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

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

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ROAR by Cecelia Ahern, plus some amazing book swag

“I’m here, I’m here, I’m here”. 

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published November 1st 2018 by HarperCollins

ISBN 0008283494 (ISBN13: 9780008283490)

Goodreads

“Have you ever imagined a different life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

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

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

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

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

Paperback, 444 pages

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

Original Title: Sense and Sensibility

ISBN: 0099589346 (ISBN13: 9780099589341)

Goodreads

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 stars!

 

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

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THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl

Goodreads Description

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

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

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

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

My Review 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

 

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Alex Dahl

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

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

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BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair @allisinclair 5 Star #BookReview

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BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair featuring Ziggy the cat

Goodreads Description

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

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

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

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

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

My Review 

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

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

 

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Alli Sinclair

 

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

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

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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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#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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