I left a piece of my heart on the pages of The Nightingale. I could quite honestly leave it at that as I'm not sure I have the words to convey how mucI left a piece of my heart on the pages of The Nightingale. I could quite honestly leave it at that as I'm not sure I have the words to convey how much this book affected me.
I read quite a bit of WWII fiction and nonfiction but at the risk of sounding cliched The Nightingale was different. I was incapable of putting it down, sleep paled into insignificance as Vianne and Isabelle's story took hold and I finished it at 3am, emotionally wrung out.
Kristin Hannah captures the horror, the hunger, the heart, the biting contrast between humanity and inhumanity with an eloquence that left me breathless and ugly crying. Alongside the atrocities there are moments of great tenderness, love and always hope. This story is one big 'feel' and that's what makes it unforgettable.
Andrée de Jongh, the young Belgium woman who established an escape network over the Pyrenees which later became known as the Comet Line was Hannah's inspiration for Isabelle. It doesn't seem to matter how much I read of the holocaust the unimaginable horror never lessens in intensity. But The Nightingale recognises the quiet courage, strength and determination of women, those who protected friends, saved Jewish children, sacrificed and survived, made gut wrenching choices, worked in the Resistance, risked their lives for strangers, endured the unthinkable, died fighting evil. Those like Isabelle and Vianne ...
I've read many of Kristin Hannah's books, I love her writing. Winter Garden is a favourite but The Nightingale is exceptional. I'll go out on a limb and say it's one of the best books I've read ... the kind of best that lands a novel on my books-to-be-buried-with list. I can't stop thinking about it, my heart hurts ... ...more
Most of you know I'm a huge Tudor fan and having just walked many of the places I've been reading about in historical fiction for years it gives a newMost of you know I'm a huge Tudor fan and having just walked many of the places I've been reading about in historical fiction for years it gives a new level of 'feeling' to my reading. I found The Light in the Labyrinth to be a well written blending of historical fact and imagination and I think the author's notes clarify that Wendy Dunn's imaginings are indeed plausible.
We follow Catherine (Kate) Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn and niece of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's 2nd wife as she joins her Aunt Nan at court. Whilst the painting of Anne Boleyn may not be as many of us view her, I found it quite sweet to see her through Kate's adoring and naive eyes.
Kate quickly matures as she's confronted with not only the reality of her birth but her Aunt's fall from favour, as powerful men like Thomas Cromwell conspire to bring about the Queen's downfall. I love and crave more detail but remembering the target audience, there's enough political intrigue and court treachery to satisfy a Tudor enthusiast without overwhelming someone new to the period.
The Light in the Labyrinth only covers the last few months of Anne Boleyn's life and not a lot happens as such but I found it a quick, enjoyable read. What surprised me, given how much Tudor fiction I've read, was the emotion of the Queen's final days in the tower, accompanied by loyal Kate and the 'care' of Anne Boleyn following her execution. ...more
Absolutely mesmerising, Kate Forsyth takes the magic of storytelling to a realm above and beyond.
From the frivolity and excesses of the 17th centuryAbsolutely mesmerising, Kate Forsyth takes the magic of storytelling to a realm above and beyond.
From the frivolity and excesses of the 17th century Court of Versailles to austere French cloisters and 16th century Renaissance Venice. I'm fascinated by this period in history, Kate's research and superb imagery give a perceptible sense of time and place and her breathtaking imagination brings the Rapunzel fairytale to life. I loved the vivid descriptions of affairs, betrayals, politics, fashion, entertainments, the horror of the plague, persecution of Heugenots, (Protestants) recantings and executions, the Affair of the Poisons where many were sentenced by the Chambre Ardente under charges of witchcraft and poisonings. I probably sound like a bit of a freak but I love it all, the history both fascinates and terrifies me.
Bitter Greens unfolds from the perspective of three extraordinary characters; the wonderful Charlotte-Rose de La Force, confined to the Abbey of Gercy-en-Brie after displeasing the Sun King, Louis XIV, the young girl Margherita, nicknamed Persinette (little Parsley) imprisoned in a tower (her story told by nun, Soeur Seraphina on befriending Charlotte-Rose) and the beautiful courtesan Selena Leonelli, 'La Strega Bella' ... her story both heartbreaking and horrifying.
Bitter Greens is a dark tale; love, desire, power and vengeance pulling at each other. So much sorrow, heartache and cruelty but hope and love the constants that eventually offer redemption.
Bitter Greens holds a world you slip into effortlessly, disappearing for hours, binding you, haunting and bittersweet ... I was alternately desperate to know and longing to savour. It's a must-read.
Kate Forsyth truly does weave magic!
I also loved Kate's The Wild Girl ... (a 5 star favourite) but oh my, Bitter Greens is my favourite of favourites!
Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force was a French noblewoman, novelist and poet. Her fairytale collection written during her banishment included 'Persinette' eventually renamed Rapunzel.
After falling in love with Sherryl Caulfield's exquisite writing and Seldom Come By earlier this year, I've been a wee bit excited waiting f4.5 stars
After falling in love with Sherryl Caulfield's exquisite writing and Seldom Come By earlier this year, I've been a wee bit excited waiting for Come What May. Beginning Come What May, my friend Karen (who guest reviews on The Eclectic Reader) was angst-texting me as she read Seldom Come By ... all the emotion of that epic love story came rushing back.
Sherryl writes from the heart, her affinity with nature and the love and care she takes with her characters is evident. Come What May is such a sensory feast, lyrical writing, whether the simplest of phrases or vividly descriptive, it played like a movie in my mind.
I didn't have the same connection with Gene as I did with her mother Rebecca in Seldom Come By but what I loved was the emotion that Sherryl Caulfield pulled from me ... dislike, guilt, admiration, horror, sadness, so much sadness, but joy too. I love it when an author's writing encourages you to consider more and judge less, I like being encouraged to think about a person's character, their motivations. For me it means an author has done her job brilliantly, whether I ultimately like a character or not.
Having finished Come What May, I'm still torn about Gene; she's complex, there's a lot going on with her, some of it confronting, which had me constantly swinging between compassion and dislike but then there were times when the sun shone through and I saw 'her'.
Auld Lang Syne was one of those moments ... without fail Auld Lang Syne brings me to tears, so much emotion and so many memories in those simple words.
I loved the scenes describing the Canadian wilderness, Cree culture, the running of the huskies, I love Gene's brothers; for their good hearts, for all they have been through. And Sonny, my hero ... I love you.
There's so much more I want to say about Come What May, it's a difficult one to review without spoilers, so let me finish with ... I'm emotionally wrung out, but oh my heart, I loved it.
Come Full Circle can't come soon enough ......more
Fascinating, horrifying, evocative; Karen Brooks' meticulous research and eloquent writing took me to medieval England in the 1400's ... from the fictFascinating, horrifying, evocative; Karen Brooks' meticulous research and eloquent writing took me to medieval England in the 1400's ... from the fictional town of Elmham Lenn to Southwark, London and Gloucester and the world of ale-making.
Anneke Sheldrake is such an interesting character, what she endures while establishing herself as a brewster, plagued by prejudice, sabotage and tragedy made for harrowing reading. I found the entire brewing process surprisingly fascinating ... ale, hops, beer, the ale crones, ale-conners, taxes, laws, fines, bizarre punishments and corruption.
And what a wonderful cast of characters ... Betje, Adam, Captain Stoyan, Leander, Alyson; their fierce loyalty and unwavering friendship providing a beautiful sense of family and a lightness to balance out this story. I fell in love with them, especially Alyson, the feisty owner of the Swanne bathhouse, that woman had a heart of gold.
To keep it spoiler free I won't mention the antagonist by name, I'll just say it's been a while since I've hated a character with such passion. ...would the evil bastard ever die?? Maybe it was simply a case of 50 pages too many ...
The author's historical notes were a great bonus, I didn't pick up that Alyson was Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath and this is Karen Brooks' take on her life beyond The Canterbury Tales.
All up The Brewer's Tale was a page turner, rich with historical detail and characters to love and hate. ...more
Anna Romer earned herself a fan with her debut Thornwood House and with Lyrebird Hill she cements her position as a voice to be reckoned with in AustrAnna Romer earned herself a fan with her debut Thornwood House and with Lyrebird Hill she cements her position as a voice to be reckoned with in Australian fiction ... an exceptionally talented writer.
I adored every minute of Lyrebird Hill. For me Anna Romer is synonymous with lyrical, atmospheric writing; of such haunting and addictive quality you savour every word. Once again it's a seamless blending of contemporary and historical narrative, Ruby 2013 and Brenna 1898 ... past and present intertwine with dark secrets and pain.
Ruby Cardel returns to her childhood home Lyrebird Hill to unlock memories and the mystery of her sister's death. With the discovery of Brenna's diary and letters, Romer weaves the mesmerising story of two women seeking truth, generations and 115 years apart.
Lyrebird Hill never feels like a story being told. Some of our shameful history and treatment of aborigines made me cry with sorrow and outrage. The Australian landscape is so lushly described, I was immersed, my senses evoked ... eucalypts, camp fires, the scent of bush flowers, birdsong, Brenna's connection with the land and the aboriginal people tangible.
I rarely read books again. For its exquisite beauty Lyrebird Hill is one I will....more
I enjoyed The Darkest Hour but it's far from my favourite Barbara Erskine. It's my first time listening to Sandra Duncan, she did a wonderful3.5 stars
I enjoyed The Darkest Hour but it's far from my favourite Barbara Erskine. It's my first time listening to Sandra Duncan, she did a wonderful job with narration and I'd certainly pick up something narrated by her again. I didn't give the 20+ hours a thought when I bought The Darkest Hour, I was only interested in getting into the latest from one of my favourite authors but if I'm being honest, this one dragged at times.
The plot moves effortlessly and distinctly between WWII the Battle of Britain and the present day as art historian Lucy Standish delves into war artist Evie Lucas's mysterious past and gathers research for her biography.
The time-slip tale is something Barbara Erskine does exceptionally well and I was interested in both Evie and Lucy's story. The descriptions of airfields, raids, the pilots and their planes were well researched and evocative so I really enjoyed those scenes.
However, I much prefer Barbara Erskine's ancient history 'hauntings' to the ghostly premise in The Darkest Hour ... this one just didn't have the same tragic or sinister pull.
Recommend: enjoyable but too easily put down....more
I was introduced to Isolde Martyn with Mistress to the Crown, which I enjoyed and her latest novel The Golden Widows, even more so. I seriously can'tI was introduced to Isolde Martyn with Mistress to the Crown, which I enjoyed and her latest novel The Golden Widows, even more so. I seriously can't get enough of the historical players in the War of the Roses, whilst I'm well-read on the history, Isolde Martyn's uniquely fascinating perspective made for a refreshing read.
The story sashays back and forth between Yorkist widow Kate Neville (cousin to King Edward IV and sister to the influential Richard Neville, known in history as Warwick the Kingmaker) and Lancastrian widow Elysabeth Woodville. Isolde Martyn's attention to detail ensures both women are entirely accessible and equally captivating.
Elysabeth and Kate are strong, intelligent, passionate women, protective of their children. The Golden Widows explores their struggles, tears and triumphs, the fight to claim a widow's dower, reverse attainders, regain a child's inheritance and pursue happiness.
I just love Elysabeth Woodville's story, yup I'm totally a White Queen fan and I also really enjoyed seeing the relationship blossom between Kate Neville and William Hastings, the King's chamberlain.
An interesting aside, it took me a little while to work out where Katherine Neville, Duchess of Norfolk sat in the scheme of things ... Aunt to Katherine (Kate) Neville, Baroness Hastings (just in case you're the slightest bit interested lol.) The Duchess of Norfolk's fourth and last marriage was to John Woodville, brother of Elizabeth Woodville ... their marriage earned the nickname the "diabolical marriage" - HA wonder if that had anything to do with the 'scandalous' age difference - John at 19 and Katherine 65.
The Golden Widows is a believable blending of historical fact and embellishment, a good fix for War of the Roses insatiables and historical fiction fans. My only complaint, I didn't want it to end. ...more
That ethereal cover caught my eye, (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) the synopsis appealed and when I discovered Thornwood House was th4.5 stars
That ethereal cover caught my eye, (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) the synopsis appealed and when I discovered Thornwood House was the work of Australian author Anna Romer, I had to have it. Thornwood House is a beautiful atmospheric read, where the past and present collide in dark secrets and obsession.
Audrey Kepler welcomes the chance for a fresh start with her daughter Bronwyn when she inherits an old homestead in the small town of Magpie Creek in South East Queensland. Thornwood House was the childhood home of Bronwyn's father, Tony.
Thornwood House holds tragic history - an old photo, letters and a diary open the door on a haunting love story and murder and mystery spanning four generations.
Reading Anna Romer's website; Magpie Creek is based on the actual town of Boonah ... I spent quite a bit of time in the area growing up and Anna captures the essence of rural Queensland, the beauty and harshness of the Australian landscape ... her writing is a sensory treat.
Eerie, haunting ... Eloise Oxer's narration adds that extra special something to the story.
Anna Romer is a fresh new voice in Australian fiction; with her debut novel she's earned herself a fan. I'll definitely be picking up her next book. ...more
I loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory but with Goodnight June Sarah Jio catapults straight onto my favourite author list. As a book lover and unabaI loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory but with Goodnight June Sarah Jio catapults straight onto my favourite author list. As a book lover and unabashed re-reader of childhood favourites, I adored Goodnight June.
June inherits Bluebird Books after the death of her great aunt Ruby and it was that quaint bookstore, holding so much history, memories and secrets that held me captivated. Then June discovers the letters of friendship and support between Ruby and Brownie (children's author Margaret Wise Brown) and I was mesmerised ... what a joy to read, sincere and heartwarming.
Sarah Jio blends the past and present seamlessly with these letters and I had a hard time remembering that it was in fact, fiction ... that the origin and inspiration for Goodnight Moon was a wonderful imagining.
Goodnight Moon is a childhood classic near and dear to my heart, not so much for the story now but the memories it evokes. Read to me by my mum, the soothing rhythm, bunny's bedtime routine and effort to delay sleep holds universal appeal, and I have my mum's old copy which makes it extra special.
It took me a while to warm to June, hardened by her profession and success, but as she reevaluated her life and realised the importance of family and forgiveness she won me over. And all that professional knowledge proved useful in her fight to save her bookstore from foreclosure. I think I fell in love with Italian restaurant owner Gavin before June did ... he makes a pasta for every occasion and emotion ... what's not to love??
Goodnight June is a little bit romantic and a whole lot of love, it's warm and comforting and couldn't have come at a more perfect time in my life. Slipping into its pages was time spent in Bluebird Books, which felt like coming home.
and PS seeing it coming didn't lessen my enjoyment of the story ... not one little bit.
I rarely reread books unless they're children's books but Goodnight June will be one I will, time and again. It's a keeper on my bookshelf and earns a special place in my heart. ...more
1. History and truth - Sue Monk Kidd's powerful and sensitive blending of fact and fiction delves into5 Reasons The Invention of Wings made my Top 5
1. History and truth - Sue Monk Kidd's powerful and sensitive blending of fact and fiction delves into the ugly roots of slavery and racism. The Grimké sisters grew up in a wealthy, slave-owning South Carolina family yet became significant abolitionists and social activists. The Invention of Wings is loosely based on Sarah Grimke's story and the narration alternates between Sarah and Hetty (Handful) the slave given to her on her 11th birthday. It's enlightening having both viewpoints.
2. It's no secret Jenna Lamia is one of my favourite narrators ... she has southern down pat but Adepero Oduye is Handful. Sensitivity and empathy add another dimension to this powerfully narrated story.
3. Charlotte, Handful's mother and the Grimke's seamstress, spends nights making quilts, and her own story quilt. Preserving her family's story was so touching it brought me to tears ... beauty amidst the pain and suffering.
4. It's vivid, appalling, haunting and compelling. It's about strength, courage and the wings of change. I liked the Secret Life of Bees but The Invention of Wings is deeper, more complex, more moving, it's just ... more.
5. Novels like this bear witness to our less-than-human history. You trust me don't you? It's a must-read. ...more
I'm a latecomer to this little treasure and not sure I can add anything new with my review but I can't not share my thoughts. It's a heart-achy read wI'm a latecomer to this little treasure and not sure I can add anything new with my review but I can't not share my thoughts. It's a heart-achy read with Lily's sad family circumstances and the racial tension but The Secret Life Of Bees embodies the strength of the female spirit ... it's warm with compassion, honesty and wisdom.
I adored all the characters, well except for that oxygen bandit T-Ray, Lily's abusive father. Lily is both wise beyond her years and naive, completely honest with the reader and utterly charming. August Boatright was another favourite character, I loved that she was Lily's safe harbour.
Jenna Lamia is one of my favourite narrators, she nails the distinct voices of 14 year old Lily, her nanny Rosaleen and the Boatright sisters. Jenna Lamia also narrates other favourites; Beth Hoffman's Saving Ceecee Honeycut and the heart warming Looking For Me.
The Secret Life Of Bees is beautifully written, gorgeous imagery, endearing characters, it's just ... enchanting. ...more
One of the greatest love stories, the 25 year affair and eventual marriage of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, younger son ofOne of the greatest love stories, the 25 year affair and eventual marriage of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, younger son of King Edward III.
The story isn't new to me, I read the classic, Anya Seton's Katherine quite a few years ago and was excited to read Anne O'Brien's take on things. There's little documented of Katherine which offers an author quite a bit of freedom but Anne O'Brien grounds this fictionalised story firmly in historical events; The Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt, The Hundred Years' War.
I was once again surprised that John & Katherine's longstanding, passionate affair didn't elicit more sympathy from me, for John's wife, Constance of Castile. But, no attacks of conscience here. For me, great love definitely won over strategic alliance.
John was one of the most charismatic and influential men of his time ... I'd have had a hard time refusing his mistress offer, even fearing for my reputation and mortal soul. HA
John and Katherine had four 'Beaufort' children together, legitimised after their marriage, and from their descendants came the Royal Houses of York and Tudor ... a very significant couple to dynastic England.
Through political unrest, public scandal, great shame, separation and sorrow, their love stood the test of time. ...more
I loved the first book in this series, Lady of Ashes, and have been keenly awaiting the second instalment. Stolen Remains was an enjoyable re3.5 stars
I loved the first book in this series, Lady of Ashes, and have been keenly awaiting the second instalment. Stolen Remains was an enjoyable read but for me it didn't have quite the same appeal as its predecessor.
The Victorian setting continues to fascinate me as does Violet's undertaking and embalming practices. At the behest of Queen Victoria, Violet provides her services to the deceased Anthony Fairmont and his family, (who are mostly an unlikable bunch) with suspicious circumstances seeing her also take on the role of unconventional detective. Mind you, her deductive skills make Scotland Yard look like blundering fools.
The whole mystery is neatly entwined with interesting historical events of the time; the construction of the Suez Canal, the 'hushed up' use of corvee labour on the project and Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite.
As pieces of the mystery jigsaw are revealed there were a couple of times I found myself eye-rolling, thinking 'as if' ... the coincidences seemed just a little too convenient but all up I liked Stolen Remains and I'm looking forward to Sacred Remains in 2015. ...more