Book Review: How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

Blurb

From the author of P is for Pearl comes a heart-warming book about family, friendship and what home can mean.

Stella may only be seventeen, but having read every self-help book she can find means she knows a thing or two about helping people. She sure wasn’t expecting to be the one in need of help, though.

Thanks to her father’s gambling addiction, Stella and her family now find themselves living at Fairyland Caravan Park. And hiding this truth from her friends is hard enough without dealing with another secret. Stella’s birth mother has sent her a letter.

As Stella deals with the chaos of her family, she must also confront the secrets and past of her ‘other’ family. But Stella is stronger than she realises.

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

My Review 

Stella is 17 years old and she has read as many self-help books as she can get her hands on. She loves to help people, even if they haven’t asked her to, and her friends and family need all the help they can get.

Her father’s gambling addiction has grown so out of control that they have been forced to move to the local dodgy caravan park. Her younger sister is so angry at the world that she was expelled for allegedly setting fire to the school library. Her best friend is coping with parents who work so hard they barely spend any time with him. And on top of all that, Stella has received a letter from her birth mother who she’s never met.

These are all huge issues that Stella is forced to deal with, and I would definitely recommend this book for older and more mature teenagers, but the story is written so sensitively and with so much hope and love, that I found myself crying happy tears by the end.

I fell in love with the characters, but especially Stella and her endearing awkwardness. There were so many times that I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a great big hug and I think I sort of will be able to when all this craziness is over, because I feel certain the Henry-Jones has poured her heart and soul into this story. It really is something very special the way she is able to describe so accurately something that is so painful and difficult to put into words. I wish I’d had this book to help me navigate such a tricky situation when I was a teenager.

I’m not adopted, but I do have a deadbeat Dad who I’ve never met before, and I have often felt the same guilt and shame as Stella does. It’s not easy to realise that you look and behave exactly like the villain of your own origin story, especially when they have proven that they have no interest in redeeming themselves. I loved that the ending with Stella’s birth mother was not the happy fairy tale that so many people expect from family reunions like this, because they are definitely the exception rather than the norm, but I did feel like there was still hope of a relationship/friendship of some kind in the future.

How to Grow a Family Tree has been the perfect book to help me get out of my reading slump. Full of big feelings, endearing characters, and issues that will resonate with so many teenagers and adults, Eliza Henry-Jones has once again demonstrated that she is the master of pulling at your heartstrings.

5 stars!

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

About the Author

Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist, researcher and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.

Her debut novel In the Quiet (2015) was published as part of a three book deal with HarperCollins Australia. She has since published Ache (2017) and the young adult novel P is for Pearl (2018). Eliza’s novels have been listed for multiple awards.

Eliza has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. She has completed a first class honours thesis exploring representations of bushfire trauma in fiction and is currently a PhD candidate at Deakin University.

Eliza is a proud ambassador for the Satellite Foundation, which supports children and young people who are impacted by parental mental illness.

Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia,  the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.

Eliza is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and writer. You can find out more about her writing and other services here.

Details

Published: March 23rd 2020 by HarperCollins – AU

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, 336 pages, April 2020

Age: From 14 years

Goodreads

Purchase Links

 

Author Kerri Turner’s Favourite Comfort Reads: The books of Georgette Heyer

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 concentrate 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 Kerri Turner, author of The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers and The Daughter of Victory Lights.     (My Review)

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Confession: I have a comfort author as opposed to a comfort book. I developed the habit of turning to her in times of stress without even realising it. It was Kate Forsyth, an author I greatly admire, who once pointed out to me that I’d been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances over the span of a few weeks. She herself found comfort in Georgette Heyer’s novels, and suspected my binge might mean I was struggling in my day-to-day life. Her suggestion proved insightful, because I promptly burst into tears. Without realising it, that was exactly my situation.

Thankfully, I was able to adjust what I could in my life to alleviate the stress. But I kept the habit of turning to Georgette Heyer’s romances whenever I need comfort. For there’s something to be said about escaping into a world that guarantees you a happy ending when everything in your own world feels uncertain.

But why Georgette Heyer, when all romance promises a happy ending? For me, there’s an added escapism to her regencies, with the gentle mockery yet simultaneous loving embrace of a long-gone world of set manners and flamboyant dress codes. I love watching the characters try to work within the rigid, often ridiculous rules of their societies to work out their happy endings. Love how Heyer plays within these lines but also pushes them to their very edges of humorous believability, such as the crossdressing hijinks in The Masqueraders, the switched-at-birth scandal of These Old Shades, or the involvement of a hot air balloon in Frederica (a particular favourite of mine).

I love the way her characters are audacious, witty, stubborn, disaffected, reckless, loyal, adventurous, flawed, wilful, intelligent, and silly.

I love the gentle nature of the words she uses that are so little seen nowadays. Words like flummery, fribble, egad, and alack have a nostalgic rhythm to them that lulls me into a sense of peace.

I love that while remaining true to the tropes of the genre, she still manages to flip things on their head in a way that surprises and delights, like the gradual shifting of the love interest from one man to another in Cotillion (another of my personal favourites).

I love her unique ability to create an insult like no other, her characters slinging phrases like ‘buffleheaded clunch’ or ‘irreclaimable ninnyhammer’ in a manner designed to make the reader laugh instead of feel the cut of them.

For me, a comfort read is about getting lost in a colourful world with touches of whimsy, guaranteed laughs, and a neat ending that brings about the kind of peace and certainty that real life lacks. Georgette Heyer provides all of these with every one of her romances. And anyone who doesn’t think so must be an irreclaimable ninnyhammer.

 

Kerri Turner is the author of The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers and The Daughter of Victory Lights

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Kerri Turner

With a background in ballet, I have always had a strong love for storytelling. All my favourite ballets tell some of the most timeless stories, from fairytales to interpretations of classic literature. I’ve also always loved reading, writing, and history. I have combined these things into my historical fiction writing.

In 2017 I signed with literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency. The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, my debut novel, was released with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins Australia, in January 2019. A second historical fiction novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights, was released in January 2020. I am always working on my next book, so hopefully there will be many more to come.

In prior years, my short stories have been published by Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, Underground Writers, and as part of the Dangerous Women Project.

My author influences include (but are not limited to) Kate Forsyth, Sara Gruen, Belinda Alexandra, Hazel Gaynor, Ken Follett, Eli Brown, and Kate Morton. I also have a special fondness for Lorna Hill, particularly her ‘Sadler’s Wells’ series, which I have collected since childhood.

When not writing or reading, I can usually be found teaching ballet and tap dancing, baking sweet treats, or spending time with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Nelson.​

 

 

Book Review: The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer book cover

 

Blurb

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?

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer. My two cats, Zeus and Ziggy, are sitting behind it looking surprised because Zeus looks just like the cat on the cover.

 

My Review 

The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer is a contemporary domestic mystery set in a refreshingly normal Australian suburb.

Alex, Cara, and Beth are great friends and neighbours. Even though they are all very different people – Alex is a cut-throat lawyer with two small children, Cara is a widowed food stylist, and Beth is a middle aged stay-at-home mum – they have formed a close knit friendship over the years spent raising their families next door to each other in idyllic Cuthbert Close. Things start to spiral out of control the moment their annual street party is interrupted by the arrival of online fitness guru Charlie Devine and her teenage daughter. Things continue to escalate until the shocking climax that I definitely didn’t see coming.

I loved the friendship between the three women. They were so different from each other and they definitely had their ups and downs, but they always managed to patch things up – usually over something delicious that either Beth or Cara cooked up. Poor old Alex was not much of a cook and never had the time anyway between work and her two young boys. But like any good friendship group, they mostly managed to overlook each other’s faults and back each other up when it was really necessary.

Along with their own individual issues the three women are also faced with a mystery that they needed to figure out together: what is really going on with Charlie Devine? From dead hamsters to corporate sabotage, it seems like Charlie is hell bent on causing trouble in their peaceful little world and the ladies of Cuthbert Close are determined to put it stop to it.

I was immediately drawn to the gorgeous cover, particularly since the cheeky little black and white cat running across top looks exactly like my own cat! I was also inspired to try a version of the Eton mess pictured, although the ladies of Cuthbert Close used a different recipe to mine that spices things up a little, and I am very excited to try the Melted Snickers Mug Cake soon. You can grab a copy of these recipes and more from the author’s Facebook page!

Full of warmth, humour, friendships, mystery, delicious food, and highly relatable characters, The End of Cuthbert Close is a lovely read and highly recommended.

5 stars!

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The End of Cuthbert Close with two mason jars filled with eton mess on either side. This dessert is inspired by one of the recipes mentioned in the book.

About the Author

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 recently wrote a lovely guest post about her favourite comfort read Ballet Shoes

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

 

Details

Published: March 23rd 2020 by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, 447 pages, April 2020

Goodreads

Dymocks

Angus and Robertston

QBD Books

Amazon

 

March Wrap-Up: What a crazy month!

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March Wrap-Up. The stack on the left is the books I read in March, the stack on the right are some of the books I plan to read soon

My March Wrap-Up is running a little bit late, but I’ve been finding it difficult to figure out what I wanted to say this month given the circumstances. Like almost everybody around the world I’m still reeling from the shock of it all and I am just doing my best to muddle my way through.

In many ways I am one of the lucky ones. I’m safe at home with my partner, my cats, and plenty of food. I also have my own issues to deal with which might not be so obvious online, just the same as everyone else, and sometimes I haven’t been so great at coping. I’ve definitely been unkind, judgmental, whinged about relatively trivial things, struggled to get anything done, taken up pointless baking (and eating far too much of the results), developed a taste for gin, and let my email inbox get out of control.

However, I have also tried to do my best under difficult circumstances. I’ve tried really hard to continue to share as much book love, cat photos, and positivity as possible, I’ve worked together with my partner to come up with some ground rules so we can work together in our overcrowded house with an overloaded internet network, and I have rolled my eyes and scrolled past more ridiculous and deliberately nasty posts on social media in the past month than I normally would during an entire regular year.

I also managed to read some fantastic books and hosted the lovely Australian author Cassie Hamer for a guest post in which she wrote a lovely blog post about her favourite comfort read that is perfect for reading during difficult times like these. I’m hoping to make this a regular feature for authors and other bookish people to share their thoughts on their own favourite comfort reads, so please do get in touch if this something you would like to take part in too.

I truly do hope this post finds you all safe and well, wherever you may be, and that you are able to make some time for yourself to put your feet up and lose yourself in a good book every now and then. I know it’s difficult to manage at the moment, but it really does help, even if you just start off with a paragraph at time.

Books I Read in March

I only managed to read three novels, as well as bits of pieces of Rumi’s poetry in The Big Red Book. I haven’t written a review for The Big Red Book, but I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t read it before. Rumi was born in 1207 on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire in what is now Afghanistan, and there is something so hopeful and magical about his poems that they still resonate today. I often come across short Rumi quotes on social media and they can often come across as a bit trite, but they really don’t do justice to the real thing. I can’t think of a better time to give Rumi’s poem a proper read!

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Rumi: The Big Red Book

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa 

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon 

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The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

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The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

My April TBR Pile

The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer 

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

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How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates  

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Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Awakening by E.J. Dawson (Queen of Spades Book 1) 

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Queen of Spades Trilogy by E.J. Dawson 

 

 

 

 

 

New Release: Queen of Spades Trilogy by E.J. Dawson

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Queen of Spades Trilogy by E.J. Dawson: Awakening, Darkening, Reckoning 

The first book in the Queen of Spades Trilogy, Awakening, will be available 10th of April 2020 and the pre-order is only 99 cents!

A scifi action with a side of romance, it has all the violence, banter, and tension of great character driven scifi with psychic abilities giving it an edge that keeps the story on its toes.

Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the future, and no idea how she came to be there, all that matters is survival.

Rescued by Leith and the crew of the Nuria, Ayla discovers a far evolved world of space ships and galactic colonization. But everything comes with a price, and though Ayla is no princess locked in an icy tower, she still has to pay for the rescue she didn’t know she needed.

Given over to Leith, a darkly handsome man who reads Ayla far easier than she’d like, they must work together if Ayla is to repay her debt. As the pair come to learn how dangerous one another are, so too grows a lustful bond that comes with rules of its own. Fighting to learn why she was frozen, Ayla’s dragged into Leith’s past with a criminal organization seeking to take over this sector of the galaxy. In order to survive, Leith will need Ayla’s help, but Ayla doesn’t know if she’s willing to pay what it will cost her…

Pre-Order Links 

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Meet the Crew

New Release: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

The latest ARC to land in my mailbox from the wonderful team at HarperCollins is Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates. Inspired by the author’s father, this thriller moves between Germany during and after World War 2 and present-day Adelaide.

I’m looking forward getting lost in a thriller, I’ve been loving novels set during WW2 lately, and I’m very intrigued by concept of the main character being based on the author’s father. I’ve spent a lot of time researching my own family tree lately and I think I could spend the rest of my life writing stories based on the fascinating characters that I’ve uncovered!

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Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Inheritance of Secrets sprung from one character. Karl. Karl was inspired by author Sonya Bates’s own father, a German soldier during World War 2, who was drafted and went to war after his 18th birthday. He went to the front. Was in an American POW camp. Survived the war and then emigrated to America in the 1950s. Although Sonya’s father rarely talked about this period of his life, Sonya grew up aware of his participation in the war, and as she got older she speculated about what it would have meant for him personally. From this came the fictional character of Karl – who has his own powerful and moving story – and a thriller that moves between Germany during and after World War 2 and present-day Adelaide.

Inheritance of Secrets is Kate Furnivall meets Caroline Overington in a gripping, page-turning mystery.

 

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Sonya Bates

Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has made South Australia her home since 1997. She studied linguistics at the University of Victoria before obtaining a Masters degree in speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Having worked with children with communication difficulties for over twenty-five years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with speech pathology students as a part-time clinical educator. When her two daughters were young, she started writing for children and has published several children’s books. Inheritance of Secrets is her debut adult novel, which was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018.

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Inheritance of Secrets ARC

Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Published: 20 April 2020

Imprint: HarperCollins

Format: Paperback; RRP: $32.99; ISBN: 9781460757857

eBook available

Goodreads 

Preorder Purchase Links 

 

New Release: How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

The latest bookmail to arrive in my mailbox is this Young Adult beauty by Australian author Eliza Henry-Jones. I’ll be aiming to read this book in April, so keep an eye out for my review in the next few weeks. I can’t think of a better time to read Eliza Henry-Jones’s beautiful words! 

How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones

Stella may only be seventeen, but having read every self-help book she can find means she knows a thing or two about helping people. She sure wasn’t expecting to be the one in need of help, though.

Thanks to her father’s gambling addiction, Stella and her family now find themselves living at Fairyland Caravan Park. And hiding this truth from her friends is hard enough without dealing with another secret. Stella’s birth mother has sent her a letter.

As Stella deals with the chaos of her family, she must also confront the secrets and past of her ‘other’ family. But Stella is stronger than she realises.

From the author of P is for Pearl comes a heart-warming book about family, friendship and what home can mean. 

REVIEWS

How to Grow a Family Tree is a sincere and complex reminder that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”  – BOOKS+PUBLISHING 

“This is a sensitive story about the things that break people and the strength and resources they draw upon to start over.” – READINGS

 

Details and purchase links

Goodreads