Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: All That Is Lost Between Us

Title: All That Is Lost Between Us
Author: Sara Foster
Publisher: 1 February 2016 by Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: general fiction (adult), contemporary, suspense, family, drama
My Rating: 4.5 cups

A mother’s worst fears. A daughter in distress. A family falling apart.

Seventeen-year-old Georgia has a secret – one that is isolating her from everyone she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t know why. Before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.

As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother, Anya, should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father, Callum, is wracked with a guilt he can’t share – and when her younger brother, Zac, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the family relationships begin to implode.

Georgia’s secret is about to go viral, leaving her in terrible danger. Can the family rise above the lies they have told and fight for what matters most of all?

The lies we tell for love are the most dangerous of all.

Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District,All That is Lost Between Us is a timeless thriller with a modern twist.

My Thoughts

What a great read and totally unexpected. I was involved from the start and Foster kept my attention all the way through. I really did not want to be interrupted with this read and got through it in a few days. It is probably a good thing to mix up the genres you read, and this drama/suspense is not my usual go to. However, there is no denying, when you are onto something good - and this was good.

This book I would classify into a few genres in fact - fiction, drama, even young adult at times. And this was just the beginning of the many aspects of this read that I found to be appealing. This was a mystery at heart I guess, yet I would challenge it being termed a psychological thriller - suspenseful undoubtedly. What Foster does, is present a riveting family drama that conveys how easily one can lose track of things in the craziness of this life and drift away from what is really important. 

"Then life took over, constricting us into one narrow pathway that was slowly overlaid with a movie reel of memories, the film eroding in places, our choices blurred with our forgotten dreams, our triumphs and our regrets."

Each chapter switches point of view - quite often a challenge in itself for many authors - but it was done really well. Foster gave you the opportunity to spend time with each family member and gain an understanding from their viewpoint. This leads to another plus, the complete realism of the issues covered - I challenge anyone reading this not to at some point, identify with a particular aspect. Yes, we are a family, yet at times, all living such separate lives. 

"To all intents and purposes we experience life alone, so what right do we have to assume that genetics, a communal living space and an array of shared memories give us unfettered access to one another?"

The writing is at times, perfection. I literally paused, reflected, then read again before moving on. The setting of the novel in England's Lake District is vivid and beautifully descriptive. I loved learning all about the 'fells' - a perfect backdrop for this family drama to play against.

"I would walk the fells on rainy afternoons and feel as though I was lost inside a Turner painting - stumbling through history, being offered a small glimpse of eternity within this enduring piece of earth."

Finally one last appealing aspect is how well Foster captured the mindset of a tween, teen, mother/wife, father/husband after years of marriage, so well. You remembered well the life of being a teenager and then here I am now as a mother, identifying with her angst as her children grow up. 

"I didn't realise how regularly your heart was wrenched by giving them their freedom ... each time this has happened I have said goodbye to some part of my children and to my ability to control their world and keep them safe."

All That is Lost Between Us is a MUST read family drama.

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.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Review: A Summer at Sea

Title: A Summer at Sea
Author: Katie Fford
Publisher: 11 February 2016 by Random House UK, Cornerstone Digital
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance, chick lit
My Rating: 4 cups


Emily is happy with her life just as it is. 

She has a career as a midwife that she loves . She enjoys living on her own as a single woman. But she’s also feels it’s time for a change and a spot of some sea air. 

So when her best friend Rebecca asks whether she’d like to spend the summer cooking on a ‘puffer’ boat just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance.

But she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate. 

Rebecca is heavily pregnant and is thrilled to have her friend on board doing most of the work. Then there’s Emily’s competitive and jealous kitchen assistant who thinks she should be head-cook, not Emily. 

And there’s Alasdair, the handsome local doctor who Emily is desperately trying not to notice. 

Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

My Thoughts

Katie Fford does wonderful chick lit, you are guaranteed refreshing escapism. This story is particularly engaging and a good introduction to those who may be new to her style of writing. Fford's stories are heart-warming, tackle real life issues and often set against interesting back drops. On this occasion, the spotlight is on Scotland and the scenic descriptions make it a place you would long to visit.

I found Emily, the main character, to be strong and directed, something many women could relate to. She knows what makes her happy and fulfilled, whilst being caring and considerate at the same time. She makes this story real and relatable.

"I just want to stay single, living on my own, pleasing myself".

Then there are the many secondary characters who add much to this Scottish tale. Fford does a wonderful job in creating a real sense of community that makes this a relatable book for many, or at the very least, a community of people you would love to become a part of. 

The puffer boat added a unique component, not to mention the many mouth watering culinary dishes included throughout. And for all you knitters out there, you will love all the references and bonding over needles and wool:

"Fair Isle wool would be too scratchy for a baby anyway".

This is chick lit so there is nothing too taxing for the brain, just a lovely tale with great characters, set in a wonderful location. You know where it's going but you are happy to take that journey. My only complaint concerns a couple of things. One, Emily's BFF continually repeating her need for Emily to stay became a bit tiresome. Then towards the end there is an argument that I was disappointed by, as I found it a bit ridiculous in my humble opinion. However I did not want it to detract from what I felt, overall, was a good bit of escapism. Besides, there was reference to lots of tea drinking, something this tea lover did whilst reading another Fford winner.

"I'd never get back to sleep after what you told me so I thought: tea!"

I like Katie Fford's books: they are engaging, easy to read and flow well. I think A Summer At Sea is an entertaining and romantic read that I recommend to those in need of a light hearted weekend escape.

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, February 11, 2016

Review: The Words In My Hands

Title: The Words In My Hands
Author: Guinevere Glasfurd
Publisher: 12 January 2016 by Two Roads
Pages: 325 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance, historical
My Rating: 3 crowns


The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th-century Amsterdam, who works for Mr Sergeant the English bookseller. When a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives - the Monsieur - Mr Sergeant insists everything must be just so. It transpires that the Monsieur is René Descartes.
This is Helena's story: the woman in front of Descartes, a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin - only to be held back by her position in society.

Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, their worlds overlap as their feelings deepen; yet remain sharply divided. For all Descartes' learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him.

When reputation is everything and with so much to lose, some truths must remain hidden. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.

My Thoughts

"Words, Helena, words are another matter. Words pin me to the page."

Helena de Jans was a maid for an English bookseller in Amsterdam, where René Descartes lodged in 1634. A year later, she gave birth to his daughter, Francine. Their affair was innocent to begin with, she his student of sorts and intrigued by his investigations.

"Discoveries must be all about us, waiting to be found, in the most ordinary places of all - even in candles and flames."

Time spent alone together, quickly progressed to an affair. I appreciate how the author has tried to imagine the life of Helena through what material she could find, supposing how their relationship may have developed and what life may have been like. What I believe Glasfurd does very well is bring to life the streets of Amsterdam through characters and places as the story unfolds. 

"Loneliness is not the same as being alone; one can choose to be alone, seek it out, desire it perhaps. Loneliness asserts itself."

Unfortunately for me, the story was a little slow, rarely progressing. The ending I found to be rather peculiar. At 85% a new beau was presented which was strange after being slow for so long. Then, all of a sudden, in what I considered to be basically an epilogue of sorts, years were described in a matter of pages. I found this confusing and hard to digest. 

Overall a satisfying read if somewhat slow.

"He smiled faintly, but still looked sad. 'Helena, Helena ... we all know our place in the end."

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.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Pride & Regicide

Title: Pride & Regicide
Author: Cathy Bryant
Publisher: 29 September 2015 by Crooked Cat Publishing 
Pages: 100 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: mystery, thriller, regency, Jane Austen
My Rating: 3 cups


"The King? Dead? Here? Murdered? Regicide! Oh, heaven preserve us! Was it the French? Are they here? They will kill us all, and make us eat strange sauces."

So says Mrs Bennet, but the king is not dead - Miss King is dead, and it looks like murder.

Three years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, and having long been considering the role of single women in society, Mary Bennet puts her formidable mind to work to solve the case. Armed only with philosophy, her best friend, Cassandra Lucas, and some nifty detective techniques involving embroidery, Mary discovers secrets and scandals that may make her the murderer's next victim...

My Thoughts

Short and interesting - it was that simple. I am a huge Jane Austen fan and always venture into any spin-offs of her work. Some, of course, are better than others. Bryant doesn't claim to produce a continuation of the famous 'Pride and Prejudice', rather:

"Nor do I presume to call this a sequel. It is a light-hearted story and a tribute, and that is all."

And she does it well. It is well written in style and story, planning and plot, character and setting. What more could you ask for in a weekend escape?

This tale picks up three years from the end of Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet - still living at Longbourn - is friends with Cassandra Lucas - Charlotte's younger sister. As they are out walking one day, they see someone fall from the local bell tower. It is Mary who sees a shadow in the tower and decides to find out who the murderer is. And the victim, remember Miss King?

"Poor Miss King has few enough advocates in life - she has at least us in death."

I was pleasantly surprised with 'Pride and Regicide'! In fact, with Bryant's Regency voice in line with Austen and her pick up of character traits quite good, she presents a valid and entertaining short story. In fact I found it to be much like:

"... a comfortable social blanket, soothing us all and keeping out the cold facts of life."

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, February 4, 2016

Review: Under The Spanish Stars

Title: Under The Spanish Stars
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher:25 January 2016 by Harlequin Australia MIRA
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance, Australian-Spanish cultural
My Rating: 3 cups


Charlotte Kavanagh’s beloved grandma Katarina Sanchez is gravely ill, so when she begs Charlotte to travel to her homeland in Andalucía to uncover the truth behind a mysterious painting, Charlotte agrees.  Taking leave from her soul-destroying job and stalled life in Australia, Charlotte embarks on a quest through Granada’s ancient cobble-stoned streets and vibrant neighbourhoods. There she meets Mateo Vives, a flamenco guitarist with a dark past, and through him she quickly becomes entangled in the world of flamenco and gypsies that ignites a passion she had thought lost. 

But the mystery surrounding the painting deepens, reaching back in time to the war-torn Spain of the 1940s and Charlotte discovers her grandmother’s connection to the Spanish underground. Who is her grandmother, really? What is Mateo’s connection to her family history? And why is finding answers to a family mystery turning into a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte?

Weighed down by secrets, betrayals and shattered relationships, Charlotte finds herself questioning the true meaning of heritage, family and love. 

My Thoughts 

"There was nothing so exciting as a blank canvas, the chance to create a world from one's imagination, to pour out the feelings of one's soul."

This tale centres around Charlotte (an Australian) and her Spanish Grandmother. The former is sent on a journey which ultimately leads to her discovering her own path in life. The latter, time to reflect upon a tumultuous past. So in a nutshell it's contains family saga's, exotic Spanish locations, romance with a touch of mystery thrown in. 

There is some good research included and I especially enjoyed the young Katarina's story in Franco Spain. It's fascinating to read about life, cultural expression and family/society divisions at that time.

"Franco had come into power he'd lorded it over the people, his unwavering belief in Catholicism influencing daily life."

It has strong associations with Latin dancing, so if you are at all interested in "Duende" (stated often) or the importance of dance there is much to read and learn here.

"Rondena is part of the fandango malagueno and is the oldest fandango ever known."

For me, it was a little slow for things to get going; it took until about half way through for my interest to be peaked with the Grandmothers questions about her heritage and the mystery painter becoming evident. Sinclair takes the opportunity to reflect on life through her characters and there are many worthy snippets of advice to reflect upon:

"Do not live in a future of what-ifs ..... live in the moment .... life should be scary at times. How else can we push ourselves to dig deeper, climb higher .... regrets are pointless, focus on the good in life, embrace what we have and move on as best we can."

In many ways it could be described as a travel fiction as there are interesting cultural aspects. Ultimately, however, it's about life and finding one's path.

"She'd discovered a new self, connected with a past and found a future.....welcoming Charlotte to her new home under the Spanish stars."

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.