Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review: Love and Ruin

Title: Love and Ruin
Author: Paula McLain
Publisher: 1 May 2018 by Hachette (Australia)
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

In 1937, courageous and independent Martha Gellhorn travels to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and finds herself drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly - and uncontrollably - falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man already on his way to being a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Hemingway made their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite.
But when Hemingway publishes the biggest literary success of his career, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the suffocating demands of a domestic lifestyle, or risk losing her husband by forging her way as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.
The internationally bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the timeless subject of Ernest Hemingway in this story of his passionate, volatile third marriage to Martha Gellhorn, an ambitious, fiercely independent, beautiful blonde who became one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century.
My Thoughts

“Ernest always said there was a season for everything. A season to love and be loved. To work and rest your bones and your spirit. To dream and to doubt, to fear and to fly. What season was this, then, if not one of ruin?”

Love and Ruin - what a perfect  title for this book! Having read Paula’s books before, I was highly anticipating this read. She did not let me down, once again presenting a strong, independent woman and her compelling tale. Her first story centred around Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson; second was Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun. This book is likewise historical fiction, however, I am loving this new genre that has become popular of late where the story is based on fact and real lives. Here is the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, who would eventually become his third wife. This story appealed to me because I was intrigued to see yet another side/point of view of the enigmatic Hemingway. What I did not bank on, was learning so much about the amazing Martha Gellhorn who refused to be a ‘footnote’ in Hemingway’s life and was an incredibly brave and strong woman for her time.

“He was at the center of a whirlwind. He was the whirlwind, making it go.”

Historical fiction lovers appreciate a well researched piece - Paula succeeds here once again. Her research is thorough, with amazing attention to detail, as she takes the reader to an array of locations - Madrid, Cuba, Finland and so many more - each making you feel that you are there right along with ‘Marty’ (Martha) and, what an amazing journey this would prove to be! There is so many major historical events, not overwhelming so, that you will learn much and truly deepen your understanding from a personal perspective of some major conflicts the world has experienced. Yes, you have front row seats to Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway evolving and tumultuous relationship, but also, a ticket to everything from the Spanish Civil War and other major locations in WWII. So even though this is a fictional account, it feels like a personal memoir the writing is that good! You can’t help but support Marty on her quest to do ‘something’ in making the world aware of tragic events. This is a sign of a good regaled tale that sees you reaching for your device to Google in a desperate measure to learn more and see if all recounted is true. You will go beyond this book, as it instills in you an appreciation of all that happened and a desire to learn more still.

“It feels important to go everywhere one can and see all there is to see and try to understand it. Everything’s changing so fast. I want to believe in something while there’s still time. I want to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult. And I want to find the story I’m meant to write.”

I now need to dedicate some time to Marty Gellhorn herself as I just found her fascinating. I found some of the best parts of the book to be her independent travels as a war correspondent. Her quest to tell the ‘untold tale’ of the suffering of ordinary people was commendable in the least, she would be the voice of their injustice - this is when she was most alive and at her best. She will take you on some memorable journeys, for example, her being the only woman to land at Normandy on D-day or her talking to Russians POWs in Finland will stay with me for some time. All of this in a time when women were to be at home keeping their husband happy. And herein lies the issue with her and Hemingway. Two such like souls, and she undoubtedly loved him, but she had to be true to who she was and he could not appreciate that in the long run - the only wife who would ultimately leave him - as he would have torn away her very soul.

“I want him, but he’s such a force of nature. He pulls everything into his orbit and seals off the corners and any route of escape. He does it all without trying”

Upon completion I was googling, watching videos, reading up extracts from both of these writers (I remember reading For Whom the Bell Tolls at school) and looking for more detail on wartime events. The best historical fiction books will make you do this! Hats off to Paula McLain who has written a wonderful story here, not just about the relationship between Ernest and Martha, but also the passion of one woman to pursue and perhaps surpass the man she refused to be a ‘footnote’ too! I can’t wait to see who Paula will introduce us to next.

“To feel the world rise up and shake you hard, insisting that you rise, too, somehow. Some way. That you come awake and stretch, painfully. That you change, completely and irrevocably –with whatever means are at your disposal –into the person you were always meant to be.”

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, June 21, 2018

Review: Our House

Title:  Our House
Author: Louise Candlish
Publisher: 1st June 2018 by Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller
My Rating: 4 cups


On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it's your house. And you didn’t sell it.
When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?

My Thoughts

‘The lights are out in all rooms except the kitchen; if you walked by the house now, you wouldn’t know it has changed hands. You wouldn’t know one family had been replaced by another.’

What an interesting book! Louise Candlish creates a story that will draw you in from beginning to end. You will find it hard not to pass judgement on the lives of Fi and Bram as you watch their lives slowly unravel. Separated after Bram’s infidelity, they work around the custody of their two young boys by adopting a ‘bird’s nest’ strategy - each parent takes turns alternating on a roster of either living in a shared apartment whilst the other maintains the family home. All in the name of stability!

‘The house sheltered us and protected us, but it also defined us. It kept us current long after our expiry date.’

Then you come home one day to find not only all your possession gone, but another family moving in and an estranged husband that cannot be located! The story then proceeds to go back and forth between past and present events to backfill leading up to this disastrous day. Clever - as puzzle pieces are slowly produced and the full picture becomes abundantly clear. For me, there are also two ‘WHOA’ plot twists that will most certainly take your breath away.

The story is told in a most unique way with both Fi and Bram presenting events from their alternating viewpoint. Fi’s is via a victim of crime podcast in the aftermath, where listeners can tweet their #theories and #opinions! Bram tells his via a typed Word Document, also after the event. I did enjoy this tale but, at times, was frustrated by both the lack of pace and frustrating events and characters. Still it was fascinating, even if the end left me speechless and perplexed.

So a big thumbs up for such an original concept, complex plot, crazy secrets, really unlikable characters and some incredible twists. This mystery is sure to please as an easy but engrossing page turner.  I mean, imagine coming home one day to find new people moving into your home and no one can tell you how it happened? This is a mystery involving relatable people who suffer from terrible lies and manipulation, where the loved ones you are trying to protect are the very people you may ultimately destroy.

‘..it is also quite fitting that it’s ended the way it has, because it has always been about the house. Our marriage, our family, our life: they only seemed to make proper sense at home.’

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, June 14, 2018

Review: Burning Fields

Title: Burning Fields
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 21 May 2018 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, womens fiction
My Rating: 3.5 cups

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.
As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.
Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.
Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.
When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?
My Thoughts

‘Sometimes the biggest battles are the ones we have inside us.’

Burning Fields is a historical fiction novel by Aussie author Alli Sinclair. Having previously enjoyed Alli’s other books (HERE) it was a fresh change to find her delve into the sugar cane fields of far north Queensland just after the conclusion of WWII. Although there is a love story here, I would suggest that the stronger plot is that of Australia’s multicultural history and the background to social and cultural changes that were occurring at the time.

There are also flashbacks to fill in details regarding Tomas’s thoughts and actions in Italy during the war. I thought this was well done and a clever way to backfill information. Using this information, combined with events in Queensland straight after the war, helped to demonstrate how complicated war is - none more so than for Italian citizens who found themselves switching alliances part way and the terrible angst and pressure it placed on those who remained to either conform or resist. As in the case of Tomas, nothing is as it seems - and for good reason.

There is much to appreciate about this read. Everything from:  wartime Italy, Italian family bonds (love Nonna), to life as an immigrant in ‘White Australia’ especially in the far rural reaches of the Queensland cane fields - racism was rife. I loved the descriptions of town life and the distances and strong community that was conveyed. Alli also touched on the struggle for women post war and the expectation of returning to their prewar roles after having contributed so much for the war effort. The  attitude towards women, not only sexism in a professional capacity, but also during social circumstances.

I congratulate Alli for tackling some topical issues - not only of the past but seen through present eyes, as it will surely would stimulate conversation. These issues set against a enticing location, combined with engaging relationships - Tomas and Rosie, Nonna and Rosie’s mother and father - will provide a most entertaining story for readers.

Tomas guided her hand upwards and rested it over her heart ...
‘This is where home is. I have spent too long trying to figure out what home means to me and I have finally come to the realisation that your home is wherever you feel love.’
‘Not Italy?’
‘Not Italy. Not Australia. Not the moon. Here,’ he squeezed her hand that still lay over her heart.

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, June 7, 2018

Review: Love and Other Words

Title:  Love and Other Words
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: 10th April 2018 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance, contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups


Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother...only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

My Thoughts

“It never occurred to me that love could be anything other than all-consuming. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted anything less”

There is just so much to love about this book. I could simply state that the fact that the two main characters love books and reading ... well that would suffice any bibliophile! Their passion not only for each other, but also books and their ‘favourite word’, should just about make you want to go grab a copy right now! And that is only the beginning.

“Favorite word?” he whispers. I don’t even hesitate: “You.”

This is a story about a second chance at a life time love and what a winner  it is! Told in alternating time periods - their teenage years and then eleven years later - it recalls the budding childhood friendship that evolved into so much more. There is an underlying unknown until the very end about what drove them apart all those years ago, but for me, it was the journey they both went on - together and separately - that is the real winner here. Still, questions persist - can Macy let her guard down? What tore them apart eleven years ago? I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go read this book and let yourself be swept away through magical prose and a journey into the lives of some remarkable characters.

‘He’s my person. He’s always been my person. My best friend, my confidant, probably the love of my life. And I’ve spent the last eleven years being angry and self-righteous. But at the end of the day, he tore a hole in us, and fate ripped it wide open.’

It’s about best friends, kindred spirits, who became something more and then lost it all. Without doubt it is heartfelt, sexy, sad, dramatic and totally appealing to readers of this genre. I just loved all the characters - Macy and her Dad, Elliot and his family, Macy’s best friend - this is a tale full of emotion, I could not devour it quick enough. It is not a simple romance, oh no, it is so much more. I challenge you not to be captivated, not to fall in love yourself with what you are reading. This is a book that will make you feel.

‘I honestly don’t even know how to translate this heavy emotion in my chest. Is it that I relate so intensely to what he’s saying.’

There is not much more to say, but read it. It’s sweet, it will own you and let you lose yourself in some magical writing. As it states in the introduction, ‘Love and Other Words is a celebration of the fragility of love, the beauty of literature, and the strength of true friendship to overcome anything.’

“Why can’t everyone be like you?”
“I can be enough of your world that it feels like everyone is.”

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