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Unpacking for Greece: Travel in a land of fortresses, fables, ferries and feta by Sally Jane Smith

I met Sally Jane Smith, the author of Unpacking for Greece, some time ago through a Facebook memoir author’s group we both belong to. I knew she was originally from South Africa, that she now lives in Australia, and that she was writing her own memoir although not about either of those countries, which intrigued me. So last year when she was seeking beta readers for her manuscript among the members of the group, I jumped at the chance. By this time, I also knew Sally to be a perfectionist who was eager to receive feedback about her writing, and I enjoyed all the discussion her memoir generated between us.

I am therefore delighted to report that Sally’s book, Unpacking for Greece: Travel in a land of fortresses, fables, ferries and feta is now due for release on June the 1st. This is an inspiring account of a trip to Greece taken to rediscover her love of travel. Formerly an inveterate solo world wanderer, her confidence was literally shattered by an appalling accident on a bus in Sri Lanka and it was years before she collected up her bags and her courage to embark on this journey through Greece, a land steeped in history and packed with heritage sites she’d long wanted to explore.

This book is about more than just a physical journey, however. It is also a personal road to healing as well as a reconnection with her mother’s past. Sally’s reading matter is another important theme in the book as she enjoys pairing books to places, and her pleasure at seeing what she was reading was palpable.

Unpacking for Greece is, for me, a keeper. I loved the layers, the quiet humour, the thoughtful reflections and the sheer beauty of Sally’s lyrical writing. I learnt about the loveliness of Santorini, Rhodes and Monemvasia. I visited chapels, temples and archaeological sites I have never seen but feel I have, and I will read it again, more than once. It is a deeply personal memoir; Sally Smith does not shy away from examining her own ethics, attitudes and insecurities, and I found it profoundly moving as a result. Do I recommend it? Absolutely, and without reserve!

Available for pre-order now, you can find Unpacking for Greece on all Amazon marketplaces. This is the link to the Amazon US site, but if you replace the ‘com’ with your own country’s extension, you’ll find it there. Order it, buy it! It’s a very special book.

My very own copy. I’m so pleased to have it!

Daydreams and Narcoleptic Nightmares by John Cornelius Rogers. Edited by S Bavey

I’ve dipped in and out of this collection of memoirs over the past couple of months, which is one of the strengths of the book. Because each chapter is a standalone account, there is no problem with continuity. In fact it is a diverse and interesting selection of stories and observations from a man who battled narcolepsy and cataplexy throughout his life. However, his condition didn’t prevent him living a full life and I particularly liked the chapters about the second world war, his experiences in teaching and about how he dealt with his narcolepsy medication.

For poetry lovers, there are also some well-penned poems at the end. Altogether, it is an entertaining read. This collection is also very well edited by his daughter, S Bavey. Recommended for readers who like anecdotal memoirs about times gone by.

The link to the book is here

Wake Me Up for The Elephants by Marjory McGinn

I have been a fan of Marjory McGinn’s writing since I first read Things Can Only Get Feta, and I’ve read every one of her captivating books. This memoir is just as good as the others, but even better, the author takes us travelling to countries across the globe recounting trips she did in the past, many of which were for her journalism job in the 1990s. I started in Kenya at the famous Treetops hotel; I then went to Australia, Fiji, Scotland, Ireland and Greece.

What an adventurous life Marjory has lived, both as a single journalist and with her husband, Jim. I enjoyed each of the stories; they are all so well written, but those about Kenya, Australia, Ireland and the north of Scotland made the greatest impression. There is a wealth of information, local colour and humour in all the accounts. There are also some moving and poignant reflections, and it was lovely to travel so widely and learn so much. Thank you, Marjory. This was a marvellous book. I loved it!

The link to the book is here

Normal service will be resumed soon

This blog has been a bit empty for a while. It’s not that I haven’t been reading; it’s simply because I haven’t been able to write and post reviews for a number of reasons.

However, I’m happy to report that I will be posting memoir reviews here again soon as I have some catching up to do. In the meantime, here are some covers of memoirs I’ve recently read. They were all great!

Indie Spotlight – Rex Burke

A great interview with the writer Rex Burke whose new book was featured on my previous post.

Sue's Musings

Rex Burke is the SciFi pen name of travel writer Jules Brown. A huge SciFi fan since childhood, Rex always dreamed of travelling to the stars, but spaceships were in short supply in his neighbourhood. So he wrote his own way across the galaxy in his first novel, Orphan Planet, and when the characters kind of took over, he found he’d produced a trilogy, the Odyssey Earth series.

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Welcome to Indie Spotlight, Rex!

What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?

I’ve been publishing travel books independently for several years now – well, not me, obviously, that bloke Jules – so when it came to putting out my first novel, I figured I already knew the ropes. I did this one a bit differently, though, in the sense that I…

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Cover reveal!! Orphan Planet by Rex Burke

I don’t normally post anything other than memoir reviews here, but Rex Burke is also a memoir writer (by another name) whose books I love, so I’m looking forward to giving his science fiction a go.

And just to invite you a bit further into Rex’s world, here is the blurb of his new book, a real sci-fi adventure:

With Earth in crisis, humans are travelling deep into space. But humanity’s future just took a wrong turn.

A seventeen-year colony-ship voyage – a straight shot to a new planet. Handpicked, single-minded crew, and a thousand settlers in hypersleep. No children, no families, no fuss.

That was the plan, anyway.

Captain Juno Washington commands a ship of loners and oddballs. The teenagers of the Odyssey Earth didn’t ask to be born, and face an uncertain future. And Jordan Booth really didn’t want to be woken up early.

After an unexpected change of course, relationships are tested like never before. If they listen to advice, pull together and stop squabbling, they might just make it.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

Like the sound of it? You can pre-order the novel from Amazon here:

And here is the cover…..ta da!!

And….last but absolutely not least, here is Rex himself. Anyone recognise him? 🙂

I personally know Rex to be a truly skilled and accomplished writer. That’s an objective comment. However, I love his sense of humour too, which I’m aware is subjective. Nevertheless, I’m sure Orphan Planet will be a well-written, fun and page-turning read. Give it a try. I’m going to!

Inheriting our Names: an imagined true memoir of Spain’s pact of forgetting by C. Vargas-McPherson

I’m still reeling from the experience of reading this book. It is so profoundly moving I’m having a hard time processing what the author’s maternal family went through during Franco’s brutal dictatorship in Spain. 

Part reconstruction based on family stories, letters and history and part personal memoir, C. Vargas-McPherson has woven individual facts and anecdotes into a compelling narrative with the help of imaginary interactions and real events. Being the second daughter born under sad circumstances to a mother who was also a second daughter conceived in Spain’s tragic civil war, the author heads for Seville in an effort to discover the stories behind the sorrow, as well as her spiritual and historical home. What she learned, uncovered and experienced found voice in this remarkable, evocative and sometimes harrowing true story.

Having recently spent time in Seville in the areas where her family lived, I could visualise their lives, their homes and the vibrancy of the barrios, as well as feel the cut and pain of the shocking reign of oppression that left thousands dead and even more starving. 

This exceptional and beautifully written book switches from her grandmother’s dialogues with the Virgin Mary to the story of her grandparents’ lives during a period of Spain’s cruellest history to the author’s own experiences in Spain and earlier. It is sometimes a little difficult to keep track and I would have loved to know more about her own childhood, but I was riveted from start to finish. This book is a literary triumph as well as being a fascinating memoir and biography. Very highly recommended!

The link to the book is here on Amazon US, but it is available on all marketplaces

Monkeys on the Road by Mary Hollendoner

I won this book in a draw some time ago and am very glad I’ve now read it. What an adventure Mary Hollendoner and her family had as they drove their Vancito through South America. The heroine of the book, for me, was their little daughter Lilly, whose sunny nature and practical acceptance of everything the journey threw at them were quite remarkable. I also very much enjoyed reading about the people they met in each of the countries they travelled through and also about the stunning scenery.

My only regret is that there were so many gaps in time and place because I found keeping up with the timeline a bit confusing. I realise there is a limit to how long a book can be, but I would have liked the whole story, maybe in three books instead of one. I also found it a little repetitive in places. That said, it was a fascinating travelogue with some unimaginable experiences and I take my hat off to this spunky family. Recommended!

The link to the book on Amazon US is here:

When I grow up I want to be a Chair by Ryan Rae Harbuck

A remarkably powerful and deeply emotional memoir. The way Ryan Rae Harbuck uses language is both evocative and plain spoken, as well as lyrical and aggressive. Hats off to this courageous young woman for not only surviving a horrific accident but also for surviving the complexities of her family situation and growing into the fulfilled woman she clearly is today.

This memoir is an exploration into the feelings behind the challenges she faced. It is sometimes difficult reading; it is gripping and unusual, but it is immensely inspiring.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here

Mad Cows and Englishmen

I’ve recently finished reading this highly entertaining memoir about Liza and Gary Grantham’s move from the Canary Islands to a remote village in Galicia.

In a kind of reverse role situation, they escape from the sun-drenched beaches of their island home to renovate an old stone village house in the wettest, coldest part of Spain. This page-turning account covers their discovery of Galicia, their hunt for a home, the move itself and their first months among the quirky colourful Galicians who live in their village. There are challenges, disasters and delights too. Spanish property laws seem to be fraught with unexpected problems and all too often they are faced with unwelcome surprises that include trespassing cows and misplaced chicken runs, but they bravely soldier on and fall in love with Galicia in the process. 

By the end of the book, they are well entrenched in the countryside with chickens, a dog, the cat who came with them and a list of jobs still to be done. Liza Grantha writes clever, witty and sometimes poignant poems that serve as chapter separators and make lively reading. I’m looking forward to book 2 now to see what happens next! I loved the book and recommend it without reserve for anyone who enjoys rural life, renovation and moving abroad memoirs.

the link to the Kindle version on Amazon US is here, but it’s available in all regions.