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    An Anonymous Girl

    An Anonymous Girl – Greer Hendricks (REVIEW)

    An Anonymous Girl was a striking page-turner that had me hook, line and sinker by the end of the first chapter.

    As a by product of chance, timing and financial needs, Jess finds herself signing up for a study at a local university that has promised to pay. The study is an anonymous questionnaire that begins to get more and more personal as she is continually asked back.

    For a large part of the novel, it is hard to figure out the motives of the therapist and many different scenarios crossed my mind but eventually the suspense turns in to “reason you most medium suspect” (thanks Dwight Schrute) and the book is simply about Jess trying to untangle herself from a web of lies, deception and straight-up crazy.

    What seemed like a simple, quick way to earn a few dollars to help her family out, fast turns in to a situation that Jess does not wish to be a part of – but for whatever reason, Jess cares what the therapist thinks, Jess enjoys the validation, the sounding board and most of all, the large sums of money that the therapist is throwing at her simply for her company.

    It’s just that its too good to be true.

    This was a fantastic read that I did not put down for the 24 hours that it took me to devour it. This book may not have been as suspenseful as a lot of general thriller fictions seem to be fashioning at this time, but it was sure as satisfying as any other, “girl in window”, “girl in the house”, “exwife up a tree” style books.

    Thanks to Netgalley for providing this ARC.

    McKenzie Mysteries

    Before He Kills – Blake Pierce

    My cousin introduced me to Blake Pierce around two years ago when she bought all his free e books. My first book was a Riley Page novel and since I am over listening to the radio I thought I’d download the first audiobook of this series.

    If you’re looking for a fantastic crime based thriller that covers all potential plot holes and is akin to the way a real police service runs, then this book is not for you.

    If you can endure cliches, cheesy protagonist who thinks everyone is out to get her cos she’s a young woman with a striking and incredibly uncanny ability to get in to the mind of a killer better than anyone else then this book is your thing. If you can look past some sometimes obvious bad dialogue and some unrealistic twists and turns so you can enjoy an easy read, then go right ahead and read this one.

    I like quick reads. Someone mentioned in the reviews that there are those who enjoy reading trashy romance and there are some that enjoy trashy crime. I am that person too. These series are the mills and boons of the crime genre.

    Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

    I’m not going to summarise the whole book — you can read what its about in the blurb, I usually scroll past other peoples summaries. 

    I LOVED this book — but if I described the plot to anyone, I feel like they’d say it sounded boring and when I think about it, there is nothing about this book that was overly exciting, yet I couldn’t stop turning the pages. And on top of it, Eleanor Oliphant is a bit of a dick most of the time. Despite that, I couldn’t but feel for her and knew that she had obviously been through an unrevealed trauma. 

    Every character in this book was lively and sweet and unique in their own way, Honeyman did a fantastic job at fleshing out her characters. 

    This book moved me and was the best example of a character development I’ve encountered in a long time. I have learned over my many years of reading, that sometimes books don’t have to be so centered on an amazing and edge-of-your-seat-plot when the characters are growing and developing so beautifully.

    I expected a twist at the end — but after reading so many books about girls on trains, in windows, being next door, etc, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t far-fetched or distracting from the resolve. 

    Gail Honeyman wrote such a beautiful story and I felt good afterwards. Her writing style is so impressive and descriptions of loneliness were so specific and on point that I truly wanted to hug Eleanor. 

    I would recommend that you read this book before you read any reviews (except mine :P) because they vary so much and it confused what kind of story I was expecting. 

    Wimmera – Mark Brandi (Book Review)

    When I finish books, I act like Joey from Friends when he watches Die Hard (walks around full of testosterone, calling everybody bitch. Once I calm down, I start to look at the story a little less excitedly and more for what it actually is.

    I wasn’t that excited to read Wimmera, but after reading Jasper Jones and seeing that this little ditty won an award, I decided that I would give it a smash as it was on my 2018 TBR.

    I literally smashed this entire novel out over the span of about 12 hours. I did a lot of driving so I “read” half of it with my ears through audible. I was really taken in by the story really quickly and didn’t want to stop to have to get out of the car and not be listening anymore.

    Ben and Fab are mates who hang out all of the time. Ben is Fab’s saviour when the bullies are threatening and when he makes up bold-faced lies to impress the other kids. Fab is Italian and during the 80s, apparently there weren’t a lot of other Europeans in their town which led to a lot of bullying.

    During the summer an interesting fellow moves in to Ben’s neighbourhood in the very house that school girl Daisy suicided in. Ron, the new neighbour makes Ben a little uncomfortable, but when Ron asks Ben’s parents if he can hire their son to do some odd jobs, Ben seems happy that he could be earning $10 per weekend.

    Fast Forward to the present time and Fab is stuck in a dead-end job, he hasn’t seen Ben in a lot of years — in fact, last time he saw him, Ben said he wasn’t going to be joining him in the local highschool, but would be going to a private school instead. He was spending a lot of time with Ron and their friendship had all bit fizzled. Fab is still mourning the loss of his friendship with Ben and is trying to get life back on track when a spanner is thrown in to the works.

    Police are asking questions about Ron and Ben and Ben’s whereabouts and Fab becomes subject to an investigation.

    Without giving anything away — I had to know what happened and therefore kept turning the pages.

    My problem with this story was the way it was written. Past and present doesn’t necessarily flow well and there were bits and pieces left out that requires the reader to read-between-the-lines as to what happened. The time jumping isn’t exactly cohesive and feels disjointed and at times making me feel like I had to skip back to ensure there wasn’t anything important that I’d perhaps missed.

    It is kind of obvious what happened, but some important parts could have been properly explored to help the reader develop the story more; rather it feels like the writer got halfway through the book and decided he wanted to finish it quickly and omitted a large chunk of details and left it rather ambiguous.

    In saying all that, I love reading Australian literature – the audible narrator was great, with a very authentic accent that made the story feel just that little bit extra Aussie.

    I would still recommend this book despite the obvious flaws. It was still a great story and after I coloured between the lines of what went on, I enjoyed it more.

    Becoming – Michelle Obama (Book Review)

    This has been one of my favourite books of 2018. I am from Australia. I didn’t know much about the Obamas in all honesty apart from some videos on youtube here and there, but I picked up this book because if for no other reason, Michelle Obama seems like a smart, likeable woman. 

    This book was brilliant. I have read some of the negative reviews below and I laugh. Someone suggested this book has a lot of fabrications and that it is not factual – I assume that person must also be living under the same roof with the Obama family to make such a grandious statement. 

    IMO, Michelle is a strong, loveable, independent woman with her own opinions, her own merit who has been a very active part of her husbands presidency which to be fair to her, she wasn’t all that keen about to begin with. She supported her husband and loved him and recognised his talent and intelligent enough to support him 100% of the way which is pure unconditional love and I truly respect that. 

    Michelle is a driven, successful woman who I believe with or without Barack, would have gone on to do amazing things. This book is HER story and its not entirely driven by politics. I loved it and I was a bit sad when it ended, to be honest, I actually shed a tear. 

    If you’re an Obama president hater, you’re going to find something negative to say, so I probably would suggest that you save your money and go buy a “make america great” hat that was ironically made in China or smth.

    Getting Rid Of Matthew

    Getting Rid Of Matthew – Jane Fallon (Book Review)

    This is the third Jane Fallon book I have read. After reading “Faking Friends”, I looked for another quick read so I read “Strictly Between Us” and found that the make-up of the story’s skeleton was similar. A man, woman and a third person — usually a best friend or a frenemy that and revenge had to be exacted upon someone. I chose Getting Rid Of Matthew simply cos the title grabbed me. It has fairly good ratings so I thought I’d give it a crack.

    Getting Rid of Matthew is an interesting and fast-paced book that is told in the perspective of Helen who has been having an affair with Matthew for years. She gives him an ultimatum and he leaves, ignoring her begs for him to leave his wife. During the Christmas period, Helen resolves through a list of pros and cons, that Matthew isn’t that great after all. She no longer pines for him and leaves him messages trying to make contact and Matthew notices.

    Matthew doesn’t like the fact that Helen is no longer chasing him and when he makes contact she acts breezily and careless and it makes him question what he has at home. He leaves his family in a panic to be with Helen. It seems Helen has everything she wants, except she has just come to realise that in the weeks without Matthew, she doesn’t actually want him anymore.

    Helen then befriends Sophie, Matthew’s wife and discovers that she likes her friendship and tries her very best to push Matthew back in to her arms because she doesn’t want him.

    I loved this book because the story was mildly amusing and was wrapped up in a nice, pleasant package without being over-the-top, everybody-wins BS some chic-lit reads like. This book was a quick read for me and even though Helen has done the wrong thing, you can’t help but to love her and want her to finally get rid of that extra weight of Matthew holding her back.

    I recommend this book to those who enjoy a slowly unraveled and developing plot such as something by Liane Moriarty or Jojo Moyes, Kelly Rimmer, etc.

    🙂

    Creatively Inspired

    When I was a little girl, I used to watch my Mum with curiosity as she stitched and painted and measured and created. I have memories of being hoodwinked in to craft shops to buy googly eyes and standing around trying not to touch things despite really, really wanting to run my fingers over the braiding on the reels and shake the shit out of the cylinder containing all the plastic eyeballs.

    It wasn’t til I got a little bit older that I could appreciate going craft shopping. I liked the smell of paints and the smell of materials and flowers and all of the things that used to fill the stores where she would go to pick up supplies.

    My Mum ran a viable business when I started school. She ran craft parties where she and her friend would take orders, create and sell. Sometimes they used to do markets. Their catalogues weren’t half as fancy as they would be now in the 21st century – they were photo albums full of door-stops, scary-ass clowns on swings, animals with humans dressed up to decorate kitchens – the kind of stuff you don’t really see anymore and would be incredibly outdated now, but my Mum practically lived in front of her sewing machine in those days.

    A few years after I started school she took up ceremics – my Mum was never one to do things in halves and pretty soon our garage had been turned in to a workshop. She even had her own kiln and by that time, she started allowing me to do stuff with her. She used to pour moulds and fire them and then allow me to paint and glaze and do all the fun stuff that a kid who was my age couldn’t wait to do. It was nice time spent with her too as she taught me to do stuff.

    I remember on an occasion, asking her to draw me a cartoon character from a magazine. She rolled her eyes and told me she couldn’t do it, but had a go anyway and laughed at her own result – but I couldn’t really see the difference between what was in the magazine and what was on the paper – she was hands-down talented at just about anything she had a go at.

    Personally, I’ve never been very creative with my hands. I enjoyed writing and creating images and websites and doing creative efforts on the computer, but besides taking up crocheting, I never really tried to do much besides paint a few things during my Mums ceremics days, but with my Mum’s passing, I was left with her sewing machine and for some reason, it seemed to switch something inside of me.

    Since my Mum’s passing, I have taken up where she left off. I have delved in to so many different creative avenues as so displayed in my shop.

    At first I took on a lot, trying to teach myself to sew, paint, draw and just about everything that you could imagine all at once — those things helped to quell my sadness and give me something to focus on other than the great loss that had just taken place, but shortly after, I figured it what I was better at and what I enjoyed doing.

    It’s been two years since my mum passed — two years today and I am still going strong and have fine tuned some of my skills to what they are today. I am at the point where soon I will be teaching workshops so that others can get more out of what they want to create too and I like to think what I do is part of my Mum’s legacy — learning to do things that you never thought you would be able to.

    I never thought I would turn what I do in to a little side business, but I’ve gone from making a couple of dollars a month to charging more lucrative amounts for my skills. In saying that, it’s not like I haven’t worked hard at it. I have spent hours of time reading books, watching tutorials, going to casual classes to figure out what it is that I am best at as well as finding my niche.

    I’m not perfect at my art yet and I don’t think I ever will be because its all a learning curve, but I truly thing that some of the things that I produce would be enough to make my Mum proud and really, I feel like its her gift to me — the one thing that has helped me cope with her loss, that has helped by way of a therapy of sorts… and considering that I don’t think I will ever really ‘get over’ the loss, I think it will be a long time before I put the tools down.

    It’s been two entire years since I spoke to you last Mum, and I miss you so much. I haven’t forgotten our conversations, I won’t forget the sound of your voice or your laughter or the fun that we had together — just you and I, the memories that no one else besides us are part of and I will treasure those forever. I know you are always with me and I hear your voice whenever I think of something or hear your name. I can hear your opinions, your cynicism or your excitement for me to be doing great things.

    mum

    The Heart Feels

    This update is going to be informal and assumptive that anyone reading knows my current heart/lung/health situation; it is to update family and friends and the people that I don’t get to talk to as often as I’d like.

    Around december I began to get palpitations that I probably ignored for longer than I’d like to admit around three weeks (maybe longer) later, I decided I needed to get checked out. Coupled with the palpitations, I continually felt like my ability to breathe was declining. After going to a GP and doing a series of tests my heart specialist noticed some changes in my health. I was more breathless than usual, more anxious than usual and there were changes to my routine echocardiogram. My respiratory specialist also commented that there was a lot of pressure in my lung and therefore making it harder to breathe. We began to talk about heart / lung medication and we all agreed that it was time to begin treatment for my heart/lung condition.

    It seemed frightening, quite frankly. To have been almost cocky about the fact that I was 34 and had had no formal heart-treatment besides a PDA when I was a baby for all the problems that I have. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for it, but I knew it was time to put on my big girl pants and trust the doctors that have had all their years in medical school by comparison to me and all my zero years spent practicing medicine.

    My heart specialist in particular is beautiful – while wonderful at her job, she is very direct but incredibly rational and calming. I don’t know how she hasn’t grabbed me, clamped my nose and emptied a bottle of pills down my throat just to shut up my neurotic whining.

    So, I had to go to see my respiratory specialist for a special application so that I could get approved for the medication (govt costs are just under $3000, I worked out its around $96 per tablet). While waiting for the medication turn up — as if overnight — I started experiencing swelling in my legs. I have always felt my calf muscles have been tight and at times it hurt to squat down in gym or so forth, but I didn’t really think they were swollen. However, in this situation, my feet blew up.

    At first it was a little uncomfortable, but soon it got to the point that walking was very uncomfortable and painful. A couple of instances, the swelling was so bad that I could barely walk and shoes hurt to wear. I began dreading getting out of bed because I knew that if it had at all gone down overnight, it would soon blow up again as soon as I woke up.

    My breathing? Totally to shit. It got so bad that I couldn’t walk in to the next room without huffing and puffing. In one instance, standing stationery to peg clothes on clothes horse made me so breathless that I had to sit down for a rest half way through. I was getting girlfriends to drop me off to the door of my work to save me having to walk the 50m from the car park.

    I called my dad in an absolute state and sent him photos, showing how swollen my feet were. I was scared but I knew something wasn’t right. I just wanted some assurance that it wasn’t anxiety for once. He ordered me to call my heart specialist and organise to see her immediately. Thankfully, that night I received a reminder text about a respiratory appointment I had the next day that I forgot about.

    It took me almost 20 min to walk from the hospital car park to the doctor’s office that day. I was frightened almost to tears. I explained that I was so out of breath. He seemed quite nonchalant about it which annoyed me. He examined me, didn’t say very much. I mentioned the swelling in my feet which I could already feel blowing up. He touched them, examined my legs and said nothing. I told him how long it took from the hospital car park to his suite. He asked if I’d been treated for fluid before. Nope.

    I explained how I’d asked a different doctor in the past if my legs were swollen and he’d said no. This respiratory specialist just shrugged and said that even to look at there was a lot of fluid retention. So I went home with a prescription of two fluid drugs (Lasix and spiro-something-or-other).

    The next few days were a classic comedy of urine-related errors, including having to pee behind the local scout hall because I didn’t have the ability to get out of the car and to a toilet that was less than a step or two away. Or when I’d totally given up caring, and peed on the side of the road in open view of every passer-by and when I was beeped at, I raised my arm with a thumbs-up.

    Better than one wetting one’s pants, no?  When I’d been to see the heart specialist about taking the new drug, I’d weighed around 71kgs which is actually quite a lot for me. The respiratory specialist asked me to weigh myself before starting the fluid drugs. I was 79kgs! So in just a few weeks, I’d put on all of that weight so quickly in just fluid.

    In less than week of taking the tablets, I’d lost around 5kgs. I hadn’t quite got my head around the liquid intake, how to alter everything so that I don’t consume too much and make the rest null and void…. After about three weeks on the lasix, I got some swelling back, not a lot, just a little — but that’s possibly because I thought I needed to drink more so I didn’t become dehydrated.

    Sooooo to cut a long story short(ish [because I have to go watch Bachelor in Paradise… yep, I know, I know, behind these brains is the mush that just loves trash TV]), after visiting both specialists again last week, I have been put on a triple dose of Lasix, some potassium tablets and have dropped another almost 4 kgs (after putting on 1.5kg again) and the difference in my energy and breathing is amazing.

    I went to the gym on wednesday night, I went to the gym again today with R. We went grocery shopping and I was walking ahead of him (not trailing behind) and when he said something smart, I even ran (yes!) after him maniacally with the trolley at his heels in the middle of Woolies… also I went screaming down the aisle flat-chat when he said we should get ice cream. No recovery time needed.

    I have my fingers crossed that things can stay at an even keel.

    After my appointment with my heart specialist, I was given a diary to record my fluid intake and my weight loss while taking them and had a sit down with the heart failure coordinator regarding how to go about a low sodium diet. Whenever anyone mentions heart failure symptoms (and I see my symptoms on it), I used to panic, but I think that taking things one day at a time is the best way to deal and to understand that its just a label for someone who has a really, really, really shit heart (like me) and unfortunately a fairly ordinary lung situation.

    I do wish my Mum was around to hold my hand and give me a hug — but in a way I feel like I’ve had to do some serious growing up in the health department over the past two years and have learned that burying my head in the sand and pretending everything is fine is actually going to be counter productive to my health going forward. I need to face it all head on and understand and have it rationalised to me and put the trust in to my wonderful doctors, because doctors that make concessions for my mental health despite it not being their field AND my physical health have been absolutely key in making this part of my life feel emotionally manageable without Mum being here with me.

    So that’s where we are at. I just ended my triple dose of Lasix today and hopefully now with a better understanding of my fluid intake and the education about sodium reduction, I can keep the fluid off me and continue losing it.

    Now that’s out of the way, it’s time for Bachie in Paradise — although its half over, so I may as well just watch it later.

    Love, Jessica Louise.

    It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover (Book Review)

    It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover Book Review 

    Remember when I was writing a new book review almost every week? Yeah… well, now I kind of have no time to write about every single book I devour — but I’ve read a few special books this year and I felt like this book is important.

    Despite the fact that the subject matter of Hoover’s close-to-home plot could prove to be a little trigger-y for some, all young women should try to read this.

    Lily meets Ryle on the night of her father’s funeral. They find common ground after some witty banter and a connection is formed. He is everything she wants and needs, their love is passionate; he is sweet, considerate, compassionate, funny — and of course he is incredible to look at and is a neurosurgeon.

    Ryle ticks all the right boxes as do most men who end up physically abusing their loved ones.

    Lily is a smart woman who’s mother was a victim of domestic abuse. She would never become her mother but trying to reconcile Ryle’s actions in the heat of the moment compared to the larger portion of her time with him makes for a very hard line to draw.

    Complicating things, a piece of Lily’s past catches up with her makes her situation more problematic.

    The plot unravels and leaves Lily with a better understanding of her mother, makes her less quick to judge other women who have been in her mother’s position. It also leaves Lily with very important decisions to make that will define her future.

    People spend so much time wondering why the women don’t leave. Where are all the people that wonder why the men are even abusive? Isn’t that where the only blame should be placed?

    Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t without some flaws. Some moments in the book were contrived. Sometimes it felt like the characters felt a little empty because their relationship was simply telling each other how much they loved one another, or just sex, not any real developmental dialogue.

    Overall though, this has been one of my fav reads of 2017. And I say read loosely, I listened to the audiobook on an 8hr journey from Melbourne to Canberra.

    San Remo Bake House – Donuts and other baked goods!

    There are some amazing places to find food on the Bass Coast — I should know, its no secret that I enjoy partaking in a little bit of food now and then (cough, cough) — but San Remo Bakehouse is something else entirely.

    Located in at 153-155 Marine Pde, San Remo, Victoria, this ultimate gem of a bakehouse produces such high quality baked goods that I would argue shows up any other Melbourne-based bakeries or bakehouses.

    Owner Roberta’s bakehouse is known for its award-winning pies and artisan breads.

    I’m not really one for a sweet-tooth, but when it comes to donuts and pastries, I would push children out of the way to get to them first (kidding….. sort of!). My friend and workmate, Sophie tried a couple of donuts first and were blown away by how amazing and fluffy they were.

    The San Remo bakehouse donuts are sublime and absolutely to-die-for. Sophie and I consider ourselves as donut connoisseurs, given our regular trips to Daniel’s Donuts in Springvale and other assorted donut outlets throughout Melbourne and beyond. In our humble opinions, San Remo Bakehouse offers some of the best and original donuts we have ever tried.

    We shared what was both our favourite; the Creme Brule donut. It was soft and airy to bite in to with a sweet (but not sickly) toffee shell adorning the outside. I knew Sophie and I were in total agreement about how great this donut creation was when she let out a Homer-Simpson-Esque, “MmmMmmmmm”, complete with the drool dripping from the corner of her mouth. (Not really).

    We tried some others, the cinnamon donut — to be honest, I could have devoured a dozen of these on my own, but in the interest of being polite and sharing (and also keeping my svelt waistline), I managed to talk myself out of stealing them and hiding in a closet and treating myself to the entire box.

    On another occasion, Sophie and I sampled the other heavenly delights that San Remo Bakehouse has to offer.

     

    We cut this beautiful masterpiece pastry in half and bit in to it eagerly. The pastry was light and flakey with just the right amount of crunch and inside revealed a custard that made Sophie make her Homer Simpson noise again and me, weak at the knees. With almond slivers finishing off the crusty, flakey pastry delight, we were left trying to be polite to each other, but really wanting to devour the rest without sharing.

    SanRemo

    We agreed that it was absolutely sublime and unlike anything we’ve had in the past.

    Next we dug in to the apricot danish. Similarly, the pastry was fresh and light and a little bit crunchy. Sophie enjoyed this one more than me because truthfully, I’ve never been a big fan of apricot — Sophie, however, gave it compliments that were the equivalent to George Colombaris dropping his spoon in shock (the good kind) and walking away from the plate (if you’re not down with Masterchef, then think of Mark Holden with his stupid touch-downs).

    SanRemo

    Lastly, we got in to the muffins.

    Honestly, I don’t really know what was inside these soft, moist delights, but it was heaven in my mouth. I probably could have eaten a dozen of these as well…. I am not really a huge fan of muffins, but these were more on the side of cupcakes to me. The blueberries inside were generous, not like other muffins that give you just a suspicion of the flavour and no love was spared while making these.

    SanRemo Bakehouse

    Overall, you can truly tell that Roberta and whoever else she works with at this bakehouse are in love with what they do because these artisan pastries, bread and donuts are made with absolute love and care and are a dream for anyone who is in to cake, baked sweets and … donuts (and let’s face it, who isn’t in to donuts?!).

    The San Remo Bakehouse is a winner to us, so we highly recommend this to everyone!