On Books and Babies

So, as I’ve discovered recently, this whole new mother thing is damn hard. I’m actually writing this one handed while my little owl of a newborn, Sophie, has one of her marathon feeding sessions. Of which there are many. Very many. I’m surprised she hasn’t doubled in size already to be honest. I’m surprised there is anything left of me to be doubly honest.

I won’t bore you with the details of my plight, as I’m sure so many of you already know how strange and surreal this whole thing is, but I want to mention one small advantage of breast feeding. I didn’t consider this at all until a friend from work mentioned it, just before I went on leave. A great deal of the pain and frustration of learning to feed your baby can be diluted somewhat with a great book open in front of you. And when the time stretches into hours of your day and night, you can actually read a lot (when you’re not struggling to keep your eyes open at least). So, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay

I mention this edition in particular because it’s large and stays open when you lay it flat, which makes it a lot easier to read – hands free! Plus I read this one aloud, you’re never too young to hear Harry Potter after all. It’s been so nice to re-read this book, especially with the 20th anniversary being talked about so much. It makes me feel so old though! My mum bought me my first copy of HP as a gift for making it through year six camp (gosh I hated school camp) all those twenty years ago. She said the man in the book store told her it was a great read, and he was right (thank you booksellers, just thank you). I remember how in the following years the entire landscape of reading shifted. Suddenly it wasn’t such a nerdy thing to be a reader. I stood in those massive lines waiting with hundreds of kids to get the later books and finally felt like I was a part of something. I’d found my community. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there just like me, who have J. K. to thank for that.

I just had a thought – maybe Sophie’s taking so much time feeding because she wants to hear how it ends? What a smart cookie. Hehe.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Inga Moore

I have this lined up because I’m getting close to the end of Harry Potter. It was one of my favourites growing up and I can’t wait to revisit it. This edition is a large hardback like Harry Potter above and has beautiful illustrations. I wonder how many other lovely classic editions I can justify buying for this purpose? Any suggestions?

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Okay so I haven’t been reading this one as much – my husband has been reading it aloud to Sophie and me every now and then. He does the best Winnie-the-Pooh voice and his Eeyore is top notch. I actually missed the boat on this one in childhood, I’ve never read it. Turns out it’s hilarious! If you haven’t read it for yourself (or for your little ones) you definitely should! I am completely in love with the cleverness and complete uniqueness of the little stories.

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

I read this in hospital. It was the perfect light, entertaining read to distract from the shock of a newborn in special care and your entire body suddenly being the property of anyone and everyone. Jody has had plenty to say about Sara Foster over the past couple months and she’s entirely right.

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

I’m reading this late at night and I’m really enjoying it so far. Elizabeth Kostova wrote The Historian, which was hugely popular years ago. The Shadow Land is set in Bulgaria, which is interesting.  It’s a part coming-of-age story, part mystery. I love the detail in Kostova’s writing and I’m entirely absorbed in the story. I want to know how this all comes together. There will definitely be a review to follow of this one.

Anyway, please give me all your newborn advice, I’m more than happy to hear it all. And I’m even happier to hear your latest, greatest book recommendations!

Hope you’re all well.

Amanda x


Book Review: All That Is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster


Hello again! I know it has been a long time between reviews for me (so my colleagues have been reminding me). My problem is I haven’t actually read a book in quite a while; in fact the last book I read was A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet.

While I may not have been reading, that didn’t stop me from buying books only to put them on the book shelf and look at them, much to the amusement of my husband.

So the big question is, what was the book that finally got me reading again? It was the couldn’t-put-down, read-until-my-eyes-couldn’t-stay-open, All That Is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster. Sara is one of Australia’s bestselling psychological suspense authors and in my newly-formed opinion it’s not hard to see why.

All That Is Lost Between Us is a psychological thriller, but at the same time it’s so much more. I think what sets All That Is Lost Between Us apart from other books of this time is the way Sara develops her characters. You get to know each of them and become invested in their stories. At the same time there is a suspenseful undertone to the story, which had me cuddling closer to my pillow as the goosebumps crept up my arms. What I also found amazing was the way Sara completely transported me to the English country side and the wild marsh country. I could almost feel the mist on my arms. While this book might be too light on the suspense part for some readers, it was perfect for me.

Georgia and her family are believable characters with real life worries and normal family dynamics. Georgia, 17, has withdrawn from her family and her cousin Sophia, who is her best friend. Anya, her mother and a counsellor, knows something is wrong but Georgia is always shutting her out and she doesn’t know how to reach her. Georgia’s father is dealing with his own guilt, and when Georgia’s brother Zac discovers what is behind the change in his sister the family reaches crisis point.

In the days since finishing All That Is Lost Between Us, I’ve been scouring the book stores for my next read. However, as Amanda and I have both found, there isn’t too much around at the moment that we’re interested in. My solution to this problem was to start reading Beneath The Shadows another book by Sara Foster and as of last night, or should I say the early hours of the morning, I am totally hooked! In fact I can’t wait till everyone goes to sleep tonight and I get my quiet time so I can finish.

I want to end by saying “Thank you Sara Foster for deciding you wanted to be a writer, I will be forever grateful!”



After doing some investigating today I found out Sara has a new book coming out this year, and I can’t wait. The title is The Hidden Hours and it’s out in April in Australia. Lucky I have a couple more of Sara’s books to read before then to keep me happy.

It’s a wrap! June reads and mini-reviews

It feels like it’s been a big reading month, and we’ve been struggling to keep up with writing reviews for them all, so we thought we’d try a June wrap-up! The full book reviews should come later, but here’s a snapshot of what we’ve read this month:


The Wife’s Tale by Christine Wells: A really enjoyable dual timeline read. One of those rare books that manages to have you totally absorbed in both storylines and leaves you aching to know how the main characters’ stories will end. I loved this book and since finishing it have been on the lookout for something similar; but nothing seems to live up to the standard!

I went a little Nicole Trope crazy this month. I read three of her books, Three Hours Late, The Secrets in Silence and Hush, Little Bird and I liked every one. Although all of the books dealt with some confronting subject matters – which at times made me question why am I reading them – I couldn’t stop. I found the characters grabbed hold of me and I just had to find out how their stories ended. While these books may not be light, I enjoyed reading them and stepping outside my comfort zone.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Yes I admit this isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. But you know what – I don’t care. I’m laughing, cringing and enjoying it even more the second time round. Hopefully this should satisfy my never ending need for Liane Moriarty books before Truly Madly Guilty is released in the next few weeks. My name is Jody and I am Liane Moriarty crazy!


Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave: I loved Chris Cleave’s Gold when it came out a couple of years ago and while this book deals with an entirely different subject, it’s just as much of a page-turner. It’s a fascinating glimpse into life in London during World War II, seen through the eyes of the female protagonist, Mary.

Kakadu Sunset by Annie Seaton: A long-form romance recently nominated for a RUBY award (congratulations Annie!). There’s a depth to it I wasn’t expecting, particularly in dealing with current issues around environment and mining.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith: There’s been stacks of excitement around this book and I enjoyed it, although for me it didn’t really live up to the hype. I’m sure it will be nominated for various awards though. I just felt like there could have been a deeper exploration of the characters and the setting.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch: The second in the Peter Grant series which I started reading earlier this year. While the books are considered a kind of criminal fantasy, they’re really funny and entertaining. A great holiday read!

The Dry by Jane Harper: A crime novel set in rural Australia? I’m sold. What seems to be a fairly straight-forward murder-suicide turns out to be so much more. A gripping read for those who loved all those mega-popular, fast-paced crime novels like The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon: Winner of the 2016 Australian Vogel Prize. Set in Russia during the Freeze and then later, throughout Gorbachev’s promise of openness. I wasn’t familiar with this period of history, which made it a little hard to follow at times. A book about memory, and grief and the impact it has on our lives over generations. Full of beautiful, powerful imagery.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: A young adult fantasy book so different to anything else I’d read this month. I picked it up for exactly that reason, needing a break from the seriousness of what I’d been reading. Sarah J. Maas has an incredible talent for drawing you into the story and keeping you there even if you feel a little like ‘oh, another strong, female character battling against the odds’ – where have I seen that before? *eye roll*

I think we’ve probably forgotten some, but it’s definitely been a great month for reading. If only there were just more hours in the day and we didn’t need to sleep… or work!

Happy reading!

Jody & Amanda

On the Baileys Prize and women who rock

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist was announced on Tuesday this week, International Women’s Day. You can see the full list here.

Like the Stella Prize, the Baileys Prize celebrates outstanding female fiction writers. However the Stella focuses on Australian writers, whereas the Baileys Prize is an international award. This year, over half the list are debut authors and the judges were “delighted with the quality, the imaginative scope and the ambition of our chosen books…”

I am definitely adding some of these to my TBR pile, but I wanted to write a little about four books on the list that had an enormous impact on me last year.

Kate Atkinson: A God in Ruins

Like so many people, I read Life After Life when it was released in 2013 and thought, like so many people, it was spectacular. When A God in Ruins was released last year I was waiting impatiently for it to hit the shelves at my local bookstore.

It’s a different book to Life After Life, so don’t go into it expecting it to be anything like that book. But you can go into it expecting the same well-researched, well-crafted story and that lovely, descriptive writing style. The book made me think so deeply about that period in history and I while I have read many books about World War II, seeing it from the perspective of a RAF Bomber pilot was a new experience for me.

A God of Ruins is one of the very few books I have ever read the acknowledgements of (I know, slack really, but that’s how much I didn’t want it to end), and I am so glad I did because it added an extra layer of depth to the story. But seriously, how does she manage to write even her acknowledgements so beautifully?

Sara Novic: Girl at War

I was only a small child when civil war broke out across Yugoslavia, so this book was an eye-opener for me. We didn’t study this war at school, in fact, I had hardly heard anything about it at all until I started working with an ex-Yugoslavian who came out to Australia after the war. It seems strange to me now that so little mention of it was made when it was a war that was still being fought when I was in primary school.

Girl at War looks at the influence of the conflict on one girl, Ana, who is ten years old when war breaks out. Through her lens we are given insight into what it was like for children, at a time when air-raid drills and sniper fire were a part of daily life. When Ana suddenly finds herself alone, she must fight or die and of course, she choses to fight.

Novic writes this book simply, without lengthy descriptions or drawn-out dialogue. It’s a page-turner, certainly, and like all books that I love, it taught me something, and gave me insight into a time I knew so little about. I am grateful for that.

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

What can I say about this book? I think Marieke Hardy put it best when it was chosen as one of the ABC Book Club’s top 5 reads for the year. She said that A Little Life was more than just a book for her, it was a profound life experience. It was the same for me. When I was reading this book, I could think of nothing else. It was on the desk next to me at work, just so I could glance at it through the day. After I finished it I was left with a deep feeling of loss, and it was many days before I could pick up another book – which is absolutely unheard of for me.

It is a divisive book. I have friends who just couldn’t read it, some because the subject matter is so intense, others because it is a story about four men and any female characters are largely on the periphery. But for me it was an absolute standout for 2015. Read it, if you dare.

Geraldine Brooks: A Secret Chord

I always love Geraldine Brooks books, and I often recommend them to friends who just want a great, engrossing read. Her journalistic background gives her this amazing ability to fill in the gaps between historical facts and weave a story that is so detailed and so well-imagined, you want it to be real.

The Secret Chord isn’t my favourite Brooks book, but that’s more to do with the subject matter than anything else. I found it harder to be drawn into the story of King David, and harder to follow than her other books. Despite this, her writing is engaging enough to keep you on track, and I enjoyed the unusual narrative (through his biographer) because it allowed for some questioning of King David’s character, rather than just a chronology of his life.

So, I really just wanted to take a moment to appreciate the incredible talent of these four women, and the others on the list whose writing has made an impact on many lives (not just mine), and who deserve every accolade that comes their way. They open a window for us to lives and times we will never experience, and for that we can only be thankful.

Look out for the shortlist announcement on Monday 11 April, I just can’t fathom how they will choose!

Amanda x