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't...moreI 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. (less)
That ethereal cover caught my eye, (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) the synopsis appealed and when I discovered Thornwood House was th...more4.5 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. (less)
I loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory but with Goodnight June Sarah Jio catapults straight onto my favourite author list. As a book lover and unaba...moreI 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. (less)
1. History and truth - Sue Monk Kidd's powerful and sensitive blending of fact and fiction delves into...more5 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. (less)
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 w...moreI'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. (less)
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 of...moreOne 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. (less)
I loved the first book in this series, Lady of Ashes, and have been keenly awaiting the second instalment. Stolen Remains was an enjoyable re...more3.5 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. (less)
Put simply ... I adored Orphan Train and didn't want it to end! I've read quite a few fictionalised stories about the Orphan Train Movement, My Notori...morePut simply ... I adored Orphan Train and didn't want it to end! I've read quite a few fictionalised stories about the Orphan Train Movement, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning being one of the best. Orphan Train joins illustrious ranks on my favourite's bookshelf; its quiet strength and beauty just as compelling as the powerful, My Notorious Life.
At almost 18, Molly has 50 hours of community service to complete for stealing a library book ... enter 91 year old Vivian Daly. Molly helps Vivian clean out her attic and becomes a vehicle for Vivian's story. Orphan Train seamlessly transitions between present day Maine and the early 1900's as the orphan trains take children from New York to the midwest and sadly, an uncertain life. Delicate layers peel away, revealing long kept secrets and a story that simultaneously breaks and warms your heart.
As cliched as it sounds, what a joy it was to share Vivian's heartbreaking, courageous and inspirational journey and Molly & Vivian's unique connection. Narrated beautifully with such authenticity I felt like a participant in their rare friendship rather than an observer. I felt their losses, shared their joys, I laughed and cried and cheered as they both found a sense of belonging.
I'm so happy I said yes to reading this beautiful story, it was everything promised and more, and the lovely Sherryl Caulfield is a local Br...more4.5 stars
I'm so happy I said yes to reading this beautiful story, it was everything promised and more, and the lovely Sherryl Caulfield is a local Brisbane author. Three of Sherryl's favourite authors are also mine, Diana Gabaldon, Sarah Donati and Paullina Simons ... big shoes to fill but Sherryl Caulfield proved more than up to the task and Seldom Come By stands very much on its own merit. It also reminded me of Gabriele Wills' Muskoka Trilogy, which I adored, set in the same era.
Following the Crowe family of Second Chance Island, Newfoundland and the Dalton family of Toronto, Rebecca and Samuel's love story spans continents, the Great War, triumph and adversity ... it's a love that endures.
There's so much to love; the scenery and icebergs of Newfoundland ... harsh, unforgiving, stark beauty. The severity of the Crowe family's life in sharp contrast to Rebecca's thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm for life. A wonderful blending of historical fact and mesmerising tale, lyrical prose, characters to love and loathe, with a tangible sense of hope throughout.
Halfway through there is an event so shocking, so devastating I was completely overwhelmed with emotion and nausea, yes nausea, it felt that real.
To be so completely transported and immersed in characters' lives is testament to an author's care and skill, and despite the heartache I loved every minute.
Seldom Come By is an exquisite tale of love and loss, forgiveness and healing.
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)