Book Review: The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

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The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

Blurb

An enthralling story of one woman’s determined grab for freedom after WW2 from a talented new Australian voice.

‘PART CABARET, PART BURLESQUE, AND LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE! GENTLEMEN, AND LADIES IF YOU’VE DARED TO COME, WELCOME TO …

THE VICTORY!’

1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risqué and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.

At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too do the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …

1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?

PRAISE FOR KERRI TURNER

‘Beautiful, daring, deceptive and surprising.’ The Australian Women’s Weekly

‘An impressive debut … one of the strengths of the novel is the tapestry it creates of everyday life in an era of great turbulence.’ Queensland Times
 

 

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

My Review

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner is a charming historical fiction novel that travels between WW2 London and the all-female searchlight regiment, to a post-war burlesque ship on the Thames, and a young girl’s search for answers on the Isle of Wight in 1963.  

Evelyn struggles to adapt to life after the end of WW2 where she was a member of the all-female searchlight regiment which played an essential, and often very dangerous, role during the war. After the war is over she feels stifled when she has no choice but to live with her sister’s family and return to the domestic life. When a chance encounter introduces her to the wild and risqué Victory – a ship that performs a part cabaret, part burlesque, show along the Thames – she grabs the opportunity to live a more exciting life on board while putting her skills with lights to good use. 

I was fascinated by Evelyn’s all-female searchlight regiment, the horrific job of the Graves Registration Officers, and the idea of a burlesque show getting around the strict post-war restrictions, which were all inspired by true stories. Kerri Turner has crafted a nice balance between providing rich details inspired by real historical events while avoiding the dreaded information dump. 

I adored The Daughter of Victory Lights and it had given me great comfort during this difficult time. I’ve not been able to read as often or as much as I usually do, but the fact that I’ve been able to finish reading this novel is a testament to the compelling story, interesting characters, and rich historical detail. I highly recommend The Daughter of Victory Lights to anybody who enjoys historical fiction, especially those interested in this era. 

5 stars! 



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The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

Details

Author: Kerri Turner

Published: January 20th 2020 by HQ Fiction

Source: Competition by Robinsons Bookshop

Read:  Paperback, 362 pages, March 2020

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Cassie Hamer talks about her favourite comfort read: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

While it feels like the world is going mad right now it’s even more important than ever to take the time to lose yourself in a book. I bet I’m not the only one finding it difficult to concentrating on reading, even though I know I really do need to sit down, take a break, and forget about what’s happening, so I’ve decided to put together a list of books that are perfect for comfort reading with the help of some of my favourite authors.

Today’s comfort read is brought to you by Cassie Hamer, author of After the Party and The End of Cuthbert Close.

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Cassie Hamer, author of After the Party and The End of Cuthbert Close

Cassie Hamer has a professional background in journalism and PR, but now much prefers the world of fiction over fact. In 2015, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing, and has since achieved success in numerous short story competitions. Her bestselling debut fiction title After the Party was published in 2019. Cassie lives in Sydney.

cassie comfort reads

At the age of nine I was obsessed with two things – ballet and books. So you can imagine my incredible delight at discovering Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I fell in love with the cover first – it was an image of a young ballerina in pink satin pointe shoes – the ballerina I so desperately wanted to be. Then I turned to the inside and promptly fell head over heels for the book’s feisty young protagonists – Paulina, Posy and Petrova – three orphans being raised in impoverished circumstances by their guardian, the kindly Sylvia, and their strict-but-loving, Nana.

Streatfeild published the book in 1936, a mere eight years after women were given the vote in the UK. But even today, Ballet Shoes remains a deeply relevant and feminist book – the story of three young women who are driven to make a name for themselves and achieve self-sufficiency via the stage. The girls experience success and failure. They wear velvet and organdie dresses. They are constantly drinking delicious concoctions with the boarders that share the big house on Cromwell Road. They are told, regularly, that their ambition is acceptable, but they should still be decent human beings.

See? It’s just lovely, isn’t it.

I never did become a ballerina – I was as flexible as a pole – and I never got to own a pair of pointe shoes. Instead, I became a writer and, even now, I see the impact of Ballet Shoes on what I write. I’m utterly devoted to understanding and expressing the female experience. My books have a subtle feminist bent. My characters are ambitious, practical and feisty, just like the Fossil sisters. And, in a case of life imitating art, I now have three girls of my own. It has been one of the joys to rediscover this book as a mother and share it with my daughters.

It is my theory that the books we read and love in our early years leave a scar-like mark on our psyche – an indelible imprint of thought and feeling that we return to for comfort because it reminds of who we once were, the dreams and hopes we once held.

I cannot think of a happier place in which to dwell.

 

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

‘Captures Australian suburbia perfectly. Has the reader gripped until the end. Perfect for anyone who wants to devour easy-to-read fiction, while also doing some detective work of their own.’ Mamamia

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)

 Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.

But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.

Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.

 When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?

Dymocks

Angus and Robertston

QBD Books

Amazon

 

The Banjo Prize 2020 open for entries Monday 23 March

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HarperCollins Publishers Australia is delighted to announce that entries will open for the 2020 Banjo Prize on Monday 23 March. HarperCollins launched The Banjo Prize in 2018 in a quest to find Australia’s next great storyteller. The inaugural winner was Tim Slee, whose delightful debut novel Taking Tom Murray Home was published by HarperCollins in July 2019.  The 2019 winner was Elizabeth Flann’s incredibly tense Australian thriller Beware of Dogs, to be published in September 2020.

The Banjo Prize is offered annually and is open to all Australian fiction writers, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins, with an advance of $15,000. Writers need to have a full manuscript at the time of submission. Applications also need to include a synopsis of approximately 500 words and a 200-word biographical statement. Any Australian resident aged 18 or older is eligible to enter.

HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest and original publisher, with a literary heritage dating back to Angus & Robertson, who started publishing in Sydney in 1888. The Banjo is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author. His first collection of poems, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, was published by Angus & Robertson in October 1895 and was an instant success. The first edition sold out in the week of publication and went on to sell over 7000 copies in just a few months.

HarperCollins Commercial Fiction Publisher Anna Valdinger said, ‘There are many prizes for literary fiction out there, but there aren’t many unpublished manuscript prizes for people who just love to tell a great story. But if you’re inspired by writers like Jane Harper, Kate Morton, Holly Ringland, Dervla McTiernan, Michael Robotham, Liane Moriarty or Jojo Moyes, and you’ve written a novel which is crime, historical fiction, a great family saga, domestic noir, uplit or psychological thriller – then we’d love you to enter the Banjo Prize in 2020! We’re looking for that thing that all readers love – a story we simply can’t put down. So, please, send us your manuscripts!’

Entries open: 9.00am AEDT Monday 23 March 2020

Entries close: 5.00pm AEDT Friday 29 May 2020

Shortlist announced: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Winners announced: Tuesday 15 September 2020

For more information please visit: https://www.harpercollins.com.au/press-room/entries-open-banjo-prize-2020/

ABOUT HARPERCOLLINS

HarperCollins Publishers is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 17 countries. With 200 years of history and more than 120 branded imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year in 16 languages, and has a print and digital catalogue of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize.

New Book Release: The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer 

From bestselling author Cassie Hamer, comes a hilarious tale of warring neighbours in Australian suburbia, with a mystery at its heart.

‘Captures Australian suburbia perfectly. Has the reader gripped until the end. Perfect for anyone who wants to devour easy-to-read fiction, while also doing some detective work of their own.’ Mamamia

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)

Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.

But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.

Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.

 When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Cassie Hamer

Cassie Hamer has a professional background in journalism and PR, but now much prefers the world of fiction over fact. In 2015, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing, and has since achieved success in numerous short story competitions. Her bestselling debut fiction title After the Party was published in 2019. Cassie lives in Sydney.

The End of Cuthbert Close  by Cassie Hamer

Published: 23 March 2019

Imprint: HQ Fiction

Format: Trade paperback | RRP: $29.99 | ISBN: 9781489257918 | eBook available

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New Book Release: Broken by Don Winslow

‘Is there any doubt that Don Winslow is the greatest?’ New York Times

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Broken by Don Winslow

In five intense novellas connected by the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, betrayal, guilt and redemption, Broken is #1 international bestseller Don Winslow at his nerve-shattering, heart-stopping, heartbreaking best. In Broken, he creates a world of high-level thieves and low-life crooks, obsessed cops struggling with life on and off the job, private detectives, dope dealers, bounty hunters and fugitives, the lost souls driving without headlights through the dark night on the American criminal highway.

With his trademark blend of insight, humanity, humor, action and the highest level of literary craftsmanship, Winslow delivers a collection of tales that will become classics of crime fiction.

PRAISE FOR DON WINSLOW:

‘He’s a master’ Michael Connelly

‘One of the best in the field … a writer for whom nuance and multiple levels are articles of faith’ Independent

‘Winslow’s the best’ Stephen King

‘You should try to get your hands on everything Winslow’s written, because he’s one of the best thriller writers on the planet’ Esquire

Broken by Don Winslow

Published: 6 April 2020

Imprint: HarperCollins

Format: Paperback; RRP: $32.99; ISBN: 9781460758786

eBook available

Don Winslow is the author of twenty-one acclaimed, award-winning international bestsellers, including the New York Times bestseller and sensation The Force, the #1 international bestseller The CartelThe Power of the DogSavages, and The Winter of Frankie MachineSavages was made into a major film by three-time Oscar-winning writer-director Oliver Stone. The Power of the DogThe Cartel and The Border sold to FX in a major multi-million-dollar deal to air as a weekly TV series beginning in 2020. A former investigator, anti-terrorist trainer and trial consultant, Winslow lives in California and Rhode Island.

Book Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Translated by Philip Gabriel

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel 

Blurb

Nana, a cat, is devoted to Satoru, his owner. So when Satoru decides to go on a roadtrip one day to find him a new home, Nana is perplexed. They visit Satoru’s old friends from his school days and early youth. His friends may have untidy emotional lives but they are all animal lovers, and they also wonder why Satoru is trying to give his beloved cat away. Until the day Nana suddenly understands a long-held secret about his much-loved owner, and his heart begins to break.

Narrated in turns by Nana and by his owner, this funny, uplifting, heartrending story of a cat is nothing if not profoundly human.

My Review 

“It’s not the journey that counts, but who is by your side”

A book about love, kindness, and a man and his cat’s heartwarming journey around Japan. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel, is a beautiful Japanese translation that will stay with you long after you have finished reading. A must read for all cat lovers.

Nana is a stray cat and is very proud of his street smarts until Satoru discovers him sleeping on his silver van and and begins to feed him tasty treats. Nana soon comes to trust Satoru with his life and decides that he will stay with him, even when Satoru tells him that they must leave their home to find a new person to care for Nana.

Nana doesn’t mind travelling in the silver van, he is happy anywhere as long as he is with Satoru. He also makes sure to cause problems in each of the old school friends homes they visit so that he is able to continue his travels with Satoru.

I loved this book and I loved the idea and execution of Nana narrating parts of the story. All cat slaves will recognise Nana’s sarcastic sense of humour, his judgmental attitude, his attraction to warm objects and old cardboard boxes, and his unwavering belief that he is superior to every animal he meets, especially humans.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles does have an enormously sad ending, but it is one of those special kind of sad endings that is beautiful, heartwarming, and worth all the tears. I honestly can’t remember the last book that had me sobbing like this one did, but I would still read it again and recommend it to anybody who has loved a cat and knows that their cat/s loved them back.

5 stars!

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles with Zeus and Ziggy 

Details 

Author: Hiro Arikawa

Translator: Philip Gabriel 

Published: Published November 2nd 2017 by Doubleday (first published November 1st 2012)

Original Title: 旅猫リポート

Source: Library

Details: Hardcover, 256 pages, read March 2020

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Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book Review: The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon

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The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon

Blurb

What if you gave birth to someone else’s child? A gripping family drama inspired by a real-life case of an IVF laboratory mix-up.

‘Engagingly and unflinchingly told, Gannon’s new novel, The Mothers, is the story of every parent’s worst nightmare. It is that novel that makes you muse on the most difficult of questions … What makes a mother? And can you ever un-become one? Like all my favourite books, The Mothers is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it leaves you with a lot to think about after you turn the final page. I sobbed my way through this wonderful book.’ – Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Mother-in-Law

Two couples. One baby. An unimaginable choice.

Grace and Dan Arden are in their forties and have been on the IVF treadmill since the day they got married. Six attempts have yielded no results and with each failure a little piece of their hope dies.

Indian-Australian Priya Laghari and her husband Nick Archer are being treated at the same fertility clinic and while the younger couple doesn’t face the same time pressure as the Ardens, the Archers have their own problems. Priya suspects Nick is cheating and when she discovers a dating app on his phone her worst fears are confirmed.?

Priya leaves Nick and goes through an IVF cycle with donor sperm. On the day of her appointment, Grace and Dan also go in for their final, last-chance embryo transfer. Two weeks later the women both get their results: Grace is pregnant. Priya is not.?

A year later, angry and heart-broken, Priya learns her embryo was implanted in another woman’s uterus and must make a choice: live a childless life knowing her son is being raised by strangers or seek custody of a baby that has been nurtured and loved by another couple.

My Review 

“Two Couples, One Baby, An Unimaginable Choice”

The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon is a powerful family drama inspired by a real-life case where two couples are forced to battle it out in court to determine who a baby’s rightful mother is after a mix-up at a fertility clinic. Is it the woman who is genetically linked to the baby or the woman who gave birth?

The first half of the novel focuses on two couple’s IVF journeys which enables us to intimately get to know them and the difficulties they faced trying to get pregnant. Grace and Dan went through 6 stages of IVF and are in their 40s, while Nick and Priya were younger, but facing a serious relationship breakdown due to the stress caused by IVF. I thought this section was really well-done and I imagine it is an accurate portrayal of how IVF treatment must negatively affect people. By the end of this section I was fully invested in both couples having a happy ending.

The second half of the novel examines how the mix-up was discovered, the reaction of the couples and the IVF facility, and the gut-wrenching court case. I had to put this novel down for a short while after the verdict because it was so emotional. I was heartbroken for the mother who lost, although I ultimately do agree with the decision that was made.

Genevieve Gannon has outdone herself with this novel. The characters are so well developed, and their fertility battles and the court case, are described in such an empathetic way that I found myself rooting for all of them. The Mothers is an emotional read, but it does end on a positive note. I loved this book and I can’t wait to find out what is coming next from Genevieve Gannon.

Five stars!

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The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon

Details

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Published:  January 7th 2020 by Allen and Unwin

Source: Author

Read: Paperback, 384 pages, Feb-March 2020

Goodreads 

Amazon AU

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Jan-Feb Reading Wrap-Up

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Some of the books I reviewed in January and February 

This year got off to a slow start reading wise but I certainly made up for that in February. I managed to get myself out of a long blogging slump, catch up on most of my outstanding book reviews from last year, and I have read some fabulous books.

On a personal level, the start of this year was a little bit insane. The bush fires affected almost all of us here in Australia in some way or another, and although the worst fires have mostly  been contained now, there is a long road to recovery ahead and issues to overcome.

I have also finally knuckled down and am writing a terrible first draft of the novel that has been knocking around inside my head for a good while now. I’m off to a good start so far and have come up with a good writing routine that is working for me, so fingers crossed it turns into a final draft some day!

Books I read in January

I only managed to read one book in January, but it was a corker! Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton is already an Aussie classic, and rightfully so. It’s a bit of tricky book to classify genre-wise, but just trust me, you need to read this one!

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Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Read my review 

Books I read in February

My next review, and first February, review was Love and Other Battles by Australian romance powerhouse Tess Woods. Love and Other Battles is a multi-generational family saga that moves between the Australian suburbs, the Vietnam Wars, and the bright lights of Nashville.

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Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods

Read my review

The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean is another great Aussie novel: a bit a a Gothic mystery set in the 90s.

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The Van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean

Read my Review 

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe was my first non-fiction read of the year and I recommend this  book, or its children’s counterpart Dark Emu, to everyone in Australia. Dark Emu challenges the idea that Aboriginal Australians were only hunter-gatherers before colonisation and provides compelling evidence for this argument. A must read!

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Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Read my review 

The Accusation by Wendy James is a gripping Aussie thriller that had me guessing until the very end.

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The Accusation by Wendy James

Read my review 

I ran a giveaway for the hilarious So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter. I loved hearing about everybody’s favourite love stories and hope Melanie, the randomly chosen winner, enjoys her new book!

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So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter

Read my review

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern is the long awaited sequel to PS I Love You. I thought it was a lovely sequel to such a well-loved book and movie, not an easy task to accomplish, but it was very well done.

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Postcript by Cecelia AhernRead my review

My final book review for February was The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan. This is the third book of the Irish Detective Cormac Reilly series and I think it might be the best one yet. This series if perfect for you if you love character driven crime fiction and gritty Irish detectives whose accent you can hear while reading.

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The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

What’s Coming up in March?

I am planning to keep up my reading and writing routines, so look out for some fabulous new book reviews over the next month.

I don’t want to tie myself down too much, but if you take a look at the bookshelf in my main photo you might be able to spy some of the books I will be reading soon in the background.

I’m currently reading and loving The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon, so you should be seeing a review for that very soon!