The Bracelet is a sweeping tale following generations of strong women in an Australian family, their loves and losses and the passage of the...more3.5 stars
The Bracelet is a sweeping tale following generations of strong women in an Australian family, their loves and losses and the passage of their heirloom bracelet.
J.J. Sheahan captures the rural landscape and feel of a small community beautifully. It's a nostalgic rendering, with characters that felt real to me ... my favourite being Kate's great gran who reminded me so much of my own Gran ... strong but age bringing with it certain vulnerabilities and frailties, wise, down-to-earth, of the belief a good cup of tea will cure all that ails you, and a cup of tea and a biscuit sets things right.
I loved the historical scope, from Walgett, in 1890's to Wagga during WWII (my parents and grandparents grew up in small towns in rural NSW, I was born in Wagga Wagga in the late 60's and my mother nursed in Wagga so Sheahan’s telling evoked many memories) to present day Yallowin, the small community in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in NSW.
Kate's return to Yallowin and the family farm following the sudden death of her mother involves much more than the funeral, grief and guilt, it means facing her past and owning her future. It was satisfying to see Kate's growing self awareness and sense of belonging as Gran shared the stories of her forebears and the value of 'the bracelet'
Favourite quote: Remember Grandad used to say, 'Every day above ground is a good one.'
Since Kate and her gran rarely had a cuppa without a biccie, and my gran never had an empty biccie jar, I couldn't resist sharing a recipe for Anzac Biscuits ... my family's preference being for chewy Anzacs rather than crunchy so I've included the recipe I use on my blog.
It was the cover of The Debt of Tamar that caught my attention. Isn't it beautiful? Thankfully it doesn't end with the cover, this debut novel is also...moreIt was the cover of The Debt of Tamar that caught my attention. Isn't it beautiful? Thankfully it doesn't end with the cover, this debut novel is also beautifully written. It's a story of love and loss, redemption, culture and faith.
Spanning centuries; from 16th century Portugal and the Ottoman Empire, to Nazi occupied Paris in the 1940's and present day Turkey and US. I've read quite a bit about The Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal and find this period in history both horrifying and fascinating.
Beginning with the execution by burning of unrepentant Jews, Doña Antonia Nissim, her daughter Reyna and nephew Jose escape to Turkey with the help of Sultan Sulieman the Magnificent. When Reyna and Jose's daughter Tamar falls in love with the sultan's son, Murat, a decision by Jose sparks the debt, and so begins The Sultan's Curse. This part of the story I was most captivated by, I didn't want to leave.
Fast forward to present day and we follow Selim Osman, last living descendant of the Ottoman Sultans, then to Paris 1941 and the Herzikovas ... sounds confusing but as the story progresses common threads are slowly revealed and the tapestry is pieced together.
The Debt of Tamar has a haunting beauty, it's quite outside the realm of traditional, continuing the central love story of Tamar and Murat through other characters ... thwarted love, eternal love, beautifully entwined.
I understand why Nicole Dweck presented Debt of Tamar in such a way, but it didn't stop me wanting more. The characters felt elusive, fleeting, just a sense of them before they slip into the shadows. It's a story you need to be fully present for as confusion can easily override pleasure ... but maybe that was just me.
All up, a story I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and I look forward to more from Nicole Dweck.(less)
Over the course of this trilogy Stephanie Dray has laid out the life of Cleopatra Selene from captive of Caesar Augustus to wife of Juba II and Queen...moreOver the course of this trilogy Stephanie Dray has laid out the life of Cleopatra Selene from captive of Caesar Augustus to wife of Juba II and Queen of Mauretania, daughter of Isis and mother, for readers to appreciate the heart and soul, strength and frailties of this amazing woman and I've loved every minute. Daughters of the Nile is an epic conclusion, fitting for one such as Cleopatra Selene.
I was moved to tears quite a few times, that's no mean feat for an author, after all it's history, being aware of the how and why sometimes lessens the emotional impact. Not so with Daughters of the Nile, as Ms Dray mentions in her author's note, not a lot has been documented of Cleopatra Selene but with meticulous research of the time period, raw emotion and fictional flare she's brought Selene to life with poignant intimacy .
The Roman Empire political machinations continue, as does Augustus' manipulation of Selene (despite her independent stand) and the playing off of key players as they climb and fall from favour. But the focus is really on Selene's relationships and her growing self awareness.
So much to love ... I loved the exploration of Selene's relationships, it took this installment to new heights, the bond between Selene and her mage, Euphronius, Greek freedwoman Chryssa, Berber attendant, Tala and her relationship with daughter, Isadora, Julia (Augustus' daughter) and Octavia (Augustus' sister) to name just a few.
Selene is a doting and protective mother, I loved that the love and safety of her children and niece came first, above all, even deep-seated ambitions. I loved that Selene finally opened her heart to love with Juba, with so much tragedy and heartache in her life, it was heartwarming to read she found a safe harbour in Juba's arms. I adored the mysticism and dark magic, I guess it sounds like I'm mentioning it in passing but it's deftly woven into the story with both intricacy and a delicate touch.
Recommend: Highly ... Stephanie Dray's writing is richly atmospheric, exquisitely detailed and emotionally wrenching. Big and lush, it's a story to savour. (less)
I fell in love with Sarah Jio's beautiful writing style while reading The Bungalow. Morning Glory has that same languid, atmospheric feel, pa...more4.5 stars
I fell in love with Sarah Jio's beautiful writing style while reading The Bungalow. Morning Glory has that same languid, atmospheric feel, part love story, part mystery and I just adored feeling part of the houseboat community on Lake Union's Boat Street, Seattle.
Dark clouds are rolling in all around, and the rain's intensity increases as we paddle back across the lake, which looks like wrinkled gray velvet. By the time we reach my dock, we're soaked, but somehow, I don't mind.
The dual story line and time frame of Ada Santorini (present day) and Penny Wentworth (1959) is connected by houseboat number 7; seamlessly executed and equally captivating. One of my many favourite parts was the heartwarming role Penny's unassuming recipe book played in the story, both for a reader sharing Penny's passion for baking and for Ada. There's a couple of recipe's included that I'd love to try; Cinnamon Rolls is top of my list.
Cinnamon Rolls (Dex's Favourite) makes 1 dozen
Ingredients: 3/4 cup milk 1/4 cup butter, softened 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup white sugar 1 package yeast 1/2 tsp salt 1 egg 1/4 cup water
For Filling: 1 cup brown sugar, packed 1 tblsp ground cinnamon 1/2 cup butter, softened
Preparation: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from stove. Mix in butter, stir until melted. Let cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt; mix well. Add egg, water and the milk/butter mixture. Beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Knead dough until smooth. About 5 mins.
Let dough rise for about an hour or more. Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and softened butter for filling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees . Punch down dough, then roll out into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Spread filling mixture on dough. Roll up and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal-size pieces and place in greased 9x12 glass dish. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool, then drizzle with royal icing if desired.
You don't get a traditional, neatly-tied-up-with-a-bow ending with Sarah Jio's stories but it's a fitting ending ... bittersweet, sure to bring a tear to the eye and a smile to your face.
I know I may always ache for the past, for the two greatest loves of my life, but I want to be a bird now. I want to flap my wings through the rainstorms. I want to start my day with the earnestness of the morning glory, the way it blossoms open with the sunrise, ready to shine no matter what.
Another story enticingly revealed a piece at a time until you realise it's all so beautifully and deftly intertwined.(less)
My introduction to Deborah Swift's work was through her 2012 novel, The Gilded Lily. I thoroughly enjoyed her story telling ability and was keen to tr...moreMy introduction to Deborah Swift's work was through her 2012 novel, The Gilded Lily. I thoroughly enjoyed her story telling ability and was keen to try something else. A Divided Inheritance is another fascinating piece of historical fiction, a multi-layered, well researched tale of tenacity and adventure.
As much as I love Tudor England it certainly made a refreshing change to be immersed in another period, Jacobean London, the lace trade, Spain under King Phillip III's expulsion of the Moriscos, (Spanish Muslims) the religious turmoil in both countries. Deborah Swift covers it with a deft hand and page-turning pace.
Elspet and Zachary are interesting characters - Zachary easy to loathe, but better late than never, he displays some redeeming qualities and earned my respect. Elspet a woman shackled by the constraints on women of the era and yet strong, opinionated, doggedly fighting for what is hers. Without getting spoiler-ish I really enjoyed watching them grow into their 'familial' relationship and cheered as consideration and loyalty became a priority.
The small details were carefully balanced, nuanced, adding authenticity without getting bogged down or boring and surprisingly I really enjoyed the in-depth look at fencing, the philosophy of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and the dedication required to master the art.
I'd love to see a sequel, after becoming quite invested in Elspet and Zachary's lives, I'd like to see where life takes them next.
Recommend: Absolutely, for fans of historical fiction and those who just enjoy a good adventure. (less)
Forgetting Tabitha is the story of impoverished and orphaned children in New York City and the impact of the Orphan Train movement on their l...more3.5 stars
Forgetting Tabitha is the story of impoverished and orphaned children in New York City and the impact of the Orphan Train movement on their lives. Not all were adopted into loving homes, some became little more than hired help or indentured servants. It's a graphic and enduring tale of survival and hope.
Julie Dewey doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the time. The squalor and despair for those who lived in the Five Points district assailed the senses, while the violence and often tragic outcomes were difficult to read.
The characters, especially 10 year old Tabitha, (Mary) Scotty and Gert wormed their way into my heart, children who've seen and suffered so much, old before their time. Their story is heartbreaking and sadly, real but I cheered their resilience and each hard-won triumph.
This my 3rd book featuring the Orphan Train movement at its core, so naturally my reading experience was coloured by the two previously read, brilliant books, my favourite being My Notorious Life by Kate Manning. For me, Forgetting Tabitha was a good read but it didn't reach superb heights.
That said that I'm keen to see what Julie Dewey delivers next :) (less)
I've had a fascination with Marie Antoinette for years and have loved Juliet Grey's trilogy covering her life with exemplary attention to det...more4.5 stars
I've had a fascination with Marie Antoinette for years and have loved Juliet Grey's trilogy covering her life with exemplary attention to detail and meticulous research. What made Confessions of Marie Antoinette my favourite of the trilogy was the sense of intimacy and urgency.
Knowing the history and Marie Antoinette's unfortunate fate didn't lessen the impact, I was astounded by the vividly detailed account of the later years of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Striking detail and intensity combined with sensitivity ensuring a page turning read and my emotional investment throughout.
History is written by victors so I've always found it refreshing to read authors' accounts of maligned historical figures, bringing objectivity to the exaggeration and lies, humanising those who've been almost demonised and whilst this is historical fiction Juliet Grey doesn't stray far from the facts.
From the storming of Versailles in 1789, the vehement hatred and violence of the people towards their King and Queen, activities of the revolutionaries, the horror of the Reign of Terror, the appalling treatment of the Royal Family and those deemed Royalist, through to the Monarchs' laughable trials and executions in 1793. Not forgotten however, is the courage and loyalty of many, Marie Antoinette's compassion and dignity and the unconditional love for her children ... to the end.
Recommend: absolutely - a riveting and emotionally wrenching read!(less)
My Notorious Life is loosely based on the 19th century New York midwife and abortionist Ann Trow better known as Madame Restell. With stunning attenti...moreMy Notorious Life is loosely based on the 19th century New York midwife and abortionist Ann Trow better known as Madame Restell. With stunning attention to detail Kate Manning chronicles the life of Axie Muldoon, giving readers an unflinching and intimate view of a woman's lot in life in 19th century America.
I've read many novels about women in this period, their options and rights in relation to health and fertility sadly lacking regardless of social class, the high risk of sexual exploitation, responsibility and shame, often theirs alone to bear, women's bodies worn out by multiple pregnancies. My Notorious Life is one of the best I've read and it's an emotionally harrowing read.
Despite the heartache, this is still a novel of light and shade. I adored the passion, angst, trouble and laughs that Axie and fellow Orphan Train reject, Charlie, find in their marriage and life together. I loved watching their characters' grow, falter, pick up the pieces and mature.
Between Kate Manning's vivid writing and Axie's authentic and compelling voice, I could not have been more thoroughly immersed in a period in history ... the squalor, poverty, hunger, the disparity between social classes, desperation oozing from the page and Axie's compassion and sensibility at the risk of her own safety, entirely believable.
Manning’s descriptions of Axie’s medical & midwifery practices are alternatively fascinating and horrifying, hopeful and heartbreaking ... regardless of your views, pro-choice, pro-life or other, I'd be shocked if you felt anything but compassion for the plight of the women described within these pages.
I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read a novel by Australian author Kate Forsyth. I purchased Bitter Greens in 2012 after reading a number of...moreI'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read a novel by Australian author Kate Forsyth. I purchased Bitter Greens in 2012 after reading a number of glowing reviews but *shame face* it's still unread ... I won't be stupid twice ;)
The Wild Girl is an exquisite package, an epic tale of love, war and fairytales, impeccably researched, deftly layered and beautifully wrought. Kate, you hoped I'd be enchanted ... I truly was.
My copies of the Grimm Brothers fairytales from childhood are well loved and enjoyed still but I've never actually read anything about Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm nor Henriette Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild, the girl who lived next door to the Grimm family, so for me this was a uniquely special experience. Age old fairytales, some familiar, some not, are seamlessly blended with the narrative, contributing authenticity, poignancy and magic.
Haunting, breathtaking, evocative The Wild Girl has a dark beauty that left me speechless and in tears more than once, in turn entranced, outraged, horrified and saddened.
Kate Forsyth captures the complexities of the human spirit with raw sensitivity ... frailties, cruelties on one hand, courage, selflessness and goodness on the other. Dortchen's father gave me nightmares, whilst I loved the detailed apothecary descriptions I was secretly hoping Dortchen would use her vast herbal knowledge and give her father a much needed dose of something lethal ... and painful!
Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him. She was only twelve years old, but love has never been something that can be constrained by age. It happened in the way of old tales, in an instant, changing everything forever. It was a fork in the path, the turn of a key, the kindling of a lantern.
Through the Napoleonic Wars, poverty, sickness, abuse, Dortchen's love for Wilhelm is steadfast, her spirit crushed over the years by the oppressive control of her father, hope and longing remain palpable.
... the end came all too soon but weeks later I sigh as I remember the beauty.
The Wild Girl is a gift of storytelling about storytelling, it deserves to enter the exalted realm of classics.
I'm so in love with this series and coming from me that's high praise because dragons really 'aint my thing! Danger, adventure, love, hearta...more4.5 stars
I'm so in love with this series and coming from me that's high praise because dragons really 'aint my thing! Danger, adventure, love, heartache set against the historical backdrop of WWI, it's rich, emotive, haunting and bittersweet, The Deepest Night is one beautiful package.
I wish I could turn back the clock and start over, there's just something breathtaking about exploring a unique new world. I miss that 'newness' but there are different qualities to be excited about with the 2nd installment. What remains the same is Shana Abe's exquisite, intoxicating writing.
I loved them in The Sweetest Dark but there's a new depth to Lora and Armand in The Deepest Night, both individually and within their relationship. They embrace their magic, grow, adapt and shine, it's completely mesmerising and I was just a wee bit *cough* spellbound.
Nervous anticipation for the final book, I'm excited, hopeful, and just a little scared about how things are going to finish up.
Recommend: Screaming from the rooftop YES! YES!(less)