Book Review: The Nancys by R.W.R McDonald

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The Nancys book cover

Blurb

The Nancys is adult crime fiction in the tradition of a whodunit murder mystery, except all the characters are completely out of control and pay no attention to any rules.

TIPPY CHAN is eleven and lives in Riverstone, a two pub town in South Otago, New Zealand. The same town her UNCLE PIKE escaped from when he was a teenager. Tippy loves her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early versions where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery.

Tippy’s chance comes when her mum goes on holiday, leaving Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, DEVON, in charge. When her teacher turns up dead beside the small town’s only traffic light Tippy teams up with her babysitters to form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs in to a risky investigation. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the killer, and an intervention from Tippy’s Mum all conspire against The Nancys. While the town grieves everyone believes the police have caught the killer, including Tippy’s mum. It is up to The Nancys to go against the flow, as well as questionable interior design and fashion choices, to solve the mystery before anyone else dies.

The Nancys is a book for anyone who’s ever felt outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and the courage required to tell the truth, no matter what the cost.

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The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald

My Review

The Nancys is an adult murder mystery inspired by the classic Nancy Drew books, but it’s so much more than that. It also explores complex themes about outsiders, the family we choose, courage and the importance of telling the truth.

Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan is still grieving for her father when her Uncle Pike and his fashion designer boyfriend Devon arrive from Sydney to care for her while she goes on a cruise. Tippy and her mother still live in the same house in the small two pub town of Riverstone New Zealand that Pike escaped from as a teenager, so his return inevitably brings up ghosts from his past. I grew up in small-town myself, so I could definitely relate to Pike’s uncomfortable experiences bumping into ex-boyfriends and old nemeses and all of the weird feelings that can bring up!

When Tippy’s friend falls off a bridge in mysterious circumstances and then her teacher is gruesomely murdered Pike, Devon and Tippy form a club inspired by Nancy Drew to investigate. Using Pike’s network of old contacts, Tippy’s keen sense of observation, and Devon’s fashion sense, The Nancys seem to be getting close to cracking the case. The only problem is making sure they discover who did it before anybody else gets hurt … or Tippy’s mum puts a stop to their investigation.

I loved this book! It’s in a similar format to a classic Nancy Drew mystery, but it also has so much warmth and heart. I was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew books too when I was around Tippy’s age, and I think The Nancys absolutely did them justice. Nancy Drew really is a bit of style icon and I agree that the older books are the best.

I loved the close relationship between Pike and Tippy and the way he helped her and her mother deal with the death of Tippy’s father. Pike and Devon’s relationship was full of crude humour and in-jokes but I have a good feeling that their relationship will last longer than Pike’s previous relationship record of three months … I will hopefully find out the answer to that in the sequel coming out soon!

About the Author

 

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R.W.R. McDonald author photo

Rob McDonald is a Kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and an extended rainbow family including HarryCat and Stevie Nicks the chicken. Rob realised while studying journalism that writing fiction, rather than reporting facts, was his true bent.

The Nancys is being published by Allen and Unwin with a release date June 2019. This is his first novel.

Rob is a 2016 alumnus of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel Stage 1 and 2 where he worked on his manuscript The Nancys. In 2017 The Nancys was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Outside of writing Rob works in international education.

Details

Published:  June 3rd 2019 by Allen & Unwin

Source: Own copy

Read: Kindle Edition, July 2020

Pages: 316

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XiwMi4

Apple: https://apple.co/2KMQh0D

Google: http://bit.ly/2GkccXG

Booktopia: http://bit.ly/2PhmuMm

 

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

Goodreads

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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 

Blurb

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

My Review

Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those rare books that I would recommend to almost anybody. Beautifully written and evocative, it is an incredibly unique coming of age story wrapped up inside a compelling murder mystery.
 
The book is set in North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. By he age of seven, Kya is abandoned by her entire family and left to live alone in a broken down shack on an isolated marsh. She manages to survive and to evade the school truancy officers by imitating the animals around her and with a little bit of help from the kind-hearted owner of a local gas dock and bait shop.
 
Kya opens up when two young men take an interest in her as she develops into a beautiful teenager, until, something unthinkable happens. This is where the murder mystery comes into play, so I don’t want to spoil that part for anybody.
 
Even though the townspeople view Kya as a wild “Marsh Girl” we learn that she is actually sensitive and intelligent young woman. Learning how to read and write as a teenager seems to be very easy for her (perhaps a little bit too easy?) and she spends her entire life observing and collecting incredibly detailed information about the marsh.
 
The accurate and beautifully written descriptions of the marsh and the animals that lived in it were the strongest and most evocative part of the novel. Delia Owens has spent years writing non-fiction about nature and that is evident throughout. The author has also done a brilliant job of weaving in the Southern feeling and accents. “Magnolia mouth” as one of the characters aptly describes it.
 
The ending of the book left me feeling so very sad for Kya and angry about all the people in her life who let her down. It’s heartbreaking to imagine such a young and vulnerable child/young woman being abandoned and let down by almost every single person in her life. I was furious when her mother’s story was revealed and I found many of the actions of many of the townspeople to be unforgivable.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those stories that I know will stick with me for a long time. The wild and ferocious beauty of the North Carolina marsh where Kya spent her time, the almost unbearable loneliness she experienced, and the questions it raises about the way our society treats our most vulnerable people are all rolled up inside a mystery that will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime.
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Where the Crawdads Sing with Zeus Cat

About the Author

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in NatureThe African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel

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Author Delia Owens

Book Review: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

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Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

 

Blurb

No matter how far you run, the past will always find you. A gripping, page-turning mystery for all fans of Kate Furnivall and Sara Foster.

A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A woman on the run.

Juliet’s elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime – and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl’s missing signet ring.

When Juliet’s estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

What secrets did Karl Weiss have that could have led to his murder? A German soldier who migrated to Adelaide, Juliet knew Karl as a loving grandfather. Is it possible he was a war criminal? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII Germany that will put both her and her sister’s lives in danger …

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?

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Ziggy the cat with Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Review

“A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth.”

Inspired by Sonya Bates’ own family history, Inheritance of Secrets is a tense dual timeline thriller that travels from WW2 Germany to contemporary Australia. A story about family, secrets and how the past can catch up with you when you least expect it, Inheritance of Secrets intrigued me from the very beginning and kept me guessing the entire way through.

The historical sections of the novel are set just after World War 2. German soldier Karl Weiss decides to leave his devastated homeland after the war is over to build a new future in Australia, even though that means leaving behind his girlfriend who remains to care for her sick mother. Onboard the ship, he is grateful for the financial support and company of his hometown friend, but Hans is having a difficult time accepting that the Nazis were as evil as everyone says they were.

In contemporary Adelaide, Karl’s granddaughter Juliet is devastated when her warm and loving grandparents are murdered in their home. At first, she thinks it must have been a random break-in gone wrong, but she quickly realises that somebody from Karl’s past in Germany is responsible and his missing signet ring is the only clue. As it becomes obvious that whoever murdered her grandparents is still around, and searching for something, Juliet needs to figure out who exactly she can trust, and whether her estranged sister can be trusted.

There are so many things that I love about Inheritance of Secrets. I’m a sucker for dual timeline novels, and I’ve been drawn to a lot of novels set during WW2 lately. There’s something deeply satisfying about being taken away to such a tumultuous time in history, especially with all the terrible stuff going on at the moment.

I don’t often read war novels told from the perspective of a German soldier, and I really appreciated reading this point of view. It was interesting to read about the average German people who were unwillingly caught up in the Nazi party’s insanity and did what they needed to do to survive during and after the war. It must have been difficult for those people to accept that they had been on the ‘wrong’ side and move on to another country alongside people who had been the Nazi’s victims. I think Sonya Bates described this scenario with a great deal of sensitivity, most likely because the Karl character is inspired by her own father. 

The mystery surrounding the murders and how they related to Karl’s past and the missing signet ring was equally satisfying. I usually find myself drawn more to the historical sections when I read a book with a dual timeline, but I found Juliet’s contemporary section just as thrilling as Karl’s story. I had no idea what was really going on, or if they were going to make it out alive, until the very end.

Inheritance of Secrets has a lot going on, but Sonya Bates has expertly woven all the threads together to provide a seamless reading experience between the present and the past. An engaging and tense historical thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Many thanks to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book to review.

About the Author

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Sonya Spreen Bates is a writer of adult and children’s fiction living in Adelaide, South Australia. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018 for the unpublished manuscript for Inheritance of Secrets, and several of her children’s books have been commended by CCBC Best Books, Resource Links, or the Junior Library Guild in the USA.

Born in Iowa City, USA, Sonya grew up in Victoria, Canada. She studied Linguistics at the University of Victoria before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Speech-Language Pathology at Dalhousie University. She worked in paediatric Speech Pathology for 25 years, first in rural British Columbia, and then in Adelaide, South Australia when she moved there in 1997, and currently works as a casual academic in clinical education.

Sonya’s first children’s book was published in 2003. Her short stories and novels have been published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and foreign rights to her chapter book, Wildcat Run, were sold to a Chinese publisher. She started writing for adults in 2015 and her debut adult novel Inheritance of Secrets will be published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2020.

Details

Published: April 20th 2020 by HarperCollins Australia

Source: Publisher

Read: Paperback, May 2020

Pages: 432

RRP: $32.99 AUD

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads

Purchase

 

 

 

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

 

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 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

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The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

Blurb

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

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

THE VICTORY!’

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

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

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

PRAISE FOR KERRI TURNER

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

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

 

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

My Review

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

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

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

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

5 stars! 



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The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

Details

Author: Kerri Turner

Published: January 20th 2020 by HQ Fiction

Source: Competition by Robinsons Bookshop

Read:  Paperback, 362 pages, March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

cassie comfort reads

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

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

See? It’s just lovely, isn’t it.

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

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

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

 

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The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dymocks

Angus and Robertston

QBD Books

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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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