Fabulous multi-generational fashion themed family saga DRESSING THE DEARLOVES by Kelly Doust (@KellyDoust) #BookReview

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DRESSING THE DEARLOVES by Kelly Doust

Goodreads Description

One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women, and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds. Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things, spins another warm, glamorous and romantic mystery of secrets, love, fashion, families – and how we have to trust in ourselves, even in our darkest of days. One for lovers of Kate Morton, Belinda Alexandra, Fiona McIntosh and Lucy Foley. Failed fashion designer Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England – broke, ashamed and in disgrace – only to be told her parents are finally selling their once-grand, now crumbling country house, Bledesford, the ancestral home of the Dearlove family for countless generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life trying to escape being a Dearlove, and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, charismatic and successful women. Beset by self-doubt, she starts helping her parents prepare Bledesford for sale, when she finds in a forgotten attic a thrilling cache of old steamer trunks and tea chests full of elaborate dresses and accessories acquired from across the globe by five generations of fashionable Dearlove women. Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret which has been hidden – in plain sight – for decades, a secret that will change the way she thinks about herself, her family, and her future.Romantic, warm, and glamorous, moving from Edwardian England to the London Blitz to present day London, Dressing the Dearloves is a story of corrosiveness of family secrets, the insecurities that can sabotage our best efforts, and the seductive power of dressing up. 

400 pages
Published August 20th 2018 by HarperCollins
ISBN 1460705645 (ISBN13: 9781460705643)
RRP $16.99 AU (Kindle) $26.99 AU (paperback)

My Review 

Fabulous multi-generational fashion themed family saga! DRESSING THE DEARLOVES the second fashion themed novel by Australian author Kelly Doust, and you can really tell that she has a great love for vintage fashion and the stories they hold.

Sylvie Dearlove failed spectacularly in the cut-throat New York fashion design world. With her company bankrupt and her reputation in tatters she has no choice but to return to her family’s upper crust ancestral home in the English countryside. She is shocked to discover that Bledesford is even more run down than she remembered, her grandmother and family matriarch, Lizzie, is terribly ill and her parents seem to have no choice but to sell up and make way for boring and generic sub-divisions.

While helping her parents clean out the overflowing attic with the help of her best uni girlfriends Sylvie discovers more than just the high fashion of  five generations of her enigmatic and successful female ancestors. She also stumbles across a shocking family secret that  changes the way she feels about her family, what it means to be a Dearlove, and will alter her future plans irrevocably.

I loved the way that Doust tied the stories of the Dearlove ladies in with their clothing. I think it’s so true that the clothes we wear for special occasions do hold onto our stories and the way Doust writes about vintage fashion with such love is a wonderful reminder of the power of dressing up. 5 stars!

About the Author 

 

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Kelly Doust, author of DRESSING THE DEARLOVES

 

Kelly Doust is author of the novels Dressing the Dearloves (September 2018) and Precious Things, both published by HarperCollinsAlso A Life in Frocks, vintage fashion bible Minxy Vintage: how to customise & wear vintage clothing and The Crafty Minx series of craft books.

With a background in book publishing and publicity, Kelly has worked in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia, and has freelanced for Vogue, Australian Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life Magazine. She lives in Sydney with her husband and daughter, and works as a Lifestyle Publisher for Murdoch Books.

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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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BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader @robyncad #BookReview

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BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader

 

GOODREADS

From Robyn Cadwallader, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress, comes a deeply profound and moving novel of the importance of creativity and the power of connection, told through the story of the commissioning of a gorgeously decorated medieval manuscript, a Book of Hours.

London, 1321: In a small stationer’s shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a Book of Hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power – it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.

Rich, deep, sensuous and full of life, Book of Colours is also, most movingly, a profoundly beautiful story about creativity and connection, and our instinctive need to understand our world and communicate with others through the pages of a book.

Praise for The Anchoress:

‘So beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful – also suspenseful. I loved this book.’ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

‘Affecting … finely drawn … a considerable achievement.’ Sarah Dunant, New York Times

‘Elegant and eloquent’ Irish Mail

‘Cadwallader’s writing evokes a heightened attention to the senses: you might never read a novel so sensuous yet unconcerned with romantic love. For this alone it is worth seeking out. But also because The Anchoress achieves what every historical novel attempts: reimagining the past while opening a new window – like a squint, perhaps – to our present lives.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘A novel of page-turning grace’ Newtown Review of Books

MY REVIEW 

“Let all of life be there in the book”

BOOK OF COLOURS by Australian author Robyn Cadwallader is set in medieval London and covers the fascinating history of some of the first book makers. Back then they were called “illuminators” or “limners” and books were beautifully illustrated prayer books. Not much is known about the limners of this time, but Cadwallader has combined a great deal of historical research and imagination to tell the story of the creation one of these intricate prayer books through the eyes of the limners who created it and the noble lady who commissioned it.

Cadwallader drew inspiration from medieval prayer books such as the one pictured below. The “Neville of Hornby Hours” was created in London around 1325-1375 and can be viewed at the British Library website. 

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Book of Hours, Use of Sarum (The ‘Neville of Hornby Hours’) 

Interspersed throughout the novel are fascinating details about how the limners of medieval times created their masterpieces. This is told through Gemma’s story. She is the  wife of John Dancaster, master illuminator, but she is just as talented as he is. She is unable to claim her work as her own due to the sexist attitudes of the times, but her skill and love of illuminating becomes evident through the book she decides to write, “The Art of Illumination” and as the story unfolds.

BOOK OF COLOURS took me a long time to read (more than a week!) but it was definitely worth the long reading time. The amount of historical information and the way all of the story lines tied in together deserved to be lingered over. At first I was a bit disappointed by the ending but after reflecting on it for a little while I think it was fitting. Medieval times were grim, even for noble families, so it feels right that there wasn’t a big happy ending for this story. 5 stars!

Thank you HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with a review copy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Robyn Cadwallader

 

Robyn Cadwallader lives among vineyards in the countryside outside Canberra. She has written poetry, short stories and a non-fiction book. Her first novel, The Anchoress, was published in Australia, the UK, the United States and France.

 

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ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

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ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

 

David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

I read ON THE ROAD as part of the David Bowie reading challenge #DBowieBooks. David Bowie was an avid reader and I am attempting to read my way through his 100 favourite books. Follow the links below to check out my reviews of the books I’ve read so far.

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

8. On the Road

 

Goodreads Synopsis

 

When Jack Kerouac’s On the Road first appeared in 1957, readers instantly felt the beat of a new literary rhythm. A fictionalised account of his own journeys across America with his friend Neal Cassady, Kerouac’s beatnik odyssey captured the soul of a generation and changed the landscape of American fiction for ever.

Influenced by Jack London and Thomas Wolfe, Kerouac always wanted to be a writer, but his true voice only emerged when he wrote about his own experiences in On the Road. Leaving a broken marriage behind him, Sal Paradise (Kerouac) joins Dean Moriarty (Cassady), a tearaway and former reform school boy, on a series of journeys that takes them from New York to San Francisco, then south to Mexico. Hitching rides and boarding buses, they enter a world of hobos and drifters, fruit-pickers and migrant families, small towns and wide horizons. Adrift from conventional society, they experience America in the raw: a place where living is hard, but ‘life is holy and every moment is precious’.

With its smoky, jazz-filled atmosphere and its restless, yearning spirit of adventure, On the Road left its mark on the culture of the late 20th century, influencing countless books, films and songs. Kerouac’s prose is remarkable both for its colloquial swing and for the pure lyricism inspired by the American landscape – ‘the backroads, the black-tar roads that curve among the mournful rivers like Susquehanna, Monongahela, old Potomac and Monocacy’. This Folio Society edition is illustrated with evocative photographs of Kerouac and the landscapes of 1950s America. Now acknowledged as a modern classic, On the Road remains a thrilling and poignant story of the road less travelled.

 

My 5 Star Review

 

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“And this was really the way that my whole road trip experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.” – ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

 

ON THE ROAD is widely considered a classic American novel and has inspired generations of young travellers. Jack Kerouac writes autobiographically about his travel across America from east to west and then down south to Mexico with his rag tag group of beatnik friends in the late 1940s.

Kerouac tells the story of the emerging beat generation and what it means to be beat. He captures the essence of one of the first American post-war counter-cultures through a richly descriptive stream of consciousness narrative style. The way the novel is written reminds me of the crazy kind of drunk conversations you would have at around 3 am at a house party with some guy you’ve never met before. It takes some time to get into this kind of writing style because it jumps around a lot, but I think it was the perfect choice to capture these characters in this specific time and place.

I found ON THE ROAD to be such fascinating modern classic because it so perfectly captures the spirit of the time it was written in and the culture that Kerouac and the characters who inspired the novel helped to create. Post-war America is such an interesting time to me from a sociological perspective. The idea of teenagers and leisure time were first invented during this period, and advertising was also fast becoming a huge part of our lives. The beatniks that Kerouac so passionately describes were also the foundations that inspired many counter-cultures.

About the Author

 

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Neal Cassady (inspiration for Dean Moriarty character) and Jack Kerouac

 

Jack Kerouac, original name Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, (born March 12, 1922, Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, Florida), American novelist, poet, and leader of the Beat movement whose most famous book, On the Road (1957), had broad cultural influence before it was recognized for its literary merits. On the Road captured the spirit of its time as no other work of the 20th century had since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925).

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Giveaway Winner of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger

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Thank you to everybody who entered the competition to win a copy of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger by letting me know on WordPress, Facebook and Instagram their favourite way to indulge while reading. I loved finding out the ways everybody likes to read and took notes for my future reading pleasure.

I entered everybody’s name into a random name picker and the winner is…

Carolyn Ansky

who answered on Facebook that she likes to indulge in some Tea with Lemon while she reads. 

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger

#BookReview THE COLOUR OF BEE LARKHAM’S MURDER by Sarah J. Harris

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THE COLOUR OF BEE LARKHAM’S MURDER by Sarah J. Harris

 

Goodreads Blurb

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

My Review 

I was hooked from the opening line of THE COLOUR OF BEE LARKHAM’S MURDER!

“Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystal’s with glittery edges and jagged, silver icicles”

Jasper is an extraordinary 13 year old boy who has Synaesthesia which means that he sees the sounds as colours. It also means that he is unable to recognise faces, not even his parents or the school bullies who give him a hard time almost every day. Ever since Jasper’s mother, who also had Synaesthesia, passed away Jasper and his father have been struggling to cope.

When Bee Larkham moves into Jasper’s street he is first drawn to her because the colour he sees when she speaks is so similar to his mother and she allows him to paint the neighbourhood parakeets and the beautiful colours they make for Jasper from her bedroom window.

When Bee Larkham mysteriously disappears Jasper is certain that something terrible happened to her and he and his father had something to do with it, but nobody seems to be taking her disappearance seriously.

I found the idea of a crime/mystery novel through the eyes of a teenager with Synaesthesia a fascinating concept. Because Jasper is unable to recognise faces, he is an incredibly unreliable witness. He struggles to convince his father or the police to listen to his fears about Bee Larkham and we are left wondering right up to the end about what really happened. Sarah J. Harris has done a brilliant job of senstively writing from Jasper’s perspective. I learned a lot about Synaesthesia while enjoying the “whodunnit” and aspect of the novel.

About the Author

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Sarah J. Harris

I’m an author and freelance education journalist, writing for national newspapers.

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is my first adult novel and was published by HarperCollins in May 2018 and will be published by Touchstone Books in the United States in June 2018, with other countries including Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Turkey, China and the Czech Republic to follow.

I have three YA books published by Scholastic under the Jessica Cole: Model Spy series. Code Red Lipstick, Fashion Assassin and Catwalk Criminal are written under a pen name, Sarah Sky, and also published in Germany. 

I grew up in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, and studied English at Nottingham University before gaining a post-graduate diploma in journalism at Cardiff University.

I trained as a journalist at the Western Daily Press in Bristol, where my highlight was interviewing screen legend Charlton Heston and my low point was being sneezed on by a cow at a fatstock competition. 

I enjoy martial arts – I’m a black belt in karate and a green belt in kick-boxing. I live in London with my husband and two young sons.

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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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