribes that have upheld ancient cultural ways to this day, Maasai tribesmen are world renowned warriors, and Mindy makes it her mission to learn more about them.

Mindy is a young Californian entrepreneur looking for a change from the Western corporate world, when she comes across an opportunity to volunteer in Kenya. During her visit she becomes mesmerised by the Maasai tribal leaders and their ways of life. This meeting has her looking at her own life and material needs and during her last night in Kenya she asks the leader about the roles of females in their culture. She is told that women are not strong enough or brave enough to be allowed to become warriors. This answer lights a fire within Mindy, inspiring her to try and make a change to the role of tribal women.

I instantly liked Mindy. She is clever and funny and writes as if she is talking just to you. Mindy needs to have her family’s blessing before she can embark on her journey, and this proves to be her first hurdle. Reading about what she does to get their blessing, and get to Africa was very entertaining. She has a very clever way of manipulating the truth whilst never doing anything to harm anyone.

Mindy returns to Kenya, where she ploughs head-first into her quest to join the group of non-English speaking men. She describes the hard work, her distaste of some of the traditions of the Maasai and whilst reading, you feel it all with her.

Not everything Mindy experiences is hard work, she easily finds a perfect American travelling partner as well as the right guide to take them into the jungle and straight through the rites of passage of a Maasai tribe. I’m not sure if these two achievements were really as easy as they seemed or whether it is just Mindy’s optimistic nature that made it appear that way. Either way it was great to read about things going to plan. She was determined to make the trek and getting there seemed quite smooth compared with the day-to-day activities of becoming one of the first female Maasai warriors.

I guess it depends on the type of person you are, but I was quite happy to experience Mindy’s journey through her writing rather than actually undertaking a similar trek through the African wilderness. I appreciated Mindy’s vivid descriptions of her time in the jungle. She made it clear why she had to embark on this journey and I’m so glad she penned her experience for others to enjoy.

“Topoika eyed me, and I knew he wanted me to jump, but I didn’t want to look like an ass. I would be lucky if I could heave myself up more than three inches off the ground. I continued on as a backup singer while Magilu sang and Maani jumped.

The singing and jumping continued in full force for at least another thirty minutes. My body and soul were owned by the music. Feeling as if the group was coming to life and telling me to jump, I replayed the step-by-step muscular movement and went for it. My knees bent and my legs reacted, allowing me to soar in the air. As my feet hit the ground, the earth and I exchanged energy while billows of dust formed around my boots. I was part of the dance, and the dance was part of me. And while I was only airborne for a moment, for that brief moment my inner warrior was leaping out of me. It gave me faith that I was on the right path”.

Mindy is now a Maasai warrior as well as an official member of the tribe. She has assisted in laying the foundations to having the law changed in Africa allowing women the right to become warriors. This law is due to be changed in 2016. Mindy is inspirational. She is very open about her personal failings and over time demonstrates what she has learnt from the Maasai. These ancient core values make sense of how to conduct oneself in the modern world. Warrior Princess is not the kind of book that I am normally drawn to however, I did enjoy it. It is an easy read and a wonderful account of a young woman finding her calling in life. Reading this may inspire you to take a leap of faith like Mindy did and listen to your inner voice and be rewarded for doing so in the end.

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You can find out more about Warrior Princess by Mindy Budgor here…

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On the Land: Redstone Station

TBYL Reviewer, Tam J can’t seem to get enough of rural literature. Here’s her thoughts on the latest…

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Redstone Station (Allen and Unwin) is the debut novel by Therese Creed. Originally from Sydney, Therese moved to a farm in rural Queensland for love. She now helps run a 17,000 acre cattle station with her husband, an undertaking which has clearly inspired this novel, offering the reader a glimpse of the real-life dealings on the farm and putting them in a compelling story.

redstone stationAlice is happy to be returning home to Redstone Station after two years at Agriculture College. During various placements at farms and stations during her time at college she was shocked at the second-class status of women workers, whereas her grandfather, Sam, who owns Redstone, has always treated her as an equal.

For his part, Sam is delighted to have his granddaughter back on board. In shaping Alice he tried to avoid the mistakes he’d made with her mother, Lara, and she has lived up to his high expectations, graduating from Ag College with flying colours. He now sees Alice as his last chance to preserve his beloved station and successfully take it into the future.

Exceptionally hard-working, with great horsemanship, an instinctive understanding of animals and a natural aptitude for farming, Alice is determined to justify her grandfather’s faith in her. But will her budding regard for one of the stockmen throw her, and the future of Redstone, off track?

When we first meet Alice, she is an 18 year old girl fresh from Ag College. She is full of ideas as to how t improve the profitability of the now struggling cattle station, but she first has to convince her old-school farming Grandfather, Sam.

Sam is getting older and realises that they need some new help on the farm, and as a result they take a chance with the town clown, Jeremy. Jeremy appears to be the best of a bad bunch, however he fits in beautifully and brings new life to this farming family and Redstone Station. He also turns out to be a wonderful companion for Alice. This was perhaps one of my favourite things about this story, watching the beautiful friendship that these two developed quickly.

I did find it a little hard to see Alice as just a young adult. Her character’s voice seemed older, but perhaps this is just due to the fact that Alice had to grow up fast, when she was abandoned by her unwed mother and left with her grandparents Sam and Olive.

I liked Alice, but larrikin Jeremy was my favourite character by far, and I found myself wanting to be able to take care of him.

The author paints a detailed picture of the life and trials of farm life. Fighting fires, drought and other seasonal stresses, the constant job of fixing fences, keeping wild predators at bay, weaning cattle and the ongoing financial battle.  The characters are faced with life changing loss, friendship, racial tension, love and misunderstandings. Despite all these challenges, they are really only looking to be accepted and respected.

I did find this story a little slow in some parts, and felt that the end of the story dragged out a little. I was feeling anxious that there was not going to be a complete conclusion, but in the end Therese’s novel was resolved quite well, even if after a bit of length, it did seem to finish quite quickly.

It was a lovely story and it was refreshing to read a story that was set locally, with a climate and characters that were easy to relate to.

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If you’d like to find out more about Redstone Station by Therese Creed, visit A&U here…

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Tragedy: The Son-in-Law

Today’s post is a true triple-threat! One part review, one part author-interview and a give-away to sweeten the deal. Here’s what Carolyn thought of Charity Norman’s The Son-In-Law (Allen and Unwin)…

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“My mother used to say her wedding day was like a fairytale. It was a blue and gold morning, and a million daffodils rippled beneath the city walls. She and my father were young, beautiful and crazy about each other. 

Son-in-Law‘Don’t let people tell you love isn’t like in the films, Scarlet,’ she said. It was one of those moments when she seemed to be surfing right on top of a foaming, frothing wave of happiness…

She gave a little laugh, humming along to the jazz music she had playing on the stereo… For some reason, that evening is one of my clearest memories of Mum. She smelled of well, of Mum; her special sandalwood scent, and coffee and maybe wine. I’ve got one of her soft cardigans under my bed, and it still smells like her. If I press my face into it and shut my eyes, I can pretend it is her.”

The Son-In-Law is the latest novel by rising-star Charity Norman, and it tells the story of a family torn apart by a tragic episode, changing the course of the lives of three very young children.  The transcript of a 999 call made by a ten year old girl opens the book – the account is very real and immediately had the hairs on my arm standing on end. I read the transcript again because I couldn’t believe where I was about to taken by this beautiful and powerful novel, a story that will stay with me for a very long time.

This is a story told from three points of view. The first being Joseph who kills his wife in the presence of his three young children; his oldest child Scarlet and their Grandmother Hannah who, with her husband become the primary caregivers to their grandchildren after this tragic event.  Each narrator gives the reader a different perspective on the death of Zoe, a beautiful and charismatic wife, mother and daughter and on how they manage to carry on after such a sudden loss in their lives.

“I didn’t sleep that night. Not until three in the morning, anyway. I didn’t sleep the next night either, or the one after that, or any night in the days leading up to the court hearing. I felt more and more tired, but at the same time twitchy and tangled up.”

Before turning her skills to writing, Charity Norman practised as a high-powered barrister specialising in family law.  This, combined with a colourful upbringing, has allowed her to draw on personal experiences, delving into issues of mental health, domestic violence and the devastating results these factors can have on families.

From the very outset of the story you know that you will be faced with difficult dilemmas when deciding what is right for each character. I found myself loving each person no matter how self-centred their motives seemed to be.  The adult narrators in the story are at opposite ends of the argument, pulling Scarlet and her younger brothers from one side to the other.  This pull naturally causes guilt in the young characters thus leading to disturbed behaviours and actions which made me, the reader feel incredibly sad for them.  As much as I loved the adult characters, their selfishness is blinding and gets in the way, making them forget about what is right for the children. This is a central theme throughout this book, asking questions about what is the right and best outcome for this family?

“I wasn’t in a cheerful mood as we drove away. Far from it.  I looked back as we turned out of Faith Lane, and I could see two lost souls standing on the pavement. They were holding hands, which was something they never used to do in public. I felt so guilty. I wanted Dad to turn the car around and take us back.”

The Son-In-Law has secondary characters who through kindness and wisdom offer support to this family. Their opinions are put forward in the form of letters and court transcripts providing a depth to this story. I personally have not had to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude and it only made me more grateful to the people who dedicate their lives to helping others through the family courts.

I can highly recommend this book to you.  It had me sitting up until early hours of the morning because I needed to know the outcome for these powerful characters.  Whilst I cried for three quarters of the book (something that I secretly enjoy) Charity Norman gave me hope that life can take a different course and carry on beautifully for people who encounter such a traumatic road block in their early lives.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a few questions of Charity Norman…

Before you wrote The Son-In-Law, I understand that you practised as a barrister, specialising in family law.  ‘The Son-In-Law’ delves deeply into issues of domestic violence, family and mental health.  Is your book based on one specific incident?
I think the short answer is no. Years ago I did act for the children in a case where the father had murdered the mother and was asking for them to have contact with him while he was in prison. His case was utterly different to Joseph’s – as I recall he had killed her in cold blood and was going to be in prison for a very long time – but I remember sitting there in court while he was in the dock at the back, and thinking about the rights and wrongs of contact for such a man. That may have sown the idea in my mind, but no more than that. The book is entirely fictional, and influenced by numerous experiences rather than just the one.     

Charity NormanWas this a story that you wanted to tell for a while? Do you have more stories you wish to tell?
This story had been bubbling in a pot on my mental stove for a while, and seemed the right one to choose when I was thinking about what to write next. Yes, I have lots more stories that I’d like to tell! 

Your novel often had me in tears as I sympathised with each character.  How do you create such real emotion throughout the story?
Thank you – though sorry to make anyone cry! I don’t really have a conscious technique, but it helps me to take time to get to know my characters. I try to listen very carefully to each and walk in their shoes, really be that person in my head. It’s very like using empathy when you have a friend who’s in trouble – you listen to what they say – and also to what they don’t say – and you try to understand exactly what they are feeling. I do that with the characters. Then I write it down.   

Scarlet showed considerable maturity for a thirteen year old?  In your experience is this maturity normal for such a young person who has been through the life changing events that Scarlet had to go through?
Yes, I believe it is. To a degree, she’s taken on the role of carer for her younger brothers and found depths of maturity that she wouldn’t have had to otherwise. Of course, there are plenty of young children looking after even younger ones, for example in areas of the world where HIV has ravaged the population. They lose their childhoods even more than Scarlet has.

I do have a daughter who was Scarlet’s age as I was writing the book. She is definitely not Scarlet of course, but quite similar in terms of maturity, and I found it really helpful to know what a switched-on girl of that age might be thinking, saying and doing. At the launch of the book here in New Zealand, she read out the part of the panicking Scarlet in the prologue and I read the part of the emergency operator. I felt quite moved to hear her!

Why is it told through the first person for Scarlet and Hannah but not for Joseph?
Ah. I am so glad you asked me that! I spent weeks agonising about this. I wanted to make it very personal, so chose the first person for Scarlet and Hannah which I felt worked for them. Yet when I tried to give Joseph a first person voice, I found it just was not his voice. I think that’s because of who he is. He was always a more self-effacing type, not the sort who starts many sentences with the word ‘I’ – even more so after causing Zoe’s death, and the years in prison. He feels awful guilt and hides away on the moors. I just don’t think he wants to talk about himself. Oddly, I found this slight distance helped me to see him more clearly, rather than just seeing him as he sees himself.  

Have you had much correspondence from readers who have identified with some of the major themes in this book? If so were they positive or negative?
Not so far, though I am very grateful to those readers who have written to tell me that they like it. So far nothing negative, but I know there will be some who feel I was too generous to Joseph. I had lots of interesting feedback after ‘Freeing Grace’, which was about adoption; and again after ‘Second Chances’, which was about emigration, drug addiction and a teenager who is in deep trouble. Many people have said they identified with those themes, especially adoption.

I loved this book. Thank you for writing it and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I will be singing its praises for quite a while I think.
Thank you very much for that, and for your thoughtful questions –much appreciated!

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You’ve got a chance to win a copy of Charity’s book, courtesy of Allen and Unwin. All that you need to do to enter is email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line ‘SON IN LAW’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 31.07.13 and notified by email.

Good luck!

If you’d like to find out more about The Son-in-Law, you can do so here…

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Listen up: Beautiful Minds and Because I Love You

Growing up has always been a pretty challenging process, and as life gets faster, more complex and more connected, I’d have to think it must be more difficult now than ever before. Navigating your way through childhood, the teen years and young adulthood can be treacherous, and advice from clever adults is vital, even if at the time it’s not particularly welcome.

Today’s post is about two books that are both aimed at lending a hand to young woman as they establish themselves. The first, by Marina Passalaris, Beautiful Minds is aimed at teenage girls and the second, Because I Love You, by Barbara Toner (Allen and Unwin) is speaking to young women, in particular the author’s own daughters.

beautiful mindsBeautiful Minds, a journey of self discover for teenage girls… it is about discovering who you are, how to get through your tricky teen years and how to put your best foot forward!

Written by Marina Passalaris, founder and director of Beautiful Minds Australia, this book is a wonderful, sensible (and sensitive) guide for girls aged between 11 and 17.

Now, I’m not a big one for deportment and make-overs, but this guide is a wonderful combination of the more ‘cosmetic’ side of confidence, and the really practical stuff. Marina includes some really sound advice on things like how to hold a conversation, how to deal with bullying (online and otherwise) and even how to handle a break-up…

Find someone that you trust to talk to. A parent, a friend, your sister or if it gets really out of hand, a counsellor. Allow that person to help you process what emotions you are going through. Do not, however, become the victim. We must all take responsibility for the men we pick as partners and if these men end up being toxic we could perhaps have a few of our own issues to clear up before the perfect partner shows up. Choose to make peace with your past and any unresolved issues. Then, decide not to dwell on it for a minute longer.

It’s been a while now since I was a teenage girl, but I think if I’d read this book when I was I would have taken quite a bit away from it, even if it was a little despite myself.

At the core of Beautiful Minds is respect. Respect for others, and most importantly, respect for yourself. I like it.

But what about when we’re a little bit more grown-up – moving out, getting jobs, starting families – is it any easier? I’d say not, and I think it’s at this stage that we most need the sage advice of a motherly voice. Barbara Toner, in an interestingly brisk, unapologetic way, offers a range of hints and tips for her newly adult daughters in Because I Love You.

Because I love you What daughter doesn’t need advice? What mother can’t give it? Whether she’s 18 or 81 a daughter can always benefit from a second opinion on the condition of her soul, her heart, her head, her hair, her cleavage. Also her loves, her hates, her dreams, her debts, her teeth and sexting. No second opinion will be more valuable than her mother’s because it will be offered with love tempered by wisdom and in the certain knowledge that without it this daughter will end her days on the streets, in the gutter, with spoilt children, gum disease and bosom droop.

That kind of says it all really.

Barbara is really funny, and while she tries to be tough, her advice clearly comes from the heart. I found her descriptions of herself and her husband hilarious, and wished I could find out more about their oddball relationship. All the way through the book I could imagine the author’s daughters simultaneously cringing and smiling, and I’m sure even they must be a little bit unsure about just how serious to take their mum…

Body language is more likely to betray than deliberately convey, unless of course you have your fists raised. Be wary of suggesting sexual availability just because your back hurts or your belt’s too tight. And never slump: it signals defeat or self-loathing. If you slump to imply that you’re very tall and need to disguise it, you’re kidding yourselves. Eye contact is somewhere between a facial expression and body language. I’m keen on it but possibly overuse it to an unnerving extent. Avoidance always has a reason; being unnerved is one of them. 

Most off all though, this book made me think about the hundreds of times that my sisters and I have called on our mum for a second opinion about one thing or another. Almost daily, I’d say, and thank goodness for it. Without her, how on earth would we have known what do to when our husbands were misbehaving, or the noise-makers wouldn’t sleep, or when they had a fever, or for that matter, when we had a fever?

As I get older, I appreciate more the need for mentors and for sound advice, to help us work out the ‘what’s next’ of life. Each in their own ways, these two books offer really practical, followable advice for their target audience.

To find out more about Beautiful Minds, click here…

To find out more about Because I Love You, visit here…

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Shady: No Safe Place

As much as I’d like to read all the crime fiction that I receive, sometimes I have to be sensible and hand them to a TBYL Reviewer. This week, Kate Barber had a read of No Safe Place by Jenny Spence (Allen and Unwin).

Take a read of Kate’s review of this suspenseful title from a new Australian author…

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Elly Cartwright is an unassuming woman going about her everyday business. That is, of course, until two of her close friends are murdered. With the help of some very  IT-savvy work colleagues she takes it upon herself to try and get to the bottom of why this tragedy has happened, all the while being stalked by the murderer herself.

No safe place“I wake up shivering and for a moment I don’t know where I am. The light comes around the synthetic curtains is all wrong. Everything seems o strange I wonder if I’m still dreaming and I close my eyes again, willing myself back into my own bedroom with my good worn Persian rug, white cotton sheets, and the print of Vermeer’s Seamstress on the wall. But it’s no goo, I’m at Lily’s and though DS Webster isn’t chasing me and there’s no cobblestones oozing blood, Carlos and Mabel are both dead and my life could well be in danger.”

Set in Melbourne, this book has the reader traipsing around familiar territory and quirky Melbourne settings, on to Sydney and back to country Victoria. There’s also a little bit of lust and banter with Mike Lewis, the police Detective who’s following her case. An intricate web of deceit, money laundering, shady contract bids, offshore banking and Ukrainian connections is unravelled by this case of self-made ‘detectives’ and leads to an exciting climax.


Jenny Spence is a Melbourne writer and this is her first novel, leaving lots of scope for further adventures for Elly Cartwright. No Safe Place is certainly fast-paced and leaves you wanting to read on despite the fact the kids are calling and dinner needs to be cooked! At times the writing is a little clumsy “we got our coffee and we drank it” however the details and the quick pace keep the reader interested.

An easy, sit by the pool on holidays read.

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If you’d like to find out more about No Safe Place, by Jenny Spence visit here…

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Shades of Grey: The Storyteller

One of the things about reading a lot, one book quickly following the one before it, is that you notice patterns, themes in subject matter that you might not otherwise notice.

Over the last two years I’ve had many books hit my reading pile which are set in WW1 and WW2. It’s not a topic I’d previously been that interested in, but after reading titles like In Falling Snow, and Overseas I’ve become a bit taken in by the period.

the storytellerThe specific focus on holocaust and displacement recollections in The Book Thief, The Treasure Box and now Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller (Allen and Unwin) are particularly compelling. Horrifying yes, but at each moment they feel important, a story that must be told, that we can, indeed must, learn from.

Jodi’s most recent novel is the story of Sage, her new friend Josef and her grandmother, a holocaust surviver…

Sage Singer is a young woman who has been damaged by her past. Her solitary night work as a baker allows her to hide from the world and focus her creative energies on the beautiful bread she bakes.

Yet she finds herself striking up an unlikely friendship. Josef Weber is a quite, grandfatherly man, well respected in the community; everyone’s favourite retired teacher and Little League coach.

One day he asks Sage for a favour: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses.

Then Josef tells her that he deserves to die – and why.

As you’d expect from this teaser, Picoult’s novel is full of moral dilemmas. As she does so well, at many points in the book you’ll be asking yourself ‘what would I do?’ and probably coming up with a pretty interesting answer. There are lots of shades of grey in the story, as Sage ponders on what to do with the secret she’s been entrusted with by Josef. Still, in typical Picoult style, Sage’s eventual decision and actions are decided, determined and uncompromising. This creates a really punchy plot, and leads to Sage’s own repair.

At the heart of this novel are the long buried memories of Sage’s grandmother, Minka.  A proficient storyteller, Jodi avoids simply telling us the story of Minka’s torment, rather she provides a context, current and perplexing into which Minka’s story is weaved. Her experience as a Polish Jew, persecuted and punished in many terrifying ways is peppered with survival and small miracles. Her recollections of her father’s aromatic baking are as important to her story as those of the cold and filthy work camps in which she was held. These contrasts give a strength to both the light and the dark of her memories. In addition, her own treasured writing, her story of the upiór – the Polish version of a vampire – draws haunting, largely unintentional parallels between these dark fictional creatures and the German soldiers who tormented her.

“If you had to pack your whole life into a suitcase – not just the practical things, like clothing, but the memories of the people you had last and the girl you had once been – what would you take?…

…In the end I took all of these things, and the copy of The Diary of a Lost Girl, and Majer’s baby shoes, and Basia’s wedding veil. And, of course, my writing. It filled four notebooks now. I tucked three of them inside my case and carried the other in a satchel. Into my boots I wedged my Christian papers, beside the gold coins. My father was silent as he held the door to the apartment that was not ours open for the last time.”

The catharsis that comes with the release of these memories is moving indeed.

The Storyteller is a fairly long novel, and it did take me a little while to get through it. Still, at no point did I find myself rushing ahead or wishing for the ending. I was drawn into Minka’s memories, Josef’s remorse and Sage’s struggle to come out of hiding. Well worth the time taken to read this story.

If you’d like to read an expert from Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller you can do so here…

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Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish July 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and highlights from the last month at That Book You Like…

heart like mineTBYL News is a great way to catch up on recent reviews, upcoming news and words from my lovely special guests. This month you’ll find a chances to win a great book from Allen and Unwin, and find out more about this month’s TBYL Book Club Book.

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… July 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

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The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs

Today’s review of The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout (Allen and Unwin) has been written for us by TBYL Reviewer, Tam. I sent this book her way as I know she’s a bit of an animal lover, and thought she’d enjoy this tail (see what I did there?).

Indeed, it would seem that she was drawn into the intrigue of The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs…

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The story begins when, after fifteen years, Dr. Cyrus Mills returns to rural Vermont to inherit the Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the failing veterinary practice of his recently deceased and long-estranged father. Cyrus, a veterinary pathologist far more comfortable with cold clinical facts than living, breathing animals (not to mention their quirky, demanding owners), intends to sell the practice and get out of town as fast as he can.

the patron saint of lost dogsThen his first patient – a down-on-her-luck golden retriever named Frieda Fuzzypaws – wags her way through the door, and suddenly life gets complicated. With the help of a black Labrador gifted in the art of swallowing underwear, a Persian cat determined to expose her owner’s lover as a gold digger, and the allure of a feisty, pretty waitress from the local diner, Cyrus gets caught up in a new community and its endearing residents, both human and animal. Sensing he may have misjudged the past, he begins to realise it’s not just his patients that need healing.

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is a winsome tale of new beginnings, forgiveness, and the joy of finding your way home.

As the story began I found it a little hard to tolerate Cyrus. He seemed weak, a character who would do anything to avoid having to feel and own the situation. But, as I read further into the story, I found that the author Nick Trout wrote the voice of our leading man very well. After we got to know Cyrus a little, I found it wonderful how way I could step into his shoes, feel his panic, confusion, hurt and doubt. I liked the internal dialog we were privy to, providing an insight into how Cyrus managed each dilemma and calmed himself down enough to manage each tricky situation.

The story achieves a really nice balance between the technical jargon which transports you to the setting of a veterinary clinic, and the human stories which draw you into the novel. This small town in Vermont is intriguing, despite the fact that at the beginning of the story it appears to be little more than a prison for Cyrus, a sentence that he has to serve after he inherits the clinic (full of hurtful memories and regret) from his father. During his stay, Cyrus discovers that every story does in fact have two sides and finds himself considering the possibility that he may have been mislead in his anger at his father.

Cyrus and, I as the reader, begin to love the residents of this small town and their furry friends. Even though in the past Cyrus has always found it easier to work in the clinical setting of pathology, rather than having to deal with live cases and their associated emotions, throughout The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs he finds his feet and discovers that perhaps the clinic he has inherited is not the burden he first believed.

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is a great book for pet lovers! Filled with furry creatures, mysteries to solve, love interests and just a touch of blackmail!!

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You can find out more about The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout on the Allen and Unwin website…

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Beautiful Take: One Good Friend Deserves Another

This week I’m trying to fit in lots of wonderful things… kids, work, reading and I’m getting ready for “Intrepid Month” to peak next week, as we discuss Chris Allen’s books in the TBYL Book Club and catch up with the author himself on Monday night (RSVP to this free, online event here).

giftPlus, I’m getting ready for a huge TBYL Book Clearance sale this weekend – which you can join in online all weekend on Facebook! Discounted books, some at cost, plus a few other goodies – first in best dressed!

I’ve also made sure I gave myself a little time out, and while taking a moment, I spent some time catching up on reviews from some of my favourite book bloggers. Today I was having a read of some reviews from the lovely Monique from Write Notes Reviews. As you know, I like to include different voices to TBYL, especially when they’re very talented ones and as such, I thought I’d feature one of Monique’s reviews on the blog today.

One Good Friend Deserves Another by Lisa Verge Higgins (Allen and Unwin) has been on my reading pile since February…

Dhara, Kelly, Marta, and Wendy have been the closest of friends since college. So close, that after a series of romantic disasters, they bond together to create Rules of Relationships to keep their hearts safe.

How many of these dating rules have you broken? 1. Choose Your Own Man 2. Make Sure Your Friends Approve 3. No One-Night Stands 4. Trust Your Instincts 5. Never Make the Same Mistake Twice 6. After a Break-Up, Wait Six Months Before Dating Again.

One good friend deserves another

Years later, the rules seem to have worked . . . until Marta discovers that her hot boyfriend is married, Kelly begins a risky love affair, Wendy inches closer to a pre-marital infidelity, and, most shocking of all, Indian-American Dhara suddenly agrees to an arranged marriage.

Hearts are about to be broken and the bonds of friendship are tested. Is it possible to find true love, when you’re breaking all the rules?

I didn’t have a chance to read it myself, but I think Monique has shared her thoughts on it beautifully…

During my adult life I’ve moved around a fair bit (four states) and books about close, long-standing friendships have at times filled the emotional gap created by leaving good friends behind, moving on and starting over. (My closest and oldest friend lives on the other side of the country and we only get to catch up in person for a couple of hours about once a year). After reading the book, I had to ask: do close-knit groups reallystay friends for decades or do they inevitably fade as circumstances change?…

You can read the full review here…

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You can find out more about Lisa’s book at the Allen and Unwin website and read more of Monique’s reviews here…

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Heart Like Mine

Thank goodness for the TBYL Reviewers – without them, I’d never be able to tell you about so many amazing books! I’m so lucky to have some wonderful people reading and reviewing for us, and today’s review is from the wonderful Carolyn Jones. Read on to find out more about Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) and about how you can enter to win a copy of your own…

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Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) shares the story of three woman, all very different from each other but connected nonetheless. There is Grace, 36 years old, a successful CEO and a woman comfortable in her decision to never have children of her own. Then there’s Kelli, a young single mother of two and the ex-wife of Grace’s fiancé. Finally, there is Kelli’s beloved daughter, Ava. Thirteen years old and completely devoted to her mother, Ava is desperate not to form a relationship with her father’s new partner. Very early in the story Kelli sadly and unexpectedly dies, meaning that Ava and her younger brother must live with their father and in turn, Grace. As you might expect, this sudden upheaval complicates the already strained relationship between Ava and her step-mother Grace.

Heart Like Mine alternates between narrating around the relationships shared by the three women and their overlapping stories, giving the reader a chance to see all sides of the difficult situation.

heart like mineI loved this book. I found it very easy to read but more importantly, I did not want to put it down. Amy Hatvany distinguishes the different narrators very clearly, with chapter headings and distinctive tones, whilst ensuring that the story flowed smoothly and never confusing the reader as to whose turn it was to tell their story. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in the book as I enjoyed not knowing which way the story was going to take me. However, this is a book review, so I do need to provide something more to entice you to read this book…

There are some strong themes throughout the novel about womanhood, love and family. The age of thirteen is when a child becomes an adolescent and should be a time for greater independence, boyfriends and girlfriends, and discovering oneself. However, the three leading ladies in Heart Like Mine all encounter a life-changing event when they are thirteen. These individual events force these girls from early adolescence into adulthood much too young.

The main theme that Amy Hatvany explores is that of motherhood, from all perspectives; choosing to become a mother or having it thrust upon you unexpectedly…

She paused and gave me a dreamy smile. “But you really don’t know what love is until you’re a mother. You can’t understand it until you’ve had a baby yourself, but it’s the most intense feeling in the world.

I winced a little when she said this, as though she meant that a heart like mine was somehow defective because I hadn’t had children. I didn’t think of myself as less able to feel love. But her comments made me question myself and wonder if by missing out on motherhood, I was missing out on something that would make me a better person.

Grace, Kelli and Ava are incredibly strong women in their own right and through their narration we, the readers, feel their insecurities and share in their personal struggles to keep going through very tough times. I loved how Amy Hatvany developed these characters and didn’t dwell too much on clichés about stepmothers and daughters. I really believed their story. I highly recommend Heart Like Mine, whether you can identify with elements of it or reflect on your own growing up this book will stay with you for days. It’s a wonderful story, a drama of the challenges that comes with losing something too soon. If you take pleasure in a meaningful tale, or like me, love to weep in a book then I think you will enjoy Heart Like Mine.

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This month, a lucky reader will win a copy of Heart Like Mine courtesy of Allen & Unwin Books.

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au, subject line ‘HEART’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 30.06.13 and notified by email.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany shop now at the TBYL Store…

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