Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Homestead on the River

Title: Homestead on the River
Author: Rosie Mackenzie
Publisher: 29th January 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 512 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 3 cups


An unforgettable tale of love, loss and betrayal from an exciting new Australian voice in historical fiction. In stark contrast to her own childhood during the last days of the Raj in India, the spectacular beauty surrounding their home, Rathgarven in Ireland has proven to be a happy place for Kathleen O'Sullivan and her husband, James, to raise their four children. But Kathleen is no stranger to heartbreak, and when the family is faced with losing everything, she knows they will need to adapt to survive. Even if that means leaving their beloved home and moving to Australia to start afresh.

Lillie O'Sullivan knows that her mother and father haven't been entirely truthful about the reasons for their move to Australia. But as they settle into their new home in rural New South Wales she is willing to give it a chance. That is, until the secrets her parents have kept for so long finally catch up with them.

Secrets that have the power to destroy their family and ruin their future.

From the vibrant colours of India to the meadows of Ireland to the harsh but beautiful Australian land, a family fights for their future.

My Thoughts

A somewhat epic family saga spanning around the world, from Ireland to Australia and set in the 1960s. This tale centres around a family who have to give up their family estate in Ireland and are forced take up a new adventure in outback Australia.

Whilst it seems appealing, there is a lot going on with this book trying to do too much in my opinion. There is a large cast of characters with backstories to match, full of many dramas.  However, few are dealt with in a way to engage the reader sufficiently despite the 500+ page reading. There really is not that much set in the last days of Raj, India which is rather disappointing - a cryptic prologue to try and engage the reader is about it. We then move to Ireland where the father loses the family estate which all seems rather unbelievable and out of character. There is this ‘mystery’ held over the reader for the entire book and it is not until the last 10% of the book that anything really happens with regards to a few key plot lines.

The story of two generations contains love and loss, secrets and betrayal with their  impact upon many of the family members. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot on offer with this read, but I felt that a condensed version focused purely on certain characters would have produced a more engaging and in depth read - certain sections were just too simplistic with the writing lacking depth. It rambles on a bit with some passages and interactions either irrelevant or drawn out for far too long.

The characters are, however, relatable and engaging (although I did have a real problem with Lillie’s reaction to her shock twist towards the end, as once again it seemed out of character) as it sweeps over many drama filled moments 1960s style.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: The Tanglewood Tea Shop

Title: The Tanglewood Tea Shop
Author: Lilac Mills
Publisher: Canelo, 31 January 2019
Pages: 270 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
My Rating: 4 cups

Patisserie-Chef Stevie is stuck in a rut. Her beloved Great Aunt Peggy has passed away, she’s been fired from her job and the love of her life has walked out the door. But when she’s called to the solicitor’s office to hear the reading of Peggy’s will, Stevie’s life begins to change.

Left with a large amount of money, Stevie is determined to take Peggy’s advice and turn her life around. The quirky tea shop that she sees up for sale in the beautiful village of Tanglewood must be a sign, and Stevie can’t wait to make it her new home.

But what happens after your dreams come true? It turns out that life in the village isn't as idyllic as it may have seemed. With local mums waging war against sugar, a tea shop and its patisserie-chef owner are definitely not welcome.

When the gorgeous but grouchy local stable-owner, Nick, shows up he seems like just another fly in the pastry batter but as the two grow closer, Stevie realises he might just be the perfect reason to stay and win over the village...

This laugh-out-loud romantic comedy is perfect for fans of Daisy James, Holly Martin and Portia Macintosh.
My Thoughts

The Tanglewood Tea Shop is a lighthearted novel to escape into when life gets hectic. It begins with the protagonist, Stevie, inheriting a very handsome sum of money from her Great Aunt Peggy. She spent a lot of time with Peggy when she was alive and was always there for her, hence the large inheritance.

"...How much?” It came out as a strangled yell as Stevie spluttered tea down her chin.’

Some people are not happy for Stevie’s inheritance and proceed to protest very loudly. Stevie is determined to not ‘fritter it away’ and do something worthwhile with the money.

‘Please, use the money to follow your heart. I know you’ll spend it well.  I have total faith in you. You were always my favourite. I know I shouldn’t say it, but it’s true. I loved you like a granddaughter and I always will, wherever I am now.’

Stevie is searching the internet for a job, because she has just lost hers (so the money is very much needed) and she comes across a cafe for sale in Tanglewood. The next day she goes for a drive to see it and decides to buy it.

“She had a good feeling about this. A really good feeling.”

Stevie begins to set up her cafe and enlists the help of her good friend, Karen. I really enjoyed reading about how and where she found her equipment for the cafe, especially the tea pots, cups, saucers etc.

‘The car boot sale was huge…”You know the sort of thing I’m looking for?”...”Anything cutesy, mismatched, old fashioned...I have this vision in my head of flowery tea cups and tiny silver tongs for the sugar lumps, and real linen napkins.”...’

While Stevie is getting acquainted with Tanglewood, she meets some interesting characters. She hires Cassandra as an assistant, who is a godsend and helps Stevie negotiate her business. I really enjoyed reading about Betty, a customer in her cafe who becomes a very good friend. Betty is very eccentric and reminds Stevie of her Aunt Peggy.

‘She had orange wellies with big yellow flowers on her feet, and a pink beret completed her outfit.’

Even though life is a lot quieter than the rat race of London that Stevie is used to, setting up her business has its challenges and not everyone is happy to have her there or happy for her. I didn’t like her Mum and sister’s treatment of her and their jealousy, they were just downright rude.

Stevie has a love interest, the local stable owner, Nick. I liked reading about their developing feelings for each other and it was funny, that they were both oblivious to each other’s feelings even though it was mutual.

When a traumatic event occurs, it really shows the true nature of the characters and their relationships with each other. There are some past truths revealed and the book shows real substance. I enjoyed this part the most.

‘She was surprised so many of the villagers had turned out to help - she couldn’t imagine the same thing happening in London...Seeing so many familiar faces simply getting on with it, despite the torrential rain, gave her a warm, comfortable feeling. And the smiles and nods of acceptance aimed at her, made her finally feel as though she was a part of this little community.’

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys humourous, light hearted, escapism with a bit of substance thrown in.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: Lavender Blue

Title:  Lavender Blue
Author: Donna Kauffman
Publisher: 29th January 2019 by Kensington Books Zebra
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary romance, womens fiction
My Rating: 4 cups

In the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains lies a small town with a big heart—and a chance to begin again . . .
When Hannah Montgomery buys a lavender farm in Blue Hollow Falls with three friends, she’s creating a life she never imagined—one she hopes will honor the memory of the sweet young son she tragically lost years ago. Standing on the porch of the sprawling farmhouse, looking out on row upon row of those lush purple plumes, Hannah is ready to embrace this fresh, new start . . .
Then she meets Wilson McCall. The stonemason hired to fix their crumbling chimneys and leaky roof is quieter than most folks in the Falls. Hannah’s not surprised to learn the widower struggles with his own grief. Who could blame her if she finds joy in making Will laugh again, or if she feels a poignant kinship when she sees him with his teenaged son?  But her deepening friendship with Will reminds Hannah that there’s a part of her that still needs to heal—awakening a tender yearning to have a life that isn’t just good enough, but lived fully—even if that means taking risks once more . . .
My Thoughts

“Now was the time for building and restoring, for repairing and learning. The time for opening their doors, their lavender fields, their tearoom, and welcoming the world.”

‘Lavender Blue’ is a sweet story with many likeable characters set in a gorgeous rural location - stunning lavender fields of Virginia. I mean, what is there not to love about this book cover? At its heart, this is a book about grieving and healing and I think Kauffman does a worthy job for such heart wrenching issues. This book is the third in a series but can most definitely be read as a standalone. I have not read any others and had no problem at all following along with the story.

“I’ve become a firm believer that not everything that’s ever happened to us in life needs to be worked on or sorted out.”

Although it tackles the different ways people deal with loss, it balances this nicely with some light romance. It is, in fact, a mutual sharing of grief that brings the two lead characters together and their romance is of a more mature kind which makes for a nice change. However, as stated, much of the book is dedicated to learning to move on from sorrow and let yourself live happily again. I appreciated Will and Hannah’s honesty and the processes and considerations they granted each other to work through and come out the other side in starting afresh.

“... if it’s not affecting your life, your ability to live it as you please, then”—she shrugged—“who cares? The past is the past is the past. Focus on the now, look toward the future.”

That being said, there were parts where it became a bit too much and repetitive concerning the sorrow, doubts and reluctance. There are many conversations where matters are discussed over and over - still, it’s a good way for readers in similar situations to view how such matters can be handled. It has some solid thoughts on how to deal with grief over the loss of a loved one.

All up this is a pleasant enough read with the themes of sorrow, friendship, love, family and friends. A well balanced heartwarming and sweet tale of healing, providing thoughtful and compassionate characters that will appeal to many.

“I’ve spent many an hour pondering that landscape and my place in it. Puts the world in perspective.” She smiled. “I call it time well spent.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Review: A Greater World

Title: A Greater World
Author: Clare Flynn
Publisher: 10th January 2019 by Canelo
Pages: 543 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, womens fiction
My Rating: 4 cups


A wrenching saga of the voyage that changed their lives.

Elizabeth Morton, born into a prosperous family, and Michael Winterbourne, a miner, come from different worlds but when they each suffer unspeakable and life-changing tragedy they’re set on a path that intertwines on the deck of the SS Historic, bound for Sydney.
Falling in love should have been the end to all their troubles. But fate and the mysterious Jack Kidd make sure it's only the beginning.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed reading the story of  Elizabeth and Michael - two people from very different social rankings, who were forced to leave their homes in England to start anew in Australia during the 1920s. They met on the boat journey to Australia and the story follows how things unfolded for each of them in the this new ‘greater’ world.

It makes for a good historical romance with lots of occurrences over a number of years. You will certainly feel for both Elizabeth and Michael with what fate (or the actions of others) had in store for them. It is quite epic with a lot happening entailing life and death, city and country existence, family and friends, love and ruin just to name a few. The hardships they endure is cruel at times, however, nothing was to be easy in starting over with nothing.

The true vision of this story I believe,  is about enduring and overcoming circumstances to build resilience and inner strength to do what is right and just with the cards life has dealt you. Both the main and secondary characters were well executed, my only concern is that there were a few too many convenient encounters throughout the story that you have to simply let go of and just ride with them on the journey of unfolding events. However, I read to escape, not to question, therefore it’s a good experience if a little contrived.

An easy and enjoyable read that I believe fairly accurately captures life back then, the hardships for women and the strength and fortitude to overcome them in the long run.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

Title: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton
Author: Anstey Harris
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (Australia), Jan 1st 2019
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
My Rating: 3.5 cups


Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn't been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she's built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage.

But when David saves the life of a woman in the Paris Metro, his resulting fame shines a light onto the real state of the relationship(s) in his life. Shattered, Grace hits rock bottom and abandons everything that has been important to her, including her dream of entering and winning the world's most important violin-making competition. Her closest friends--a charming elderly violinist with a secret love affair of his own, and her store clerk, a gifted but angst-ridden teenage girl--step in to help, but will their friendship be enough to help her pick up the pieces?

Filled with lovable, quirky characters, this poignant novel explores the realities of relationships and heartbreak and shows that when it comes to love, there's more than one way to find happiness.

My Thoughts

The aspect I enjoyed most about The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton was the interesting characters and Grace’s relationship with them.
The story starts with Grace, the protagonist, spending time with her married boyfriend. I didn’t like the fact she was committing infidelity, I thought that bit could have been  changed to just a long distance relationship, but the way the story progressed with them hiding their relationship, I guess it was needed.

“Anyone could tell we are a couple. Even his wife. Even his children.”

Grace stays with David in Paris, as often as he can get away from his family. He tells her, he is in a loveless marriage and she believes him.

“Although they live in the same house, David and his wife rarely talk nowadays...I have learnt over the years, to avoid thinking about David’s home life. To imagine that he and his wife share a bedroom, that they used to talk in the dark like we do, would twist a cruel knife deep into an already livid injury.”

The rest of the time, Grace runs a shop repairing and restoring musical instruments. It’s a quiet, uneventful life, but Grace enjoys it. She would be a famous musician if a tragic event in her past hadn’t happened. Due to the event, she is unable to publically play her cello, she can only play freely when no one is listening.
Grace has an unusual friendship with an elderly man, who is one of her customers.

“I have arranged to see Mr Wlliams today - he is one of my favourite customers, Nadia’s too. He isn’t a great player, although he’s a good one, but he’s erudite and interesting and there’s something delightfully anachronistic about his perfect suits and silk cravats. The other thing that draws me to Mr Wiliams is that I know loneliness when I see it.”

I really enjoyed reading about the way these two unusual friends relate to each other. Grace also has a friendship with a 17 year old girl who works for her, Nadia. She is a moody teenager with problems of her own, but she is an amazing violinist who offers to help Grace overcome her fear of performing in public.

“...‘I’m going to coach you,’ she says. With other people, there might be gentle warm-up to this. It might be a question rather than a statement, or an offer couched and hidden in less controversial things.”

Grace becomes a mentor for Nadia, more like a substitute mum because Nadia’s family don’t understand her. I enjoyed reading how their relationship developed and how they helped each other.

When an event occurs and David’s family find out about the affair, Grace has a mental breakdown and does something she will always regret. These two people, Mr Williams and Nadia, help her and bring her back from the brink of despair.

This book has a lot of underlying issues and was an enjoyable and easy read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review: The Diary

Title: The Diary
Author: Vikki Patis
Publisher: Bookouture, 26 November 2018
Pages: 294 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
My Rating: 4 cups


‘I know all your secrets, Lauren.’

Lauren has spent years running away from her home town, her childhood and the memories of her best friend, Hannah.

Until the tenth anniversary of Hannah’s death forces her to return home and to the group of friends she abandoned there. It should be a quick visit, just so Lauren can pay her respects.

At home, Lauren finds Hannah’s old diary. A diary full of secrets. The terrible things Lauren did, the lies she’s told, the reason she ran away. And she receives a message:

‘I don’t know why you’re back, but I know why you left.’

But no-one else has seen the diary, and Hannah’s dead, isn’t she?

A suspenseful psychological thriller full of twists and turns – you won’t be able to stop turning the pages of The Diary. Perfect for fans of The Sister, The Girl on the Train and We Were Liars.

My Thoughts
I really love getting my teeth into a good psychological thriller and The Diary didn’t disappoint me. The story begins with Lauren, the protagonist going back to her hometown for the 10th anniversary of her sister, Hannah’s death. She is reluctant to return due to events in her past, but she does so, for her father.

‘Nothing could make me go back. I read the text from my dad’s next week. You should come, Lauren. For me.’

When she returns to Hitchin, she reconnects with friends from her past. They had previously let her down which caused her to flee her hometown and start a new life in Cornwall, where she meets Kate, a police officer and begins a relationship with her.

‘Kate doesn’t know everything about my past. She knows about Hannah, and how she died. She knows I was bullied, but not all of it, not how bad it got. She doesn’t know about Seth.’

The book is written in two time periods, then and now. The then parts outline the events of the past and explain why Lauren is so reluctant to return to Hitchin. The now parts describe how she feels and reacts to the people who she meets after so long. It’s a clever way of writing and keeps the book interesting and the pages turning.

When they were children, Lauren and Hannah had a very close relationship because their mothers were very good friends and after Hannah started living with them, she became Lauren’s sister,  even though they were not blood related. She was a very strong influence on Lauren and Lauren relied heavily on her for everything.

‘She wasn’t technically my sister - we had different parents, different upbringings. When Hannah was sixteen, her mum left her dad and moved in with my dad, who had remained single since my mum died.’

While she is in Hitchin, Lauren starts receiving chilling text messages from unknown numbers:

‘I don’t know why you’re back, but I know why you left.’

She starts to investigate who could be sending these messages and why. She finds a diary written by Hannah and it begins to answer some of the questions she has about the past.

I really enjoyed the way this story progressed and the relationships developed along the way. It kept me guessing all the way through with the twists and turns. Vikki is a very clever storyteller and the twist at the end was certainly unexpected! All the unanswered questions were answered and the story had a neat ending. I recommend this book for fellow lovers of psychological thrillers.

‘I allow myself to imagine the future. I turn my gaze forwards instead of backwards. This year, we’ll create new experiences and new memories. This year, we’ll move on.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.