How to Get There by Maggie MacKellar

How to Get There by Maggie MacKellar

After Maggie Mackellar’s acclaimed When It Rains, her second memoir traces with her characteristic candour and perception her move to Tasmania, for love, and the struggles and joys of settling there.In 2011 Maggie Mackellar moved from her family’s farm in Central West New South Wales to the east coast of Tasmania with her children and assorted menagerie to live with a farmer. Her story takes as its epigraph a quote from Roger McDonald: ‘Through every small opening in life, through the tiniest most restricted nerve ends, through rips and tears and tatters, life pours.’In the book she explores learning to love again after living through grief, and the complexities of doing this in a community with which she is unfamiliar, with two young children. She reflects on love after grief, juggling being a mother and negotiating a burgeoning relationship, the rhythms of country life, displacement and the writing life. This is a book for anyone who has imagined taking a risk, for anyone who has moved to a new place and struggled with feelings of homesickness and displacement. It is a story about making a life in a remarkable setting – the east coast of Tasmania, on a sheep farm in a stone house built by convicts in 1828.

How to Get There by Maggie MacKellar

This is such an easy book to read. Direct, simple (not in a bad way!) writing. I read so many books by American authors that it’s sometimes a bit of a surprise to pick up something by an Australian and feel immediately at home.

This book seems to be a follow-on from the author’s earlier books. It seems to work on the assumption you’ve read the others (I haven’t) so if not, you have to draw your own conclusions about some things.

It’s a bit weird how many people who were featured on Australian Story are feeling the need to publish books these days. I was on Australian Story before all of them – in 1996, only a few months after the show premiered. Should I be publishing my life story now?!

I don’t read that many memoirs, so I don’t have that much to compare How to Get There to. I do think that this is an engaging read for Australians, and everyone will find something to identify with. I love the author’s understanding of and respect for Australia in general (too many Australians only love their little corner and spend a lot of time insulting everyone else!).

This is probably a better book for people who enjoyed the other books. Though I had no problem reading this one, as someone who had no idea who this woman was or why she was writing these books, I think I’d have liked it even more if I had the background story to go with it.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant by Owen Beddall

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant True Tales and Gossip from the Galley by Owen Beddall

Want to know what really goes on on an aeroplane? Let’s go behind the scenes and fly high with these tall tales and gossip from the galley! Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on. In Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant – True Tales and Gossip from the Galley, Owen Beddall dishes the dirt – he tells you the things you always wanted to know (and maybe a few things you didn’t) about the glamorous world of flying. This book is packed with cabin crew adventures and misadventures in and out of that smart uniform in far flung places. There’s sex, drugs and lots of celebrity gossip; Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Venus Williams and Cate Blanchett – are all in the galley having a gossip with Owen. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is a hilariously bumpy ride around the world with a very funny man.

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant (True Tales and Gossip from the Galley) by Owen Beddall

This is one for the travellers.

An easy, quick read, you get what the cover promises from Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant.

I’ve flown with Qantas on many of the routes covered in this memoir, so it made for some interesting reading. Getting to see ‘backstage’ on a long haul flight is a bit of an eye-opener, but you’ll be guaranteed to pick up a trick or two (and despair at some of the staff’s coping mechanisms!).

I know people tend to think of the life as a flight attendant as glamorous, but I suppose I’ve now travelled enough to realise it isn’t a job I’d want! This book, while enjoyable, is definitely going to let you see it’s not all fun and games.

I sped through this in an afternoon, and enjoyed it. It won’t challenge you too much, but would make for a fun read on a trip. You might not look at your flight attendants in quite the same way once you’re done.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Fifty Years in Polygamy by Kristyn Decker

 

Fifty Years in Polygamy Big Secrets & Little White Lies by Kristyn Decker

Fifty Years in Polygamy is the personal history of Kristyn Decker, the daughter of a polygamist prophet. Within, she reveals a rare, uncensored, firsthand account of the inner workings of a Utah-based polygamist sect whose members today include high-profile reality television stars. Her gripping narrative describes the rampant anguish and abuse behind the happy faces that polygamist women present in public.

 

Fifty Years in Polygamy is Kristyn’s inspiring journey, in which she challenges the common misconception that polygamy is simply a harmless lifestyle choice. For many, it is like modern-day slavery, she says.

Fifty Years in Polygamy Big Secrets & Little White Lies by Kristyn Decker

Reviews are all over the place for this book. However, there’s something about the total insanity of communities willing to blindly follow every outlandish aspect of their religion – no matter the consequences – that just draws you in.

Are there better-written books in the world? Of course there are. But I suspect most people – like me – who pick this up are doing it for the slightly disturbing fascination that comes with religious extremism, polygamous Latter Day Saints communities in particular. It’s an especially startling read for people like me, who don’t live in the United States and so aren’t exposed to this sort of thing.

There’s a great deal of detailed information here, including journal entries from the narrator’s mother. Some reviewers have complained the book becomes too personal on the author’s part – I guess that’s up to personal opinion. There’re definitely better-edited books (I kept cringing at way more, way bigger etc. – a bit of teen-style casual English within the pages).

I’d like to share a passage from close to the start, which is a pretty good indication of the writing style and creepiness factor:

During this time, Dad fell in love with one of Mom’s closest and dearest friends. Because Mom had gained a testimony that plural marriage was necessary for a person to attain the celestial kingdom in the afterlife, she was eager to follow those religious dictates and encourage Dad to court her friend Alice.

While the three of them waited for Alice to get a little older, Mom tried to emotionally prepare herself to enter into celestial marriage.

My dad was also courting a young woman named Eleanor.

The misogynistic and paedophilic aspects of this religion never cease to astonish.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 17th -23rd February

Ukrainian government attacks demonstrators in Kyiv night of 18th Februrary 2014

The Ukrainian government moved in to attack demonstrators in Kyiv on the night of the 18th.

What an awful week. Everybody in the world should be horrified by the large-scale slaughter of Ukrainian civilians by the Ukrainian authorities, but it’s pretty personal to me. #1 Because I come from a very patriotic Ukrainian family. #2 Because I know people protesting in the square (unarmed, against police with military-grade weapons) where most of the killings have occurred. #3 Because I’ve been to Kyiv mulitple times (and yes, the capital city’s official name is KYIV – KIEV is the Russian name!), and always stayed within a stone’s throw of the main square. #4 Because I’ve been watching it live online, and turning on your computer to see people administering CPR – and then seeing people being pronounced dead – really drives home how awful the situation is there.

It has made it very hard for me to enjoy the Olympics – especially considering Russia’s role in all of this. To make things worse, I’m very heavily invested in figure skating (and – coincidentally – share my name with one of the greatest skaters of all time), and none of the right skaters won!

Because of all of this, my reading and my blog really suffered this week. However, I did manage three of the four or so reviews I’d planned on posting!

My review of Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

 Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

My review of The Fall of a Saint by Christine Merrill

 The Fall of a Saint by Christine Merrill

My review of Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

 Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

“I’ve been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face.”

So begins Katie Heaney’s memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend…and she’s barely even been on a second date.

Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie’s loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie’s shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie’s ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself — a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that “Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot.”

Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process.

Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

I requested this book for review for one reason: I saw it mentioned online and got excited about an author with the same surname as me.

That is truly, honestly the reason I got it, so I went in with no idea and no expectations.

If you like Bridget Jones sort of stories, this is a book you’ll probably enjoy. It’s a memoir of a woman in her mid-twenties who has been single all her life. The author writes in a light-hearted tone, not presenting her situation as someone who is depressed about their issues as much as baffled.

I’m a bit older than the author, but I could identify with some of her flashbacks to the 90s, and if you’re her age I’m sure you’ll find a lot to identify with there.

However, I have to say I wasn’t as interested in her memories from primary school crushes as I was in things that happened later on in her life. I think the second half of the book was more interesting than the first.

This is a very light, fluffy read.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

A 1950s Housewife by Sheila Hardy

A 1950s Housewife by Sheila Hardy

Being a housewife in the 1950s was quite a different experience to today. After the independence of the wartime years, women had to leave their jobs when they married and support their husband by creating a spotless home, delicious meals and an inviting bedroom. A 1950s Housewife collects heart-warming personal anecdotes from women who embarked on married life during this fascinating post-war period, providing a trip down memory lane for any wife or child of the 1950s. This book will prove an eye-opener for those who now wish they had listened when their mothers attempted to tell them stories of the ‘old days’, and will provide useful first-hand accounts for those with a love of all things kitsch and vintage. From ingenious cleaning tips, ration-book recipes and home decor inspiration, the homemaking methods of the fifties give an entertaining and poignant insight into the lives of 1950s women.

A 1950s Housewife by Sheila Hardy

What an interesting, comprehensive book this is!

Do not be fooled by the oh-so cutesy packaging; this isn’t one of those lifestyle guides conservative ladies pass around during Bible study. What it is is a spectacularly well-researched, extremely detailed look at life in 1950s England. That is life in general, though there is an emphasis on the life of young women just getting started in their marriages.

Based on many personal accounts from volunteer contributors, the author has constructed a fascinating book that doesn’t paint anything perfectly or otherwise. You’ll hear as much about the hardships as the parts everyone likes to reminisce about. The detail that might become tedious in lesser hands is engrossing here. You’ll know how much things cost and who could afford them, the different things people did for fun, the different modes of transportation, the food that was eaten. The details on housework are terrifying. Even though I’ve heard many stories from family members, seeing it all put together in this book adds up to an exhausting explanation as to why there wasn’t an obesity problem in the 1950s!

A 1950s Housewife makes me think the British had it harder in the 1950s than the average Australian or American, thanks to the Second World War.

This is an eye-opener for anyone who tends to be delusional about “how much better” things were in the past, and is a book I’d highly recommend for anyone with an interest in this era.

Currently Free: Fire Mission – The Diary of a Firing Sergeant in Afghanistan by Craig Douglas

Fire Mission – The Diary of a Firing Sergeant in Afghanistan by Craig Douglas is currently free.

Fire Mission - The Diary of a Firing Sergeant in Afghanistan by Craig Douglas

Craig Douglas was a Firing Sergeant for an Artillery Troop in Afghanistan. He spent 6 months in FOB Inkerman, also known as FOB Incoming due to the amount of attacks it was subjected to by the Taliban. His tour was from October 2007 until April 2008. Prior to him arriving, Ross Kemp had been through the base and on patrol experiencing a fire fight with the Taliban.

 

In the month of November the base was practically attacked every day and resupply was few and far between due to the hostile location.

 

Put on your body armour, don your helmet and take cover. The shells fall thick and fast with devastating consequences. Inside these pages you’ll find frustration, humour, fear, chickens and a goat.

 

Welcome to the Helmand Province through the eyes of an ordinary soldier who found himself in an extraordinary country.