A review ROAR by Cecelia Ahern (@Cecelia_Ahern), a book of feminist short stories

I was intrigued by the idea behind Cecelia Ahern’s book of thirty feminist short stories about thirty women. The book swag that came with it was also a lovely surprise!

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ROAR by Cecelia Ahern, plus some amazing book swag

“I’m here, I’m here, I’m here”. 

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published November 1st 2018 by HarperCollins

ISBN 0008283494 (ISBN13: 9780008283490)

Goodreads

“Have you ever imagined a different life?

Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.”

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Each story involves a different woman who is undergoing an issue that makes them feel uncomfortable, undecided, or angry told from a feminist perspective. In short, all the women in these stories want to roar!

The main idea behind these stories is wonderfully original, as they are told through allegories. Some of the situations are really quite outlandish, but they mostly managed to ring quite true.

I found myself able to relate to many of the characters and the universal everyday issues they experienced as women struggling to have it all, as we do often do in this day and age. None of the main characters were given names, and I felt this was a nice touch that really made the women feel like ‘every woman.’

ROAR is a refreshing and creative take on feminism. I did feel that it became somewhat repetitive, but the ideas behind it are fascinating. 4 stars!

Book Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

I’ve been hoarding my beautiful Vintage Classic edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY for some time, so I was excited to make the time to revisit an old favourite during my month of selfish reading.

I was giving the gentlest of nudges to hurry up and get reading by the brilliant author of THE GIRL ON THE PAGE, John Purcell, who reminded me of the universality of Jane Austen’s novels in his bestselling debut. We have since bonded on Twitter over our mutual agreement that there is no problem in the world that can’t be made better by curling up my favourite classic author.

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Paperback, 444 pages

Published: June 26th 2014 by Vintage Classics (first published October 30th 1811)

Original Title: Sense and Sensibility

ISBN: 0099589346 (ISBN13: 9780099589341)

Goodreads

“Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.”

 

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It’s been years since I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, or any of Jane Austen’s novels, and it felt just like catching up with a good friend. Austen’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who are about as  different as two sisters can be.

Marianne is the youngest and has the very strong opinions commonly found in teenagers. She is convinced that her future husband will love all the same things as she does, will sweep her off her feet in a whirlwind romance, and that it is only possible to truly love one person.

Elinor is far more sensible and spends a great deal of her time making excuses for Marianne’s rudeness to potential beaux and well-meaning neighbours alike.

The novel begins when Mr Dashwood’s death means that the girls and their mother are forced to leave their home to allow their elder half brother and his greedy wife to move in. This reflects Austen’s own life, as she was also forced to move due to unfavourable inheritances.

Marianne finds romance with the charming Willoughby, while scorning the elder and far more steady Colonel Brandon. Elinor is left wondering if her romance with her sister in law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, was all she thought it was when she encounters a rival she never knew existed.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Even though this was Austen’s very first novel, it is a delightful read. I couldn’t help but think on this reading that a lot of the problems he characters went through were very British and could have been solved with a little bit of straight talking, but their polite inability to say what they really think is one of the reasons the rest of the world loves the British so much.

5 stars!

 

#BookReview: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory – @PhilippaGBooks

I’ve made a commitment to myself to read selfishly in January. I know that I will be snowed under a pile of journal articles soon enough, so I’m doing my best to get around to all of the books that were shoved to the bottom of my TBR pile last year.

The first cab off the rank is THE LAST TUDOR by the bestselling historical fiction great, Philippa Gregory. I’ve been a big fan of Gregory’s Tudor novels ever since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL took the world by storm far too many years ago for my liking, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Gregory’s take on the Grey sisters for ages!

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THE LAST TUDOR by Philippa Gregory

Paperback, 544 pages

Published: July 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published August 8th 2017)

Original Title: The Last Tudor
ISBN: 1471133079 (ISBN13: 9781471133077)

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2017)

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads

“The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features

one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.

Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.

“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.

“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?”

 

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Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels focusing on the Tudor and Plantagenet families and Jane Grey is such a fascinating character of this period, so I was excited to see how she portrayed the Grey sisters.

The book is split into three sections that tell the story from the perspective of each of the Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Jane is a well-known historical figure, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Kathryn and Mary going in.

The eldest sister, Jane, was proclaimed queen for nine days by her scheming family and Dudley in-laws after the death of Edward VI. She was a devout Protestant, having studied with Kathryn Parr and the great grand-daughter of Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, Queen of France.

Her reign was swiftly terminated when Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was able to form an army and win the favour of the Privy Council. Jane was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on February 12 1554, along with her husband, father, and other key members of the plot to put Jane on the throne.

The middle Grey sister – Katherine – was forced to remain in first Queen Mary’s court, then Elizabeth’s. She has almost no family remaining, her marriage was annulled, and she is treated as a threat by both queens. If she married and had a baby boy she would have as much as a claim to the throne as Jane had  before her.

While Elizabeth is busy staving of threats to her crown by her other cousins – Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Douglas – Kathryn marries Edward Seymour in secret, and is imprisoned under house arrest once Elizabeth discovers their betrothal.

The third Grey sister – Mary – was a Little Person and the only Grey sister to survive Queen Elizabeth’s fear of a Tudor heir and have children of her own.

A lot of people complain that Gregory too often uses a writing trope ‘as you know, Bob’ where she includes too much information about story details by having characters that already know this information talk about it together.

I did notice it throughout the novel, but I don’t have an issue about it in this case. The families of this time period are complicated and confusing, and I would much prefer to have the slight irk over unrealistic dialogue than to get bogged down in figuring out who everyone is all the time.

I loved diving back into the Tudor world with Gregory, although I was sad to read that this might be her last novel that focuses on the Tudors as she is heading in a new direction now.

5 stars!

 

 

My #BookReview of the atmospheric psychological suspense novel THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl @alexdahlauthor

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THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl

Goodreads Description

This riveting psychological suspense debut by Alex Dahl asks the question, “how far would you go to hold on to what you have?”

Cecilia Wilborg has it all–a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a gorgeous home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard…

There is no room for mistakes in her life. Even taking home a little boy whose parents forgot to pick him up at the pool can put a crimp in Cecilia’s carefully planned schedule. Especially when she arrives at the address she was given
and finds an empty, abandoned house…

There’s nothing for Cecilia to do but to take the boy home with her, never realizing that soon his quiet presence and knowing eyes will trigger unwelcome memories from her past–and unravel her meticulously crafted life…

My Review 

“What would you do for the perfect life? Would you lie? Cheat? Or…kill?”

THE BOY AT THE DOOR by debut author Alex Dahl is full of atmospheric Nordic suspense that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life with her handsome husband and two gorgeous daughters in the picturesque Norwegian town of Sandefjord. When the tiny and abandoned 8 year old Tobias needs a place to stay Cecilia’s perfect life slowly begins to unravel before her very eyes.

THE BOY AT THE DOOR is a brilliantly twisty and turny debut from half-American, half-Norwegian Dahl. There were a couple of times that I did need to suspend disbelief, such as the explanation for how Tobias came to stay in the Wilborg home for such an extended period, but once I decided to go with it I was too caught up with the mystery and suspense to worry about it.

I loved the first person narrative style, particularly from Cecilia’s perspective. She really did begin the novel as the perfect rich bitchy Mummy type and brilliantly descended further into madness as the novel progressed. I particularly loved the scene where she threw a champagne bottle at some of her frenemies!

A delightfully suspenseful debut and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from Alex Dahl.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

About the Author

 

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Alex Dahl

Half American, half Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a BA in Russian and German Linguistics with International studies and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an MSc in Business Management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the UK and the US as well as a novel, Before I Leave You, in Norway in 2013. Alexandra is a serious Francophile and currently lives between London and Sandefjord.

Sandefjord is the setting of Alex’s new novel, The Boy at the Door, a brilliant psychological thriller which has already attracted worldwide interest and book deals in UK, USA, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and Sweden.

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BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair @allisinclair 5 Star #BookReview

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BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair featuring Ziggy the cat

Goodreads Description

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.

As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.

Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.

Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.

When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

My Review 

Set in the northern Queensland sugar cane fields in 1948 BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair beautifully tells the love story of Rosie Stanton and Tomas Conti. Rosie is struggling to settle back into to life in Australia after serving during World War II, and trying to convince her father to allow her to help out on the family sugar cane field is next to impossible. Tomas is trying to become accustomed to life in Australia after suffering through Mussolini’s terror of Italy and Tomas’ hometown of Sicily.

I fell in love with Tomas from the very first chapter! He was perfectly mysterious but also gentlemanly and kind, just like I imagine many Italian men of his era to be. I could also very well relate to Rosie and her frustration at being expected to fall back into the sexist role expected of females in Australia back then after working so hard during the war. Post-war Australia really is a fascinating period of history, and I think Sinclair has perfectly captured many of the issues everyday Australians and immigrants faced during that time. 5 stars!

 

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Alli Sinclair

 

An adventurer at heart, Alli Sinclair is a multi-award winning author who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South and Central America, and has travelled the globe, immersing herself in array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart as she loves the diverse landscapes and the rich multicultural heritage of this wonderful land.

Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.

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#BookReview THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ringland @hollyringland @HarperCollinsAU

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THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ringland

Goodreads Blurb

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

My Review 

THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a haunting tale of family secrets, betrayal, and how the stories of the past impact the future.

Alice Hart grows up with an abusive father and downtrodden mother who still does her best to protect her daughter and teach her the language of native Australian flowers that she had learned from her mother in law. When tragedy strikes Alice is taken in by her grandmother, June. June is a flower farmer who takes in women doing it tough and caretaker of the language of flowers created by her ancestors and their family history. When Alice takes of to the Australian desert where she discovers that she is doomed to repeat the tragic history of her past unless she is able to come to terms with her own story.

I loved the language of Australian native flowers that Ringland created to tell this story. Each chapter begins with a description of a different native flower and what it means in the language created by Alice’s family. THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a brilliantly crafted debut novel that will definitely appeal to a wide audience.

*Thank you HarperCollins Publishers for sending me a copy to review.

About the Author

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Holly Ringland

HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother’s tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.

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#BookReview UK2 (Project Renova #3) by Terry Tyler @TerryTyler4

UK2
UK2 by Terry Tyler, featuring Ziggy

Goodreads Blurb

‘Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.’

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat.

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south. Uk2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies. Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…

‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows. I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man. I was free, at last.’

Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into the future.

My Review

UK2 is the gripping third installment of the post-apocalyptic Project Renova series. I liked it even more that the ending left plenty of room for more stories from this world, because I am hooked!

UK2 picks up after the world is almost wiped out by a virus and most of the main characters from the beginning of the series have settled on a small remote island, Lindisfarne, in the UK. The group on Lindisfarne have long since grown accustomed to living on the island, free of electricity, social media, money, and all the trappings of modern day society. They have already weathered plenty of tragedy and have settled into their new way of life, although it is obvious they will constantly have obstacles to overcome in the future.

Doyle has quickly become disenfranchised with the new UK (UK2) which has been set up by the slimy Alex Verlander from Project Renova. It’s clear to Doyle that the people in charge don’t have the people’s best interests at heart, but he has no choice but to travel to Lindisfarne to recruit the inhabitants to come to UK2.

I loved the character development from Tipping Point to UK2. By the end of this novel it was clear that all of the main characters had undergone some serious personality changes due to the crazy experiences they’d gone through. Some had grown far stronger than they had ever been before the virus hit and others had gone completely bonkers. The use of multiple point of view chapters illustrated these character changes perfectly.

You can check out my reviews of the first two novels in the Project Renova series: Tipping Point and Lindisfarne

About the Author

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Terry Tyler

@TerryTyler4 on Twitter… I am a writer, with 17 books on Amazon. I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead and all things post apocalyptic, also love South Park, Game of Thrones, autumn and winter, history, and most books/films/TV series to do with war/battles/gangsters. I’m a vegan who falls off the wagon now and again. Live in the north east of England with my husband, who I love even more than Daryl Dixo

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