Edie’s experiments- How to be the best
Penguin Random House Australia (2020)
Tales of an epic school project, a science obsessed Year five student and a nasty new arrival to the class; Charlotte Barkla incorporates humour, competition and life lessons into this entertaining tale of a Year five student who wants to be the best. Barkla is a former civil engineer and physics teacher who has turned to writing to spread the joy and importance of science, engineering and sustainability. ‘Edie’s experiments- How to be the best’ is the second book in the ‘Edie’s experiments’ series. Barkla has also published ‘All bodies are good bodies’ and is prolific in her article writing for the likes of The Australian Education Union, Engineers Australian as well as other publications. Teacher resources relating to science and sustainability, with a connection to the Edie books, can be found on her website.
Edie is ambitious, persistent and energetic. And she loves science! She jumps at any opportunity to get involved in a good experiment. Edie doesn’t just leave science for school, however, her whole family, even her little brother Max, endures her constant data collecting and experimentations. An Eco Fair competition is announced with a fabulous prize as the incentive. Edie is excited and confident until rivalry in the form of a conceited classmate, Dean Starlight, shifts her attitude. With his fabulous hair and Science Academy training, Edie knows that the competition will be tight. What she doesn’t realise is that Dean plays dirty. Will competitiveness see Edie succumb to these nasty tactics? Only time, and reading, will tell.
This playful novel is perfect for children between the ages of 7 to 12. At a younger age, children will enjoy having the saga read to them. The cartoonish pictures and science experiments embedded within the text add to the engagement and are perfect for use by teachers as a sample scientific procedure text type. The book would also useful for critiquing how an author organises and presents fictional information in a variety of ways. My Year twos give it The Thumbs Up!
Margaret Atwood (2019)
Read by Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Derek Jacobi, Mae Whitman, Margaret Atwood and Tantoo Cardinal.
The Testaments is the long awaited sequel to the Handmaid’s tale (published in 1985). 38 years later, Atwood has gifted us with a sequel that is set 15 years post the final scene in The Handmaid’s tale. Receiving a joint award for the Man Booker Prize 2019 (along with Bernardine Evaristo's novel Girl, Woman, Other), it does not disappoint. Where the Handmaid’s Tale had many bleak and despairing moments, The Testaments give hope.
The story is set through a sequential series of transcripts by three women involved in the fall of the dystopian world of Gilliad. Through their painful stories we learn more of the horrific and unfair treatment of woman in the misogynist regime, and their eventual strength and activism. We hear from the voice of Aunt Lydia, a prominent enforcer of the laws that see women treated as commodities for trading. Daisy is a young teenager who has had the good fortune of growing up in Canada, and Agnes, a little older than Daisy, who has only known the life of a devout and obedient Gilliad citizen. Harnessing strengths from polar opposites, the unlikely three work together for a common purpose.
Ann Dowd, the actress that plays Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s tale T.V. series also reads for Aunt Lydia in this recording. Her voice engaging and immediately familiar for anyone who has watched the T.V. show. Daisy and Agnes have younger sounding voices. Atwood herself has a part in reading each chapter title with a haunting voice that adds a sorrowful flavour to the reading. A question that I and I’m sure many others had when reading or watching The Handmaid’s Tale is how could Aunt Lydia act the way that she does towards women, her own kind. It is exciting and relieving to hear her perspective in The Testaments.
The result is an intensly satisfying sequel and conclusion to the saga. Highly recommended as an audiobook, the only reason it took me so long to sink my teeth into this book is because it was released as a hard back, which I am not fond of (uncomfortable when reading in bed). The audiobook was a compromise, however, I am glad I did consume the book in this form. I devoured it as fast as I could, only allowing myself to listen when running or walking. Consequently my exercise regularity increased considerably during the listening of this story.
Just an Ordinary Family
Fiona Lowe 2020
Fiona Lowe? I’d been told about her but I honestly hadn’t given her a go. How could this be when she was a RITA winner in 2012, a RUBY finalist in 2007 and 2008 and then winner in 2012? I searched her up and she’s prolific! She has a slew of romance and medical romance books under her belt (hence the RUBY and RITA award) and four significant Women’s fiction books published. Just an Ordinary Family comes under the latter banner.
Just an ordinary family is set in the Kurnai Bay, a fictional Australian beach town. It follows the point of view of 3 women, Alice, Jess and Libby. Alice and Libby are twins but Libby and Jess are best friends and this is the first tension of the story. Lowe weaves the relationships’ highs and lows expertly between the three women, their lovers and parents. Themes of romance, betrayal, death and grief all feature and she skilfully persuades readers to feel compassion for each woman’s plight.
There is a stage in this book where you know that a good old fashioned cry is coming up. You need to find your quiet space, a box of tissues and a glass of wine for this. I couldn’t coordinate it unfortunately. My reading time is before bed and there was a moment when I had to close the book for fear of exploding into snotty sobs and scaring the wits out of my husband. I wanted to continue reading the book in privacy so that I could indulge in my melancholy but that would mean waiting to finish the book. And I couldn’t wait.
Safe to say I’ll be rectifying my lack of Fiona Lowe reading in the future. Stay tuned for more reviews about this author!
Nicola Moriarty 2020
Bolinda/Harper Collins audio
Read by Simone Gescheit
It took me two renewals of my loan to get through this book. I know that doesn’t sound good but bear with me. The first time my loan ran out, I wasn’t sure if I needed to renew. It felt like a cliché story and I was sure I’d heard it all before. But I renewed it anyway. Something easy to listen to while I ran and walked. By the end of my 2nd loan though, there was no way I could leave it and not hear the end. The only problem? I’d reached my renewal limit! Thankfully, no one else had reserved the book and I was able to re-borrow immediately. Towards the end I was looking for excuses to listen. I was going for jogs every day and extending them for longer. I was gardening with my headphones on just to get a little more of the story. Eventually I had only 20 minutes remaining. You’d think I’d be able to listen, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes, in the comfort of my home. Not likely. 20 minutes ended up being 40 with all of the pauses I needed to make to answer my daughter’s questions and requests for help! But I got there, and how glad I was to stick with it.
The Ex, by Nicola Moriaty is a psychological novel, disguised as a romance but eventuating as a thriller. The premise is a girl meets boy type scenario with the inconvenience of a mentally derailed ex who turns to stalking tactics to put the new girlfriend off. We follow Georgia’s point of view, the new girlfriend, for a good half of the book and it’s not until the end of her part when the story starts to get really juicy. The book then switches to Cadence’s perspective and we discover some new things about this character. Towards the end of the book we hear from a few other female characters and despite this unique way to tell a story, it works for this stage in the book. Towards the end there were a few moments when I was sure we had reached the actual end, but then there was another chapter. Each additional chapter, however, rewarded me for continuing my listen. In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to a female audience who enjoys the likes of Liane Moriarty, The girl on the Train and Gone Girl.
What's this about?
As a lover of books and a teacher, I read widely. Here you will find book reviews of many genres including picture story, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, women's fiction, short story anthologies, non-fiction and anything else that takes my fancy.