Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: The Grazier's Wife

Title: The Grazier's Wife
Author: Barbara Hannay
Publisher: 1 August 2016 by Penguin Books Australia
Pages: 380 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction, Australia
My Rating: 5 cups


For three generations of Australian women, becoming a grazier's wife has meant very different things.
For Stella in 1946, it was a compromise in the aftermath of a terrible war.
For Jackie in the 1970s, it was a Cinderella fairytale with an outback prince.
While for Alice in 2015, it is the promise of a bright new future.
Decades earlier, Stella was desperate to right a huge injustice, but now a long-held family secret threatens to tear the Drummond family of Ruthven Downs apart. On the eve of a special birthday reunion, with half the district invited, the past and the present collide, passions are unleashed and the shocking truth comes spilling out.
From glamorous pre-war Singapore to a vast cattle property in Queensland's Far North, this sweeping, emotional saga tests the beliefs and hopes of three strong women as they learn how to hold on to loved ones and when to let go.

My Thoughts

You know those authors - the ones you read without even having referred to the blurb - that is Barbara Hannay - so assured am I of a good read. 'The Grazier’s Wife'  (grazier is an Aussie term for cattle rancher) is yet another compelling historical saga, spanning generations and providing riveting reading.  Stella, Jackie and Alice each play their part across these generations and make proportionally significant contributions to the story. Although I have to confess having a soft spot for Stella and Tom. Hannay is just so adept at switching, not only between time periods but also point of views - it is seamless. Whether you are in war ravaged Singapore, hinterland grazing in Australia or present day country town life - I was never confused about who, what, where or when. In fact, I found it hard to put this book down so involved was I in each of the storylines. 

Seriously, this tale really covers it all and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Your encounters with each of the three leading ladies is is different and indeed their male counterparts are just as compelling. I am sure you will find it difficult to put down, as did I. I can only relate it to a classic movie, only here you have it in the printed word. Your heart will leap out of your chest with sentiment like:

"When this is over I'm going to find you, and I'll ask you to marry me."

I have to confess that the wartime story and its fallout, touched me the most. I thought it wonderful to give Stella and Tom the final word. Pre and post wartime descriptions of Singapore were outstanding. You were right there sipping champagne at the party, to the terrifying bombings and the utter devastation that followed.

"This is almost like having a whirlwind tour of Asia."

It's always a good sign when I have highlighted little, it testifies to how enthralled and lost to the story I was. I have no hesitation in highly recommending 'The Grazier’s Wife' by an author who - after this instalment - is one of my favourites.

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, July 24, 2016

Review: Girl in the Afternoon

Title: Girl in the Afternoon: A Novel of Paris
Author: Serena Burdick
Publisher: July 12th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, cultural-France
My Rating: 3 cups


Born into a wealthy Parisian family at the center of Belle Epoque society, 18-year-old Aimée Savaray dreams of becoming a respected painter in the male-dominated art world; and secretly, she also dreams of being loved by Henri, the boy her parents took in as a child and raised alongside her.

But when Henri inexplicably disappears, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, the Savarays’ privileged lives begin to unravel. Heartbroken, Aimée tries to find him, but Henri doesn’t want to be found—and only one member of the family knows why.

As Aimée seeks refuge in the art world, mentored by the Impressionist Édouard Manet, she unwittingly finds her way back to Henri. With so many years gone by and secrets buried, their eventual reunion unmasks the lies that once held the family together, but now threaten to tear them apart.

A rich and opulent saga, Girl in the Afternoon brings the Impressionists to life in this portrait of scandal, fortune, and unrequited love.

My Thoughts

"Girl in the Afternoon' is a historical fiction set in Paris and England in the 1870's during the impressionist movement and revolves around a well off family, their secrets and ensuing scandals. The title of the book is based on a painting that proved pivotal to the story.  The main focus is on the daughter, Aimee, attempting to be her own person but often conflicted with outside circumstances. Overall, this was a good,  but a somewhat predictable mystery.

The writing is at times poetic and the character I enjoyed most was Madame Savaray for the depth she bought to the story.

"Dust floated like a strip of tulle in the dull light. Colette swirled her arm through it, scattering the motes with her open hand."

Unfortunately this books suffers for a few reasons. Burdick launched straight into it, attempting to create intrigue, however, I was not yet invested and for me, it fell flat. I also found the going back and forth between points of views challenging at times, especially within a short passage. This did not assist the story, often feeling like it wasn't going anywhere, and contributed to my lack of involvement with the characters at times. Everything explained, no guessing as told in the third person too often. 

There is a lot of future forecasts interspersed throughout, when all you really wanted was for the story to be told, not inferenced. The preemptive took all the angst, drama and anticipation out of the story.

"he had no idea of the crippling events that would unfold over the next few months" 

Finally, with one third of the book remaining, a compelling story began to unfold and we have raw emotion. Now I was invested, but a little too late. Still, it helped make it a three star, worthwhile read.

"He turned onto his side, feeling the tremendous expanse of Aimee's grief as if it were his own."

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.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Love, or Nearest Offer by Adèle Geras

Title: Love, or Nearest Offer
Author: Adèle Geras
Publisher: June 2nd 2016 by Quercus
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit, British literature
My Rating: 4 cups

On paper, Iris Atkins is an estate agent, but she's not just good at finding suitable houses for her clients. In fact, she has a gift: Iris is able to see into their lives and understand exactly what is missing and what they need - and not just in bricks-and-mortar terms either. Not that she tells them so; she's more subtle than that. But if you hire Iris Atkins as your agent, you may find you don't just end up with the perfect house you'd never choose for yourself, but the perfect job, the perfect partner... the perfect new life? Of course, concentrating so much on fixing other people's problems doesn't leave much time for examining your own. Over the course of one whirlwind year Iris discovers that while she may know what's best for everyone else, she doesn't necessarily know what's best for herself - and what she finds out could make her happier than she'd ever dreamed of.

My Thoughts:

'Love or Nearest Offer' is the story of people searching for new homes and how their paths cross. Geras tells each story in such an amiable way, that soon you feel like you know each of them so well. I thought Iris might have some special gift upon reading the blurb, but in fact, she just takes a very personal approach involving herself in the lives of her clients, and tried to match their personalities and needs to the house that would suit them best.

The storytelling is easy, undemanding and flows along at a nice pace. It’s light and uncomplicated,making it easy to engage with. The pace being gentle, just fits the book perfectly  There are some ups and downs in the personal tales but nothing so dramatic - just enough to add a bit of interest, no unnecessary drama. I find the greatest appeal of this book is that it is so relatable and true to life with people you could easily know or want to know. A nice light in between kind of book to escape and enjoy on a quiet weekend. 

"She thought of how important houses were. How the right one could make dreams come true and how the wrong one could wreck someone's entire 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.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Review: The Wife's Tale

Title: The Wife's Tale
Author: Christine Wells
Publisher: 2 May 2016 by Penguin Books Australia
Pages: 421 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups


An unforgettable novel that transports the reader from modern-day Australia to the windswept Isle of Wight and the courtrooms of London in the 1780s.

With her marriage on the rocks, workaholic lawyer Liz Jones agrees to visit Seagrove, a stately home on the Isle of Wight, while she quietly investigates its provenance on behalf of a client. When she discovers Seagrove is linked to a notorious eighteenth-century court case, Liz becomes fascinated – not only by the house and its history, but also by its current owners.

In the winter of 1789, the infamous Delany Nash scandalised London when details of her alleged affair with her husband's brother were aired in a public courtroom. Yet her journals reveal an extraordinary woman's tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak.

Captivated by Delany's story, Liz delves into her research but the more she uncovers, the more she risks jeopardising the future of everyone at Seagrove. For there are dark secrets that surround the house, and when the truth emerges the repercussions will echo down through the centuries.
The Wife's Tale is a mesmerising story of love, loyalty and sacrifice.

My Thoughts

‘The Wife’s Tale’ is the perfect blend of historical and contemporary fiction, with a sprinkling of  mystery and romance, you have a great read. I loved how Well's slowly revealed and unravelled the suspense for both timelines - for this is a dual timeline narrative and one done well, which I will expand on shortly. Well's cleverly builds up the plot and characters and the movement between the two eras really is quite seamless. 

Most of the story revolves around 'Seagrove', a grand old house on the Isle of Wight. In the past we have Lady Delany Nash a fabulous heroine and you feel for her and the 18th century restrictions society placed and branded her with. In a time when women had very little influence/power, she demonstrated such strength. In the modern timeline, there is Australian lawyer Liz, who becomes fascinated with Delany’s story and digs deeper through reading her journals.

 "To feel as if you belonged to the house even more than it belonged to you."

I love dual timeline stories, yet they can be difficult to write. Fear not! Christine Wells has pulled it off brilliantly. Both stories captivated me from beginning to end - what a treat! Two for the price of one. It was testimony to great writing, that I was so invested in both storylines and both leading ladies - the characters feel so real. I wanted to know what happened to both Delany and Liz, wishing them both a happily ever after. 

Well's has done her research and intertwines fact and fiction seamlessly. The mystery is well done and the touches of humour add just enough not to confuse genres:

"This bedroom belonged to Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, not to her."

I highly recommend this book as it presents the story of two strong women. I loved the setting, the characters, the story, the mystery, the romance - everything! It's one of those books that you find the time to read, as it calls to you. 

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.