Book Review: The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch

When status is survival, every choice has its consequence.

Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. 

Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.

The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

My Review

The Orange Grove tells a story of rivalry and intrigue set in Blois, France in the 1705 chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise through the eyes of one of his five mistresses, Henriette. A new young and beautiful mistress sets already high tensions between the mistresses and the Duc’s wife even higher, then a charming tarot reader adds himself headfirst into the mix.

I enjoy reading tarot cards and found the readings and explanations to be fascinating and cleverly added to the building tensions. Murdoch has thoroughly researched the history of France has and I enjoyed the way that she painted a picture of what it would have been like to live as a mistress of a French nobleman. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it very much, but it certainly makes for fascinating reading!

Details

Title: The Orange Grove

Author: Kate Murdoch

Published:  November 1, 2019, Regal House Publishing

Format: Paperback, 253 pages

RRP: $16.95 USD

Source: Author

Goodreads: The Orange Grove

The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch

Narrative Structure in Creative Nonfiction

Find Your Creative Muse

What is narrative structure? In creative nonfiction, the narrative structure is the sequence of events and the way in which the writer tells the story. The narrative structure can also refer to how the ideas are presented to the reader.

The writer has many ways to tell his true story. For instance, the writer can tell the story from beginning to end. He can use flashbacks. Or the writer can contrast two different stories.

This article discusses the various types of narrative structures that a writer can use to write a personal essay, memoir, autobiography, and so forth.

Frames

In the Art of Creative Nonfiction, author Lee Gutkind discusses the “frame”, which is a way of ordering and controlling the writer’s narrative so that the story is presented in an orderly and interesting way.

The writer can use any of the following frames:

  • Chronological frame. The writer narrates…

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New Release The Codebreakers

Alli Sinclair

Today’s the day The Codebreakers is released in Australia and New Zealand in print and e-book! It’s a story very close to my heart as it’s inspired by the real-life codebreaking women in Brisbane in WWII.

When I first learned about the Garage Girls and Central Bureau, it felt like a treasure trove of endless stories had been unearthed. Female codebreakers in Australia in World War II? Who were they? What did they do? Why had we not heard about them before? My investigating led me into an amazing world and I’ve met and interviewed many fascinating and courageous people who worked for Central Bureau and other signals intelligence departments and outposts. They generously shared stories not only about the work, but their personal experiences of living with secrets and how it affected their lives during and after the war.

People who worked top-secret jobs during the war often felt…

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Book Review: The Yield by Tara June Winch

The Yield by Tara June Winch

My Review

“The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.” 

Even though The Yield is my first book review of 2021 I’m quite certain that it will be the most profound and meaningful book that I will read this year. It’s a story about the Wiradjuri people’s culture, language, family, and the intergenerational trauma of colonisation in Australia. 

When Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi finds out that he will die soon, he decides to record the language and everything that was ever remembered by his people, the Wiradjuri people from the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. He knows that if he doesn’t write everything down it will be forgotten, and he’s determined to pass it down the words of his ancestors. Through Poppy’s dictionary, we are shown an extraordinarily moving and personal insight into the customs and language of the Wiradjuri People as a whole group, as well as Poppy’s immediate Gondiwindi family. 

When Albert’s granddaughter, August, returns for his funeral after living on the other side of the world for ten years she discovers that their family home is about to be repossessed by a mining company. She is determined to make amends for the past events that led her to leave the country all those years ago by saving her family’s land. August’s story about returning to her family and rediscovering her connection to the land and their language and culture was also incredibly insightful, as well as being a gripping David versus Goliath story. 

Interspersed throughout the novel is also the story of a 1915 missionary at Massacre Plains told in the form of a serialised letter. It tells the story of Poppy and August’s ancestors who lived on the mission at that time. While I felt like this was the driest and most tedious section of the novel, it also makes a lot of sense to have this generation of the Gondiwindi family story being told by white colonisers. The voices of so many generations of First Nations Peoples have been lost because they were unable to tell their own stories and many were prevented from passing down their stories and their culture to younger generations. 

I know that I will be thinking about this book for a long time and I look forward to reading it again over the coming years. A once in a lifetime book that will change the way you think and a powerful reclamation of the Wiradjuri language. This is so important because, as the author’s note explains, Australian languages are rapidly dying out and so many essential aspects of culture are inherently tied to language.

My cat Zeus with my copy of The Yield by Tara June Winch

Blurb

Winner Miles Franklin Literary Award 2020
Winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 – for Fiction, People’s Choice and Book of the Year.
Winner Booksellers Choice Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2020
Shortlisted The Stella Prize 2020
Shortlisted Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2020
Shortlisted ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2020
Shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards for Fiction 2020

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity. 

Details

Published: July 2nd 2019 by Penguin Random House

Source: Own copy

Read: Paperback, January 2021

Pages: 343

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads

Book Review: The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

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The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village

Blurb

A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It’s never too late to grow old disgracefully …

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy’s day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower – treasurer of the Residents’ Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village – to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn’t seen in five decades – the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine – sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’ and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

My Review

The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village is a warm and uplifting book about love, friendship and the importance of growing old disgracefully.

79 year old Peggy Smart lives a beige and boring life at her retirement village. She is grieving for her late husband and growing increasingly frustrated with the way that her children and doctor are treating her as a frail old lady. She doesn’t want to be shipped off to a scary nursing home, and rightly so if you pay attention to what actually happens in those places! The only excitement in her life comes from her secret crush on an eligible bachelor until her old school friend Angie shows up at the Jacaranda Retirement Village and sets Peggy on a journey of self-discovery.

I enjoyed the ways that Peggy and the other elderly characters were portrayed as real people who were much more complex than almost any other elderly character I’ve come across before. Many of their issues and character arcs were related to their age, but they were so much more complex than that. It’s refreshing to see elderly characters depicted in this way and I commend Nell for the way she has crafted these realistic and lovable characters. I particularly enjoyed Peggy’s humorous Freudian slips and the politics that went on between the residents of the retirement village.

About the Author

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Joanna Nell

Joanna Nell is a Sydney-based writer and GP. Her bestselling debut novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village was published in 2018 with rights sold internationally. Her second novel The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker was published 24th September 2019.

Joanna’s award winning short fiction has been published in a number of magazines, journals and short story anthologies including Award Winning Australian Writing. She has also written for The Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum and Sunday Life magazines.

Joanna’s third novel ‘The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home’ will be in stores October 27th 2020!

Details

Published: September 25th 2018 by Hachette Australia

Source: Library

Read: Paperback

Pages: 400

RRP: $29.99

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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

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Angus and Robertston

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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

 

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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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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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 

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Amazon US

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