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)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

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:

awwbadge_2014

 

2 Comments

Filed under Aussie Book Reviews, Australian Women Writer's Challenge 2014, Book reviews

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.

IMG_2952

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.

IMG_3090

Fort William

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

IMG_3164

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!

5 Comments

Filed under General chit chat

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:

awwbadge_2014

 

4 Comments

Filed under Aussie Book Reviews, Australian Women Writer's Challenge 2014, Book reviews

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:

awwbadge_2014

 

2 Comments

Filed under Book reviews

Aussie Book Review: Charlotte’s Creek by Therese Creed

Charlotte's Creek  Charlotte’s Creek by Therese Creed

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, April 2014

 Synopsis- After a couple of years working in a privileged private school, Lucy Francis yearns for adventure. So when she hears about a job teaching four children on a massive cattle property in North Queensland, she decides to throw caution – and her teaching job – to the winds.

When Lucy arrives at Charlotte’s Creek Station she finds a family in crisis. To make matters worse, the four children she’s been charged with educating are very spirited, not always cooperative, and dismally behind in their schooling.

To Lucy, the only person who seems to be keeping Charlotte’s Creek afloat is the family’s gruff stockman, Ted. With his support and encouragement Lucy throws herself into the day-to-day activities of the station and makes excellent progress with the children.

Though Lucy and Ted’s feelings for each other grow, Ted can’t see any future for them because of his lack of prospects. As the family divisions at Charlotte’s Creek prove insurmountable and the property looks set to be put on the market, Lucy faces returning to the city and leaving Ted behind. . .

By the betselling author of Redstone Station, this is the story of a strong young woman stepping into the unknown, trying to make things work, and finding love.

Review- The second novel by Aussie author Therese Creed, Charlotte’s Creek is another rural story about a strong young woman in rural Australia. While I wasn’t blown away by Creed’s first novel Redstone Station, I was completely absorbed in the story of Charlotte’s Creek. A combination of interesting characters, genuine outback community ties and a love of the land that made it difficult for me to put this book down.

Lucy Francis (presumably in her mid 20′s) throws in her teaching position at a posh Sydney private school to take up a governess job in North Queensland. She leaves behind the life (her parents) expected of her and takes the plunge to be out of her comfort zone- and that she is. She arrives at the dusty homestead and meets her four wild students, quickly discovering why the family had so many failed governesses before her. Admirably, Lucy takes it all in her stride. She’s young, determined and hopeful and she has a vision of how she wants to run her small school. Of course there’s a lot of reluctance from her academically- behind students who would much rather be out on the cattle farm with their dad.

Lucy’s initial isolation and loneliness is paramount and I admired how she embraced this aspect of her new life. in this acceptance she makes unlikely friends with the children’s foul-mouthed mother Mel and the broody stockman Ted. I particularly enjoyed the quiet companionship between Ted and Lucy. Typically a near-mute hero would irritate me beyond tears, but in Charlotte’s Creek it was his presence, his actions and what he didn’t say that showed me the kind of bloke Ted was. His backstory, though revealed quite late in the story, was realistic in the context of his past experiences and the solitary lifestyle he lived.

What I particularly enjoyed about this story wasn’t actually the love story. It was Lucy’s exploration of the property, her eagerness to learn the runnings of the cattle farm and her curiosity about the history of the land. Perhaps that’s what I connected with the most. My recent move to a semi-rural location has unearthed a much-needed serenity and a sense of accomplishment at even the simplest tasks undergone around our property. In that sense I could really relate to the way she handled the situation.

In my opinion Lucy was a more well-rounded character than Creed’s protagonist in Redstone Station. Perhaps it’s the author’s own personal experience that shines through in this story- a former school teacher who now runs a cattle station with her husband and four (soon to be five) children.

I’m looking forward to seeing where Creed’s writing muse takes her next.

 

 Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

Charlotte’s Creek can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge:

awwbadge_2014

 

2 Comments

Filed under Aussie Book Reviews, Australian Women Writer's Challenge 2014, Book reviews

A Scottish Road Trip

So it’s that time of the year again where by coincidence I just so happen to be escaping the country in June (for the third year in a row!). Only this time I’m not expecting sunshine, lazy days by the beach and appreciating my near-escape from an Aussie winter. Instead, I’ll be off to the UK where I expect to be rugged up with a brolly on hand thinking about the cool, rainy days I’ve left behind in Sydney.

Well, that all sounds a bit depressing. But I am actually looking forward to my three week trip to the UK. My hubby and I fly out tomorrow, leaving our beloved pooch and our new country home in the good hands of his nonna and poppy. We have a few days in England before we train it over the Scottish border and start our road trip. I can’t wait to experience the beautiful countryside and the highlands! Then we finish up in Edinburgh where I’ll be at a work conference for a few days.

I’ve got my reading material packed (after much deliberation) and a few review posts scheduled while I’m away. I’m looking forward to checking back in when I return to Syd at the end of the month.

Speak to you then!
Lauren

5 Comments

Filed under Book reviews