Friday, September 8, 2017

Coming Soon!


Review: Secrets Between Friends

Title: Secrets Between Friends
Author: Fiona Palmer
Publisher: 12 September 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:

Friendship is a million little moments, but can it survive this one? Three friends embark on a luxury cruise to celebrate their ten-year reunion in this heartfelt story of how long-held secrets can catch up with even the best of friends

Life was about living, experiencing and emotions. The good and the bad. You had to laugh to cry. You had to love to hurt. You had to jump to fall or fly.

Best friends Abbie, Jess and Ricki are set to recreate a school trip they took ten years earlier to the historic port town of Albany, the oldest city on the stunning turquoise coastline of Western Australia.

Ricki, a dedicated nurse, harbours a dream she hasn't chased. Is she actually happy or stuck in a rut?

Jess, a school teacher and single mother to little Ollie, had a tough upbringing but found her way through with the help of her closest male friend, Peter. But Peter has bought an engagement ring and is ready to propose to Ricki . . .

Abbie had it all: a career, a loving boyfriend and a future, but a visit to the doctor bears scary news. Her world is tumbling down and she feels adrift at sea.

SECRETS BETWEEN FRIENDS is a poignant novel of romance, family dynamics and friendship. Through her highly relatable, sympathetic characters, beloved Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer writes about issues, experiences and emotions we have all faced while posing the ultimate question: What is really important in this life?

My Thoughts

I was keen to sample Fiona Palmer’s first time dalliance out of her ‘rural romance’ genre. Here is a tale of best friends, Jess, Abbie and Ricki (and Ricki's boyfriend, Peter) who decide to take a three-day cruise down the coast of Western Australia. As the title of the book indicates, there most definitely are some very serious ‘secrets between friends’ that all come to a head during this short cruise. Will their long term friendship be able to withstand the revelations and confrontations that, in the confines of ship life, there will be no escape from?

Once again I reveled in the setting - Australia - and this time, sailing on a familiar cruise line. As the girls and Peter make the most of life onboard the ship and the trip to Albany and back, there was much to enjoy. Being a ‘cruiser’ myself, I found the descriptions realistic and accurate. For those of you in any way interested in cruising, this gives a lovely little insight into life onboard.

‘Gee, they really pack a lot of events into a day aboard the ship don’t they?’

‘... that was life on the ship. You could partake in all the activities, some or none.’

The concept of secrets amongst friends is not a new one, however, I just found their tiffs and selfishness difficult to swallow at times. Sadly, I didn’t really enjoy the characters that much because of it.

‘Problems going on with my friends. Secrets and indiscretions, surprises.’ She shrugged.
‘We came here to celebrate, but today all we’ve done is yell at each other.’

Each of the girls have personal issues to contend with from the desire to follow a dream, to single motherhood, to health concerns. So there is much to relate to and it was interesting to see how events played out. I appreciated the realism and how confrontational certain aspects were presented and handled. I am sure that many of Fiona Palmer's fans will enjoy taking a trip alongside the three friends and appreciate that life is not always smooth with bonds often being stretched to breaking point.

‘Life can seem great one minute and then a shit-hole mess the next. What do we do, Abbie?’
‘We do the only thing we can do. Live each day as it comes, try to be good people while pursuing happiness.’
It sounded easy. But it wasn’t.


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club

Title: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club
Author: Sophie Green
Publisher: 8 August  2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, outback Australia
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

Synopsis:
Books bring them together - but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author.
In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.
Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe's designated successor but he has left the Territory - for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother's place. But that doesn't stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child. With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben's English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.
Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick. Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.
If you loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul and The Thorn Birds you will devour this story of five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia's Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.
My Thoughts

‘I’m starting a book club –well, that’s obvious.’ She gestured to the paper. ‘We’re all a bit isolated out here, aren’t we? It’s good to have some other people to talk to.’

The blurb had me with ‘book club’ and ‘Thorn Birds’, however, there is so much more to this little gem of a read. Set in the unique time and place - Northern Territory, Australia 1978 - it provides the reader with a realistic portrayal of life on the land in one of the most remote locations of a vast continent; and, how five women form a friendship that began with a love of books but evolved to so much more that saw them bond through good and bad times.

‘You like to read?’ Sybil said, stopping before they reached the table. Sallyanne nodded vigorously. ‘I love it,’ she said. ‘It’s my escape.

Yes, there are some fabulous reads made mention of here and the women’s discussion of the books (not too detailed) evolves into a wider conversation of events that arise in their own lives. Books from ‘The Thorn Birds’ to ‘We of the Never Never’ to ‘Harp in the South’ bring back memories of some classic Australian literature. Add to that the list of real life dates and events that occurred at various stages throughout the telling of this tale - for example: ‘The compact disc is demonstrated in public for the first time, by Phillips’ - will bring a smile to your face as you recall what age you were at these selected occasions.

Next thing to mention is the ‘Outback’ itself - the Northern Territory. The huge distances, the overpowering sense of isolation, the impact of climate and weather, concerning life on a station (ranch). Sophie Green brings all of this to life, as you can clearly envisage the array of practicalities to living so remotely, whether it concern supplies or medical emergencies.

The five female leads are true and strong, each bringing their own unique story to this tale. This is a story of friendship and learning to trust over some truly difficult and challenging circumstances - accidents, illnesses, wet season inaccessibility, domestic violence, isolation - all credible and realistic situations. It’s through the bond they form that makes life that little bit easier.

‘Books give us the benefit of a lot of people’s experiences,’ she said slowly. ‘They give us more options to choose from –more ways to live –than we could ever find on our own.’

Overall this was a joy to read. You become really invested in the characters, appreciating each of the generational challenges and how together, at a time of no internet and difficult communication, they were able to create true and lasting friendships.  I encourage you to ....

“put the kettle on to boil and to hold the inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.”



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: Beautiful Messy Love

Title: Beautiful Messy Love: for a bit of Nicholas Sparks with a pinch of Offspring
Author: Tess Woods
Publisher: 1 August  2017 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:

What happens when love and loyalty collide? Two couples must deal with the consequences of their messy love not just for themselves but for those who depend on them. For lovers of passionate romance in the vein of Nicholas Sparks.


When football star Nick Harding hobbles into the Black Salt Cafe the morning after the night before, he is served by Anna, a waitress with haunted-looking eyes and no interest in footballers famous or otherwise. Nick is instantly drawn to this exotic, intelligent girl. But a relationship between them risks shame for her conservative refugee family and backlash for Nick that could ruin his career.
Meanwhile, Nick's sister, Lily, is struggling to finish her medical degree. When she meets Toby, it seems that for the first time she is following her heart, not the expectations of others. Yet what starts out as a passionate affair with a man who has just buried his wife slips quickly into dangerous dependency.
Through attraction, breakups, triumphs and tragedies, these two couples learn just how much their beautiful messy love might cost. A West Side Story for the modern day.

My Thoughts

This book is receiving great acclaim and I can see why. Divided into three parts, with alternating character chapters, you are provided with great insight into each of the four main leads and how their lives are entwined. With everything from an AFL (Australian Rules Football) Grand Final to asylum seekers - this book truly has it all.

At its heart this is a book that puts a microscope on contemporary Australian living with its honest portrayal of not only multiculturalism, but also drawing attention to the ugly side of social media. Tess Woods gives honest accounts on diversity, prejudice and religion - so very topical and handled so well. Her serious exploration of contemporary issues  are not only wide ranging, but heartfelt and compassionate. Woods shines the light on everything from the plight of asylum seekers, privacy issues in this digital ‘tell all’ age, cross cultural relationships, religious bigotry and the debilitation of depression on all those who come in contact with it.

‘This is the worst situation ever.’
‘It is,’ I agreed.
‘I don’t know how we can make this work. It’s too messy.’
‘I don’t know either, but I know that I really want to try.’

Yes, this is also a tale of two love stories, but Woods definitely strikes a balance between that and the social spotlight investigation. In keeping with the social realist approach, the love here is real with its ‘warts and all’ approach covering not only the joy and passion, but also the loss and heartache. The array of supporting characters, the detail provided to their stories, is also demonstrative of how each has a role to play, adding real depth and support to each of the many themes.

The title could not be more apt - this is a book where the central theme is about finding your way in life, navigating as best you can because it’s not always smooth - it’s messy! Complex! But also, it can be very beautiful!

‘Let me tell you something important –it is better to be a fool who experiences happiness than a genius who misses out.’

This is a powerful and thought provoking book with its contemporary focus on the messiness of life and having strength of character to stay the course, grow and develop despite what others may claim. It’s beautiful, it’s messy, it’s love.

The love I had for the people who surrounded me and the way I loved those I had lost was messy –it was complicated, difficult and sometimes unbearably painful. But that didn’t make it any less beautiful.



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: Persuading Austen

Title: Persuading Austen
Author: Brigid Coady
Publisher: 18 July  2017 by HQ Digital
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that working with an ex is a terrible idea…
Annie Elliot never expected her life to turn out this way: living with her dad, working as an accountant – surely the least glamorous job in Hollywood?! – and dodging her family’s constant bickering.
Landing a job as a producer on a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice seems like the piece of luck she’s been waiting for. Until the cast is announced, and Annie discovers that the actor playing Mr Darcy is Austen Wentworth: the man she’s spent nearly a decade trying to forget.
Not only is Austen her ex – but while Annie’s life has stalled, Austen is Hollywood’s hottest property…and has just been voted World’s Sexiest Man.
With nowhere to hide, there’s just one question. Now the one who got away has come back, should Annie stand by her pride? Or give into Austen’s powers of persuasion?
My Thoughts

‘Who are you living for, Anne? You or them?’ She could still hear Austen saying it. And she knew that he meant it because he called her Anne. And she still couldn’t answer that question eight years later.’

Anything ‘Austen’ captures my attention, so this book came on my radar and what a bit of fun it proved to be - a great and much needed weekend escape. A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ with a touch of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ thrown in for good measure.

One aspect I particularly enjoyed was how the author kept most of the key scenes from the original but put a contemporary twist on them. The storyline was most definitely recognisable, yet Coady did not let it dominate. I loved the ending and how everything was nicely bought together - yes the romance - but with the two leads only trading a few lines in real time (there are flashbacks), it was more about the lead character and her journey. Her success in life was her decisions - not a knight in shining armour - so you witnessed her grow and discover her own voice.

‘Over eight years what had she learned? Nothing. Not one single thing except how to keep on allowing her family to squeeze and mould her into the gaps in their lives. She hadn’t been living; she had been merely existing.’

Being ‘chick lit’ you have to make some concessions. For example, the family will grate on your nerves (‘Sometimes she felt like David Attenborough hiding in the undergrowth, and trying to work out what made them tick’), Annie’s inner dialogue will make you want to shake her at times and some parts are just way out of the ball park - three words for you who will read it - My Little Pony! Wow! At times a bit repetitive - I would love to know on how many occasions the author wrote ‘eight years ago’ - GAH! However, you have to take the good with the bad and it being so light and entertaining compensated for these drawbacks.

This was a fun read. I appreciated the Austen references eg. ‘Northanger Agency’ and there are some funny moments with enough romance but not overbearingly so. I found it to be fast-paced, whizzing through it over a weekend - pure fun and escapism.

‘ You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever…’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: The One That Got Away

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Melissa Pimentel
Publisher: 22 August  2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3 cups

Synopsis:
'A smart, funny retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion that's perfect for a poolside read' Red
Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.
Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.
But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . .
My Thoughts

“Here I was, jet-lagged as all hell, standing in a sixteenth-century pub in the middle of nowhere and giving my ex-boyfriend advice on how to spend his magnificent fortune . . . it was all a bit much.”

I snapped this read up hoping for some modern Austen escapism. From a chick lit perspective it was okay, however, I found the Austen link hard to determine and justify. It’s a pleasant enough read, if a little underwhelming, failing to hit the mark in the spark and romance area. I do not feel that the author truly set the scene in both explaining and capturing the depth of emotion to make it fully engaging and at times, was somewhat silly with the female lead jealous of a dead person!

The structure of the book didn’t quite gel either. Ruby and Ethan’s stories told in two time lines - now and then - was fragmented and difficult to keep track of and didn’t really work for me. It’s not a badly narrated story,  just lacking excitement and pizzazz. There are some worthwhile humourous moments that brought a smile to my face:

“I’d taken myself to see Frozen on a particularly dark day back in January and had found myself sobbing uncontrollably during “Let It Go”

As a modern telling of “Persuasion” (by Jane Austen) it is a bit of a stretch -“second chance” romance is the only real tenuous link. Although a reasonably well-written book, I found it lacking in quite a few areas. Overall, a was nice, light read.

“But here’s the thing that I’d realized: I sort of hated my life. Not entirely—pieces of it were great—but I’d been living on autopilot for too long, wearing grooves in the sidewalk between work and home.”




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: Together

Title: Together
Author: Julie Cohen
Publisher: 11 July 2017 by Hachette/Orion
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:

This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie's actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret - one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes's Me Before You, David Nicholls's One Day and M L Stedman's The Light Between Oceans.

My Thoughts

‘He thinks about you every day. He doesn’t talk about you every day, but sometimes we don’t talk about the most important things to us. Sometimes we can’t.’

Do books often come along at a poignant time in a person’s life? This is such an interesting little book on so many platforms. It is well written and thought provoking, as it shines a light on relationships and family dynamics. However, let me say right from the outset, this is not a soppy, teary book because of romance - there is so much more involved in this little story that really packs a punch.

‘No. I think it’s most likely Alzheimer’s.’ She was brave. Her voice didn’t waver at all when she said it.’

‘Sometimes people just have to stay distant,’ she said.’

‘Emily stepped forward, feeling, for the first time, a stirring of anger at her own family.’

It took me a little while to get into this book. I had to put it down and come back to it a week later, as I did not think I was in the right frame of mind to read it. Starting with a devastating event, I was unsure if I was up for the journey. However, it all changed after a couple of chapters and I shall tell you why.

The book is written backwards. Highly unusual and requires flicking back and forth as the brain does not really compute that way. But really, when you think about it, it is probably the only way this tale could be told. From a writing perspective, it is quite incredible and most definitely unique - at the end you want to go back to the beginning and read it over with fresh eyes.

The author presents Robbie and Emily at key stages of their lives, commencing at 2016 until the final date of 1962 - which is of course, the beginning and when they first met. Each stage reveals a little more of the story, but also leaves with you with questions. There are twists and turns along the way, and the ending .... wow .... I did not see that coming. Then, and only then, do all the pieces fall into place regarding Emily and why she is estranged from her family. The ‘mystery’ that had been hovering over story up until this moment is revealed.

Overall, this is an unusual book, for both the way it is set out and the issues it tackles. Try not to let that distract you from what is in fact, a most thought provoking tale.

‘Sometimes we don’t know the moments that are going to be significant to us, not until later when we look back and reflect.’



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release