Aussie Book Review: Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Lost and Found Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, June 2014

 Synopsis- Millie Bird (aka Captain Funeral), seven-years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her red, curly hair. Her struggling mother leaves Millie in a local department store and never returns.

Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house – or spoken to another human being – since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silences by yelling at passers by, watching loud static on the TV and maintaining a strict daily schedule.

Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife’s skin. Now he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl is moved into a nursing home but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

A series of events binds the three together on a road trip that takes them from the south coast of WA to Kalgoorlie and along the Nullarbor to the edge of the continent. Millie wants to find her mum. Karl wants to find out how to be a man. And Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was.

They will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself experience sadness just might be the key to life.

 Review- There’s a lot of hype about this book which made me feel wary… and I was very close to giving it a miss. BUT I’m glad I didn’t!

What a quirky and fascinating look at life from the perspective of children and the elderly. More specifically, the experience of grief, loss and disappointment in those we love and in life itself.

Abandoned by her mother, Millie, young and innocent view of the world, sets out to find her mum. Along the way she collects a mannequin named Manny, a senile bloke called Karl and cranky old neighbour named Agatha. It’s hope that connects them despite their differences, occasional dislike for each other and the inevitable comfort zone testing that unravels as they join in their expedition. Its set in Australia and the story gives us a glimpse of suburbia and outback landscape as well as the Australian lifestyle and culture as they cross the country in search of Millie’s runaway mother.

Millie is an adorably vulnerable protagonist who copes with her grief and despair by committing to the mission of finding her mum. Despite the gravity of the situation, the emotional turmoil experienced by each of these characters and the harsh realities of life, Brooke Davis manages to coat the story in a light wittiness that turns this sad story into something that’s enjoyable. I really liked it. Far more than I thought I would.

I recommend this story for young and old and everything in between… anyone would be able to connect with the experiences, feelings and challenges faced by each of the characters in this book.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Lost and Found can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:

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Book Review: The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw

The Bookshop That Floated Away The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, July 2014

 Synopsis- In early 2009 a strange sort of business plan landed on the desk of a pinstriped bank manager. It had pictures of rats and moles in rowing boats and archaic quotes about Cleopatra’s barge. It asked for a GBP30,000 loan to buy a black-and-cream narrowboat and a small hoard of books. The manager said no. Nevertheless The Book Barge opened six months later and enjoyed the happy patronage of local readers, a growing number of eccentrics and the odd moorhen. Business wasn’t always easy, so one May morning owner Sarah Henshaw set off for six months chugging the length and breadth of the country. Books were bartered for food, accommodation, bathroom facilities and cake. During the journey, the barge suffered a flooded engine, went out to sea, got banned from Bristol and, on several occasions, floated away altogether. This account follows the ebbs and flows of Sarah’s journey as she sought to make her vision of a floating bookshop a reality.

 Review- In 2009, Sarah Henshaw proposed a business plan for a loan application… and was denied. What could go wrong with $30,000, a narrow canal boat and a floating bookshop? Well a lot did once she roped in the money and set out to sail along Britain’s rivers.

I’m a pretty big fan of the travel memoir genre and when I discovered this book captured two of my passions-travel and books- into one slim novel I couldn’t resist requesting a copy from the publisher. While it wasn’t your typical travel memoir, I mean England’s canals generally aren’t the adventure travel that you expect in these books, but it did have some similarities that I enjoyed.  I actually really admired Sarah’s passion for her business venture as it’s such a cool idea. Even when faced with many challenges to get her business up and started she still persevered. To take on a floating bookshop without any boating experience is a pretty big deal and I thought Sarah was quite brave to do this solo.

Sarah has to learn the ropes of the canals and boating etiquette very quickly as she encounters expert boaters, those that thought they were experts and those that sound downright mad. On her travels she barters books for food, accommodation and a warm shower… something I also admired about her. There’s no way I could cope with relying on strangers to meet my basic needs. Especially since it’s so darned cold in the UK! Social media was probably her saving grace in this respect and quite a clever way of making connections with people that she could benefit from.

Okay, so this story didn’t completely blow me away, it was rather slow in parts of the book and was really a compilation of excerpts that denote her travels. It was a journey focussed story which means the reader doesn’t get to meet secondary characters that last the lengths of the book, but to be fair, she did warn us upfront:

“This story is about a journey where I swap books for food or a bathroom or a bed. As such, it’s a series of very short, quite intense relationships with people I never get back together with. Much like a very long Taylor Swift Album”

I think I enjoyed the last third of the book more than any other part and that’s probably because it’s the point in the novel when Sarah starts to share more of herself and the emotional struggles she was faced with on her trip. I didn’t love this book as I’d hoped, but I did find her story fascinating and at least I can cross off Own a book barge from my bucket list because it all just seems too hard!  No doubt Sarah has the passion and determination to see the business succeed. An interesting read if you’re after a travel/ business memoir with a little twist :-)

Overall Rating

3/5

“It was okay”

The Bookshop That Floated Away can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

 

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Book Review: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager (Outlander, #3)  Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Paperback

TBR pile

Arrow Books, 1995

 Synopsis- From the author of the breathtaking bestsellers Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber , the extraordinary saga continues. Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.
Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.

 Review- Well I couldn’t go to the Scottish Highlands without reading an Outlander book!

I read the first book in this series about 5 years ago, the second book about 2 years ago and I finally managed to buy a copy of the 1000+ page third book in the series Voyager, at a bookstore in Edinburgh last month. Not only are they mammoth books to read, but I found particularly in the first two, they were both quite emotionally heavy. There’s a lot of violence (including sexual), death, grief and a probably every emotion possible is experienced while reading these books. Thankfully, while Voyager was packed with plot twists, character development and laden with emotion; I didn’t experience that same heaviness (as in book one) when I finished this novel.

I couldn’t even begin to provide a succinct summary of the plot… so I won’t because there’s no point- this series needs to be read at the beginning… so I suggest you start there if you’re interested in this story. I will say I felt quite emotional when Claire and Jamie, and wow, the chemistry is still there.

I was hooked into the story immediately and managed to read half the book in just a couple of days with thanks to train rides and flights… it was the perfect way to kill the time.  My attention did start to wane by the last 300 pages as the ending was slowly drawn out and I wasn’t sure whether they would actually tie up the threads that had been woven throughout this hefty novel. Thankfully they did, mostly.

Well, I think there’s three more books in this series to go… it may be a while before I pick up another, but I know once I do delve into Gabaldon’s world it’s hard to get back out until you’ve turned that last page. A time-travelling romantic saga that will completely consume you from beginning to end.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Voyager can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

Really looking forward to seeing Outlander on the small screen:

Premieres on Soho on August 14th at 8.30pm (AEST)

 

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Aussie Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Paperback

TBR pile

Random House, 2012

 Synopsis- An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale’s first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.

After Margherita’s father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued…

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.

Review- Setting off on a holiday was the perfect opportunity for me to select one of the lengthy novels from my unread bookshelves. Bitter Greens was one of those books I bought after reading so many reviews that spoke highly of it, but unfortunately I hadn’t had the chance to pick it up and read it.

A rather dark fairytale re-telling of Rapunzel, gives Bitter Greens a lot of appeal. Thankfully I was hooked into this book immediately! What a relief to have a book that instantly fascinates you when you are faced with a 24 hour plane journey! I stuck my nose into this book and when I put it down I couldn’t wait to delve back into it again. At the same time, it was one of those books I just wanted to savour. I didn’t want to read it too quickly and be done with it in a couple of days. Instead I happily enjoyed this story for the first week and a half of my trip.

I don’t know what I can say about this book that hasn’t been said before, but I loved it. Each of the female protagonists were well fleshed out as characters, to the extent that I couldn’t even hate the witch Selena because I could completely understand how she evolved into the adult she was because of the trauma she experienced as a child.

Stories within stories, a blend of fairytale with reality and three strong women who know exactly what they want in life made for entertaining reading. I highly recommend this book.

 

Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

Bitter Greens can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:

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Scotland Wrap Up

I apologise for not getting this post up sooner! I had a fantastic holiday in Scotland last month but after a rather turbulent flight home I needed a little downtime. Then before I knew it I was back at work and into things full swing!

Anyway, I promised some pics from our trip and here they are!

We spent a few days in London… loved the Camden Markets! Saw “Matilda the Musical” at the Cambridge Theatre… it was AMAZING! For those in Aus… it comes to Sydney in Aug 2015 and I highly recommend you check it out.

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Me at “Matilda The Musical”

 

Then we took a five hour train ride up to Glasgow (in first class!) before picking up our hire car and setting out on a road trip up the west coast of Scotland from Fort William up to Isle of Skye.

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Fort William

Isle of Skye is definitely one of the highlights of the trip! The scenery was STUNNING.

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Portree, Isle of Skye

 

Next stop was Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. We hoped to spot Old Nessie but unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, we arrived in Edinburgh where we experienced our first days of sunshine! We stayed for a week as I had to attend a conference for a couple of days.

 

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

On the way home we had a stopover in Amsterdam. The Anne Frank Museum was definitely worth the 50 minute wait in line.

And so that’s it! My hubby and I are so happy to be back home in our own little slice of countryside heaven. Our pooch is happy too :-)

Buddy

Buddy

 

I’ll have some reviews up shortly!

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Aussie Book Review: Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

Let Her Go  Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

Paperback

Uncorrected Proof Copy provided by publisher

Hachette, June 2014

 Synopsis- How far would you go to have a family?
What would you hide for someone you love?

Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.

Years later, a teenage girl, Louise, is found on the island, unconscious and alone.
Flown out for urgent medical treatment, when she recovers she returns home and overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they’ve made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family and, for Louise, nothing will ever be the same again.

LET HER GO is a gripping, emotionally charged story of family, secrets and the complications of love. Part thriller, part mystery, it will stay with you long after you close the pages wondering – What would you have done?

Review- Dawn Barker has brought another powerful novel to the shelves. In Barker’s debut novel Fractured, I was left feeling a little fractured myself. The issues explored were powerful but also overwhelmingly sad. I was left with little hope at the end of the story.

While Let Her Go also evoked many emotions in me including grief, sadness, frustration and compassion; when I finished the novel I wasn’t left feeling devoid of all hope- thankfully!

In Let Her Go, Zoe McAllister faces yet another setback in her life, after struggling with lupus (an autoimmune disease) since her adolescence she receives the news that she is infertile and unable to carry a baby. She is devastated. Her husband’s support and condolences do nothing to reprieve the guilt and overwhelming sense of loss she is experiencing. With her husband’s mining job taking him away for more than half of each month, Zoe feels alone and unworthy.

So no one is more surprised than Zoe when her step sister and mother of three, Nadia, offers to be her surrogate. Zoe’s husband is apprehensive, as is Nadia’s husband, but both the women seem pretty set on their vision to create the family Zoe always dreamed of.

What Barker does so well, and is no doubt influenced by her psychiatric training, is create characters who are likeable yet flawed, who present with strength and determination on the surface and who have a wealth of uncertainties, fears and doubts lingering deep below. The undercurrents of the relationships in this story is so realistic it’s scary. I think that’s what I love and dislike about this story. Everything feels so real and yet it’s quite hard to face the true array of emotions humans experience when placed in a pressurised situation. From infertility to surrogacy, to relationship breakdowns, alcoholism, domestic violence and adolescent self-harm- this book doesn’t shy away from the big issues. Not to mention the number of ethical dilemmas that’s highlighted in the story!

Working in the perinatal field myself I could not only see elements of my clients and their mothers, but also facets of my own social network and family history. It’s the kind of book that makes you think a lot. Perhaps that’s why I’m typically drawn to romance and happily-ever afters! Work is where I do all my thinking… reading is my escape! In essence, Let Her Go is an easy read because its characters draw you in and there’s a subtle flow of suspense that propels the book forward. And yet it’s a difficult story to read because of its realness.

Let Her Go is well worth the read and is guaranteed to keep you thinking about the issues raised well after you’ve closed the book. Highly recommended.

Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

Let Her Go can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:

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Aussie Book Review: Tea House in the Lime Trees by Elizabeth Martin

Click here to close window Tea House in the Lime Trees by Elizabeth Martin

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Boolarang Press, May 2014

 Synopsis- Coffeeholic Claire, blissfully in love, answers an ad for her dream job – as a travelling companion to Italy; the home of food, culture, art, fashion and of course, COFFEE.

But her plans unravel quickly. Claire finds herself in Dimbulah, Far North Queensland, the home of nothing. Without Tom it’s like she’s lost everything, even her taste for coffee. That is until Paul arrives, the handsome heir to the Dimbulah farm, on a glittering Ducati. Paul’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. He ignites in Claire a passion for the beauty of the area, the food of the tropics and the ‘other’ drink, tea.

Review- A couple of years ago I read the fun and witty chic lit novel set in far North Queensland, The Coffeeholic and the Cafe (also known as All You Need is Love and Coffee) by Elizabeth Martin. So, I was quite interested to see where the story would lead when I was contacted about reading Martin’s sequel, Tea House in the Lime Trees.

Claire and her boyfriend Bruce have had a blissful couple of months travelling North Queensland, but as their finances start to dwindle they decide it’s time to find some work and save up for their next big adventure. When Claire is offered a position as a travelling companion and Bruce accepts a job in mining, they are both over the moon. Together, they will be starting a new adventure in the Home of Coffee! Unfortunately, a misunderstanding leads to the realisation that Claire and Bruce’s idea of the Home of Coffee is substantially different. Their jobs are in different countries!

Devastated by this setback in their plans for the future, Claire and Bruce mutually accept their long distance relationship and intend to reconnect when their three month postings end. The ever so bubbly and eager Claire is thrilled about her new job… she can’t believe she’s really going to Italy!

Unfortunately another misunderstanding for Claire means that her dream job is quickly slipping away. Instead she’s left with a huge farm in the sticky, hot Far North Queensland town of Dimbulah. Even I felt completely deflated. Poor Claire!

Feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running such a huge property and missing her boyfriend who is uncontactable in a remote location she is vulnerable to the charms of the owner’s nephew Paul who bulldozes his way in to her life with the promise of fun, fanciful ideas and lots of tea. Coffeeholic Claire is in awe of the energy he brings and is quickly swept up in his dream to resurrect the Dimbulah Tea House. They get to work; renovating and advertising with a dash of playful flirting- only to stop for a tea break.

Martin creates an eccentric cast of characters and I can’t help but like Claire’s naive zest for life which propelled me through the story. Just like Cyclone Angela erupting through Dimbulah, Tea House in the Lime Trees sucked me in and spat me out and before I knew it I’d finished the book!

Loved the setting, loved the characters and I continue to enjoy Martin’s witty protagonist Claire. I wonder what she’ll be up to next?

 

 Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Tea House in the Lime Trees can be purchased from Boolarong Press and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:

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