I’ve made a commitment to myself to read selfishly in January. I know that I will be snowed under a pile of journal articles soon enough, so I’m doing my best to get around to all of the books that were shoved to the bottom of my TBR pile last year.
The first cab off the rank is THE LAST TUDOR by the bestselling historical fiction great, Philippa Gregory. I’ve been a big fan of Gregory’s Tudor novels ever since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL took the world by storm far too many years ago for my liking, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Gregory’s take on the Grey sisters for ages!
Paperback, 544 pages
Published: July 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published August 8th 2017)
“The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features
one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.
“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.
“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?”
Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels focusing on the Tudor and Plantagenet families and Jane Grey is such a fascinating character of this period, so I was excited to see how she portrayed the Grey sisters.
The book is split into three sections that tell the story from the perspective of each of the Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Jane is a well-known historical figure, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Kathryn and Mary going in.
The eldest sister, Jane, was proclaimed queen for nine days by her scheming family and Dudley in-laws after the death of Edward VI. She was a devout Protestant, having studied with Kathryn Parr and the great grand-daughter of Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, Queen of France.
Her reign was swiftly terminated when Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was able to form an army and win the favour of the Privy Council. Jane was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on February 12 1554, along with her husband, father, and other key members of the plot to put Jane on the throne.
The middle Grey sister – Katherine – was forced to remain in first Queen Mary’s court, then Elizabeth’s. She has almost no family remaining, her marriage was annulled, and she is treated as a threat by both queens. If she married and had a baby boy she would have as much as a claim to the throne as Jane had before her.
While Elizabeth is busy staving of threats to her crown by her other cousins – Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Douglas – Kathryn marries Edward Seymour in secret, and is imprisoned under house arrest once Elizabeth discovers their betrothal.
The third Grey sister – Mary – was a Little Person and the only Grey sister to survive Queen Elizabeth’s fear of a Tudor heir and have children of her own.
A lot of people complain that Gregory too often uses a writing trope ‘as you know, Bob’ where she includes too much information about story details by having characters that already know this information talk about it together.
I did notice it throughout the novel, but I don’t have an issue about it in this case. The families of this time period are complicated and confusing, and I would much prefer to have the slight irk over unrealistic dialogue than to get bogged down in figuring out who everyone is all the time.
I loved diving back into the Tudor world with Gregory, although I was sad to read that this might be her last novel that focuses on the Tudors as she is heading in a new direction now.
Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption. A punchy, powerful and page-turning novel about the redemptive power of great literature, from industry insider, John Purcell.
Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owen back to publication.
When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in north-west London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse was paid for with the enormous seven-figure advance Helen was given for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meet on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen has yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.
Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself – questions about what she values, her principles, whether she has integrity, whether she is authentic. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life or death.
From ultimate book industry insider, John Purcell, comes a literary page-turner, a ferocious and fast-paced novel that cuts to the core of what it means to balance ambition and integrity, and the redemptive power of great literature.
“Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption.”
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE by Australian publishing insider, John Purcell, exposes the seedy underbelly of publishing while pondering the meaning of great literature.
Amy Winston is a hard working and hard partying young editor who made her career launch off the ground by taking an average thriller writer and turning him into a household name. She is given the unenviable task of doing the same for literary giant, Helen Owen.
Helen and her husband, Malcolm Taylor, have been at odds with each other ever since Helen undertook the huge signing bonus to write the novel Amy has been told to edit into the commercial success of the year and moved them out of the tiny flat they had shared and written literary fiction in, even sharing an office, for more than 50 years.
When Amy walks into this complicated situation and agrees to stay at Helen and Malcolm’s flat until the novel is completed she bites off far more than she bargained for and is left to question her career, her principles, and what is the meaning of great literature.
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE was far more deep and meaningful than I expected from all of the buzz surrounding it. I’ve seen/heard a lot of comparisons to the television series “YOUNGER” and while they are similar in how they take us behind the scenes of the publishing industry, I don’t think that comparison really does “THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” justice. There were plenty of gritty sex scenes and a fascinating insider’s view of the publishing industry. John Purcell’s industry insider credentials are very strong, as he is the current Director of Books at Booktopia and owned his own bookshop for many years. I particularly loved the inside joke of the title of both this novel and the fictional “GIRL ON GIRL” novel. It does seem as though every second popular book at the moment has either “girl” or “woman” in the title!
“THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” is far more gritty, fast-paced, and shocking than “YOUNGER”. It will certainly cause you to ask yourself what does great literature mean to you? I particularly loved the final pages where Malcolm discusses what great literature means to him, and couldn’t agree more with his use of Jane Austen’s “EMMA” as an example of great literature.
About the Author
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing.
Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines.
Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.
PATIENT ZERO contains nine short stories from the post-apocalyptic Project Renova world created by Terry Tyler. The year is 2024 and ‘Bat Fever’ has overtaken the UK and changed the entire world forever.
These short stories are about minor characters from the series and can be read on their own, although I think they are far more enjoyable as a companion to the Project Renova series. That way you can find out how and why Nick becomes Patient Zero…
I really enjoyed reading about some of the minor characters and found the short story format interested and a very fast read. I’m looking forward to the next full length novel of the Project Renova series that is coming out soon. 5 stars!
@TerryTyler4 on Twitter… I am a writer, with 17 books on Amazon. I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead and all things post apocalyptic, also love South Park, Game of Thrones, autumn and winter, history, and most books/films/TV series to do with war/battles/gangsters. I’m a vegan who falls off the wagon now and again. Live in the north east of England with my husband, who I love even more than Daryl Dixon.
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.
Published August 20th 2018 by HarperCollins
ISBN 1460705645 (ISBN13: 9781460705643)
RRP $16.99 AU (Kindle) $26.99 AU (paperback)
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
Kelly Doust is author of the novels Dressing the Dearloves (September 2018) and Precious Things, both published by HarperCollins. Also 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.
The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most. Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.
“What you see depends on what you’re looking for”
I’m finding it hard to categorise THE RULES OF SEEING by debut UK author Joe Heap. It’s part quirky love story between two women with a lot going on in their lives, part thriller, and 100% a great read.
Nova works as a police interpreter, can speak five languages and has been blind her entire life until her brother convinces her to undergo and operation that will help her see the world for the first time.
While she is recovering from her operation she meets Kate who is an architect married to Tony, a police detective that Nova works with occasionally. Nova and Kate’s friendship could develop into something more if it was up to Nova, but they each have their own issues to deal with, including Nova’s difficulties with learning how to see and Kate and Tony’s relationship issues.
THE RULES OF SEEING is a fantastic debut novel and Joe Heap has done a brilliant job of covering a range of sensitive topics, including female romantic relationships, mental health, abuse, and disability. A great debut and full of unexpected surprises. 4 stars!
Joe Heap was born in 1986 to a biology teacher and a drama teacher, and grew up in a house that was 70% books, 25% bags of unmarked homework, 18% underpants drying on radiators, and 3% scattered Lego bricks.
He is very bad at maths.
In 2004 Joe won the Foyle Young Poet award, and his poetry has been published in several periodicals. He studied for a BA in English Literature at Stirling University and a Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, during which time he ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. It was okay.
Joe is now a full-time writer, but previously worked as an editor of books for kids and young adults. He has also been a subtitler for BBC News, a face painter at a safari park and a removal man for a dental convention. Before smartphones were invented, he manned a text service where people could ‘ask any question’, but he has since forgotten most of the answers.
He lives in London with his long-suffering girlfriend, short-suffering son, and much-aggrieved tabby cat.
From the author of The Fifth Letter comes a controversial and darkly comic story about the frustrations of being a childless woman in the modern baby-obsessed world… .
Poppy’s world has been tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend.
At least Annalise is on her side. Her new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids, so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent just an little about smug mummies’ privileges at work.
Meanwhile, their colleague Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one this decade and she’s heartily sick of being judged by women at the office as well as stay-at-home mums.
Then Poppy and Annalise’s group takes on a life of its own and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafés become battlegrounds, playgrounds become war zones and offices have never been so divided.
A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiraling out of control.
Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own . . .
THOSE OTHER WOMEN is a funny read that explores the complexities of female friendships and rivalries.
I think any woman will find themselves nodding along to this novel at some points, but I hope they will also gain a clearer understanding of the other side.
Poppy’s husband has left her for her best friend. To add insult to injury they are having a baby together when Poppy had thought they were both happy to remain childless. She teams up with her single and child-free work friend, Annalise, to complain about how easy they think it is for mums. Their colleague, Frankie, always seems to be able to get out of work whenever she likes and there is even a local mums group on Facebook that won’t let single women join. Poppy and Annalise start their own Facebook group for local single women, but things quickly move from companionship and the occasional vent to real-life confrontations and it becomes obvious that somebody in Poppy and Annalise’s group isn’t who she says she is.
THOSE OTHER WOMEN explores the the ways that women can so often be so harsh and judgmental towards themselves, and each other, and the ways that social media can often make these situations so much worse than they need to be.
As a childless woman in my 30s I have definitely felt very uncomfortable about that and been excluded by some women, and I would say I’ve probably unintentionally done the same to some women with kids myself. Like Moriarty demonstrates by the end of the novel, both groups have their own challenges and some bits about our lives that are also pretty fantastic. We really should be more open minded about other people’s life choices and talk to each other in person, rather than letting things fester and get blown out of proportion on social media.
I really love the research bydanah boyd who explores how young people use social media for anybody who is interested in doing further reading about the methods and psychology of bullying via social media. It can often be far more insidious and hurtful than real-life bullying and danah’s research would be incredibly insightful for parents of teenagers so they can have a clearer understanding of some of the warning signs to look out for.
About the Author
Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.
Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.
These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.
Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there in 2019.
Her romance novella Captivation was released both as an e-book and in print as part of a collection of romance stories titled, All My Love. She has since concluded that romance writing is not her thing. She also wrote two travel themed short stories for the U.K. Sunlounger anthologies, which were Amazon bestsellers.
While completing a BA with a major in writing at Macquarie University, she was awarded the Fred Rush Convocation prize for creative writing / literary criticism in Australian literature. This achievement made her glow with pride and happily took some of the sting out of The Age’s aforementioned criticism.
In 2017, Nicola released her third novel, The Fifth Letter. Published by HarperCollins in both Australia and the U.S. and by Penguin in the U.K, it was a top ten best seller in Australia and just snuck onto the USA Today Best seller list! It was translated into German, Dutch and Hungarian. In exciting news, film rights for The Fifth Letter were also optioned by Universal Cable Productions.
Nicola’s latest novel, Those Other Women was released in Australia, the US and the UK in 2018 and was an Amazon best seller. Marian Keyes had this to say about Those Other Women, ‘I devoured it, loved it and totally escaped into it … Fun and topical.’
She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriartyand Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”
Other things of note are Nicola’s lack of fine motor skills, demonstrated by her inability to thread keys onto key-rings, tie balloons, braid hair and apply eyeliner. If you have taken the time to read this far, she would very much like to send you a Freddo Frog to show her appreciation. But she probably won’t follow through, because she’ll most likely eat all the Freddo Frogs before she gets the chance to post them. Sorry, she does mean well.
A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.
Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect, until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate. At twenty, the fifth generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.
Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…
A PLACE TO REMEMBER is a sweet Australian romance story spanning two generations. Ava takes a job as a cook for the B&B on a remote northern Queensland cattle station, Ivy-May owned by the Tate family, in the 1980s. She is running away from a troubled childhood and plans to stay just long enough to save enough money to travel overseas. She doesn’t plan on falling in love with the only son of the Tate family, John. Tragedy separates Ava and John until thirty years later in the present day when both Ava and her daughter, Nina, travel to Ivy-May to seek answers about the past.
I really enjoyed the remote and quintessentially Australian setting and characters of A PLACE TO REMEMBER. I’ve visited this area before and McLeod has perfectly captured the scenery and Aussie characters through her vibrant and descriptive writing style. Ava and John’s tragic romance story filled with long-buried family secrets and betrayal was beautifully told.
About the Author
Jenn J McLeod was fifty when she started ticking things off her bucket list. So far she’s made that sea change, written that bestseller, and downsized her life to hit the road full time. Since 2014, home for Jenn (and her partner) is a 3-tonne, 25-foot caravan named Myrtle the Turtle. Selling her slice of suburbia and every stick of furniture was liberating (as was saying goodbye to the glut of kitchen gadgets and swapping a wardrobe of classy clothes and shoes for rubber Crocs, T-shirts, and shorts). (Check out my blog post on that.)
With her Seasons Collection of four novels already adored by readers in her home country, April 2018 will see her fifth novel released by the UK’s 2017 Independent Publisher of the Year, Head of Zeus, and distributed worldwide. Best described as heart-warming tales of Australian country life, friendship, family, love and contemporary issues, readers who enjoy family and friendship stories in the style of Monica McInerney, Mauve Binchy and Liz Bryski, will enjoy Jenn’s small town stories.
In addition to her novels, Jenn is published in short form and in industry magazines (including the Australian Literature Review’s ‘Novel Writing in Australia’ education series). She also maintains her own blog and loves connecting with readers online