Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: The Other Wife

Title:  The Other Wife
Author: Juliet Bell
Publisher: 2nd November 2018 by HQ Digital
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, retellings, contemporary
My Rating: 2.5 cups

Outback Australia, 1981
After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself drawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.
But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.
As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…
When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?

My Thoughts

I am a Bronte fan, so this combined modern adaptation/retelling looked inviting. To place a Jane Eyre type character in outback Australia 1980s sounded a clever undertaking. So whilst it is not necessary to have read Bronte’s original, it does make for a more engaging comparison to be made. Despite what would be obvious necessary changes, it would be intriguing to see how this fateful tale would unfold in new contemporary rural circumstances.

Told through the viewpoints of both Jane and Betty (aka Bertha), Bell provides the reader with significant background details of both women. Both stories contain great sadness with childhoods filled with abandonment and therefore, some understanding of the present day woman current in the narrative, becomes clear. My first problem here is that, I never felt I fully understood, or was provided, with the reasons for Betty’s anxiety/madness. Innuendo was insufficient for me to appreciate this crucial factor and combine that with her obvious lucid moments, I often found myself confused.

‘Edward thought she was mad. Grace thought she was mad.’

Then there is Rochester. Never ever could he be viewed as likable from the original, but here he was absolutely despicable. Not much more to say but a really unlikeable character from beginning to end. I liked that ‘Thornfield’ was in remote outback Australia - but was that because it fit nicely as a modern adaptation? I don’t have a problem with adaptations veering from the original and although many of the incidences could be likened, there were just as many that were different. Especially the ending.

What I did struggle with was the overall theme of terrible male characters and the use of sex as power in a wide range of scenarios and rather fanatically. I hated the silly quips such as, ‘Maybe the father will fall in love with me and ask me to marry him, like in The Sound of Music’ - good grief! Finally, to be honest, I did not enjoy the writing style - rather disjointed at times which may be the result of me learning that the author, Juliet Bell, is in fact the collaborative pen name of authors Janet Gover and Alison May.

‘We are of this land. We know how to wait. We should go on strike like the Gurindji.’ ‘How long do we wait? It took ’em ten years at Wave Hill.’

I held such hope for this tale as I truly believed that they had all the components necessary to write a really good adaptation. Sadly, it totally missed the mark for me as key points just did not add up.

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, November 27, 2018

Review: Nature of the Lion

Title: Nature of the Lion
Author: T. M. Clark
Publisher: 16th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: action, Africa
My Rating: 5 cups

An all-new vivid, action-packed adventure across the African landscape in the tradition of Tony Park and Wilbur Smith, from Australian thriller writer, T.M. Clark. Hiding from the law, they never expected to be caught in the crosshairs of a hunter...
After relocating to South Africa on the heels of scandal five years ago, Chloe and her invalid father, Mike, once wealthy Zimbabwean landowners, now have little. Away at university, Chloe has had to rely on her father's best friend Enoch and his son Xo to watch over Mike.
When a violent confrontation puts Chloe in danger, Enoch steps in to help - with inadvertent fatal results. With increasing pressure from a right-wing group on the police to charge Enoch, this mismatched family have no choice but to flee back to Zimbabwe.
But crossing the border will be dangerous and near impossible with their route taking them amid warring dissident armies and landmines, and their every footstep is stalked by a shadowy ring of hunters - whose trophies are taken from more than animals...
Only with help from Nick, formerly a soldier under Mike's command, now a professional game ranger, will the fugitives have a chance of making it home. But Nick has long struggled to come to terms with his fellow soldiers' choices before their unit was abandoned. Will his past demons put them all at risk?
My Thoughts

‘That is the fire of the Caçador Escuro, the Dark Hunter. We avoid such fires when we see them.’ Julio shook his head and made a cross on his chest as if to ward off evil. Enoch frowned. ‘Why?’ ‘These men are evil. They hunt people.’

‘Nature of the Lion’ is another compelling read from Zimbabwean born T.M. Clark. As I wrote about her previous book, ‘Child of Africa’ (HERE), I love reading about this compelling continent where I once lived. Clark brings to life the modern day hurdles that many there  face and you will find yourself fully engaged throughout this riveting story.

Yet again Clark provides us with another gripping and action packed thriller that not only transports you to the heart of Africa but presents  a side of life that not many are witness to - everything from illegal hunting to racism and corruption. So much beauty to be found in the wilds of Africa, yet it goes hand in hand with  so much horror - it’s a tale of conflict for all the wrong reasons. Clark is so understanding of this imbalance and presents the compelling contradictions to perfection.

Containing a little of everything, the tension will build and the drama continue to unfold right up until the very end. The violence will confront you, the rugged beauty impress you. Clark again provides a  ‘Fact vs Fiction’ at the end that proves most helpful in sorting through the details - real and fictionalised - from the book.

I highly recommend ‘Nature of the Lion’  with Clark becoming a firm favourite for her compelling writing in providing real and gripping dramas that will see you fully engaged throughout the novel. The characters are honest, the story they have to tell, whilst sad and frightening at times, proves very, very enthralling.

‘They do not think like you and me. They see the colour of skin as a measure of character and a means to judge who a person 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.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Review: One Way Ticket to Paris

Title:  One Way Ticket to Paris
Author: Emma Robinson
Publisher: 31st October 2018 by Bookouture
Pages: 274 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups


When I was a kid and I’d lost something, my dad always said ‘Go back to the place you last had it’. The problem is that what I’ve lost is… me.

Kate loves her family more than anything, but recently she has started to feel invisible. Lying awake at three a.m. as her husband snores, panicking about shopping lists, birthday parties, and the school bake sale…

She finds herself in the kitchen, gulping water, staring at a postcard of the Eiffel Tower from Shannon, her best friend.

Paris, with its red wine, slippery cobbles and curly lampposts. Where the scent of freshly-baked croissants hangs in the air, and Kate last remembers feeling like herself.

The postcard is a year old. It has just one line on it: When are you coming?

An inspiring, feel-good tale of friendship, love, and what happens when running away is the only way you can find your way home. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Marian Keyes.

My Thoughts

“Going to another country on a whim –without booking a return ticket –was the kind of thing the old Kate would have done. The single Kate. The reckless Kate. The fun Kate. The new Kate didn’t do things like that. The mother Kate. The sensible Kate. The bloody boring Kate.”

What a great read, I really enjoyed the escape to Paris! This is the story of three women and how their lives all converge with each other for a few days in Paris; and through supporting each other, they set themselves on a new course in life. Two of them are friends, another a work colleague and the chapters alternate through the events that have brought their individual lives to crossroads.

There is, of course, tears and upsets, but overall this is a real ‘feel good’ story where one woman, or aspects from all three, the reader is bound to find relatable. The writing is engaging where you wished that you could be sitting around the table with them at the cafe or hotel, taking part in their sharing and decision making. I found all three women to be likable and could relate to various aspects from each of their stories - these are situations that many could identify with - you are bound to recognise either a circumstance or trait that rings familiar.  So congratulations to the author for providing ‘real’ people and relevant problems that the reader or readers friends may find relatable.

The satisfying aspect of this story is how the three women come together to support each other, provide advice and encouragement. When you are faced with circumstances in life that make you unhappy, what can you do about it? The answer is not ‘fly to Paris’ (although many of us would be satisfied with that) but it is about communication and staying true to self. A very poignant message to be found at the heart of this novel.

I recommend taking the time to read of Kate, Shannon and Laura’s time in Paris. Great characters and story to be had. You are sure to appreciate being part of their journey of self ‘re’ discovery.

“What was she going to say? That she felt… lost? Finding yourself was something that happened on a gap-year break in Asia at eighteen. It was more than a little careless to be forty-one, married with kids and a mortgage, and realise you’d lost yourself again.”

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, November 16, 2018

Review: Suitcase of Dreams

Title: Suitcase of Dreams
Author: Tania Blanchard
Publisher: 1st November 2018 by Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 cups

From the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich, a sweeping, dramatic tale of love and identity, inspired by a true story.
After enduring the horror of Nazi Germany and the chaos of postwar occupation, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope for a new life. It’s a land of opportunity, where Lotte and her husband Erich dream of giving their children the future they have always wanted.
After years of struggling to find their feet as New Australians, Erich turns his skill as a wood carver into a successful business and Lotte makes a career out of her lifelong passion, photography. The sacrifices they have made finally seem worth it until Erich’s role in the trade union movement threatens to have him branded a communist and endanger their family. Then darker shadows of the past reach out to them from Germany, a world and a lifetime away.
As the Vietnam War looms, an unexpected visitor forces Lotte to a turning point. Her decision will change her life forever . . . and will finally show her the true meaning of home.
My Thoughts

‘I didn’t even know why we were here. It wasn’t like we were wanted when there’d been nothing but disregard, disrespect and lies since our arrival.’

Tania Blanchard wrote a tremendous debut, ‘The Girl from Munich(HERE) and therefore I was most excited to read her follow up story of Lotte and Erich. Once again, this proved easy to read with that familiar  mix of fiction and nonfiction, that this time, will have you disembarking on Australian shores during the years of post war migration.

After surviving the horrors of Nazi Germany, Lotte and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope to make a fresh start. After all, Australia had been presented as the ‘land of opportunity’ and they had been promised so much. This was their opportunity to give their children the future they had only ever dreamed of.

‘Look at us! We’re no better off. All the broken promises, the broken dreams.’

Once more Blanchard bases her tale on the true story of her grandparents as we follow them from their initial start at the Bonegilla migrant camp up until the time they finally are in a position to get their own house and land, ‘the all Australian dream’. It is no easy journey and Tania will shine the light on the many hardships migrants had to face at this time - everything from the language barrier to being taken advantage of in the workplace.

I loved spending time with Lotte and Erich once more, their love is so special and their life was not easy. There is a wonderful cast of characters and settings, especially their love of the Australian bush. I did not find this book to be as strong as the first. Admittedly it was difficult as the time frame was that much larger, around twenty years. This had an impact towards the end when there were jumps in time that interrupted the flow of events. I also found that some events e.g. unionism, Vietnam war etc, we were given rather large information dumps that I could have done without and certain plot twists that, although served a purpose, did not sit comfortably with me.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this book and I’m grateful that Tania gave us the second part to Lotte and Erich’s story, no matter  how heartbreaking it might prove to be. This is a window into an important episode of Australian history - the social, political and cultural ethos, that was Australia at that time.

‘All my hopes and dreams were dashed but what I said was true. What mattered was having those we loved close to us. That much I had learnt.’

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, November 10, 2018

Review: The Witches of St Petersburg

Title:  The Witches of St. Petersburg
Author: Imogen Edwards-Jones
Publisher: 25th October 2018 by Head of Zeus
Pages: 206 (400+)pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 2.5 cups


Two Montenegrin princesses, Militza and Stana, are married into the Russian aristocracy of the last Tsar by their father. Initially shunned by society and, in Stana's case, married to a man she detests, life isn't easy.

Fascinated by the occult, the sisters soon become close to the Tsarina Alexandra who is willing to try anything to precipitate the birth of the son and heir the country longs for. If she puts her faith in them, Militza and Stana promise they can help the Tsarina produce a boy.

The girls hold seances, experiment with a variety of rituals and bring various men to the Tsarina who they feel have spiritual power. Their closeness to the Empress and power in court is undisputed: until, that is, Grigori Rasputin arrives. Militza and Stana, along with most of female Russian society, are intoxicated, but by bringing Rasputin into their lives, have they taken a fatal step too far?

My Thoughts

This is a really difficult book to review - so much potential but it did not really deliver. Delving into a little bit of everything, yet ending up just going round in circles. I also seriously question the ebook page tally of 206 - try doubling that at least. It adopts two main themes, Russian court drama combined with the supernatural - but it never really hits the mark.

It is a deceptively large (remember the questionable page tally) read with a vast array of characters (listed in the beginning) all pertaining to the dying days of the Romanov family rule in Russia. The author has most certainly done her research as she details the shallowness of the Russian aristocracy. The many characters provide a great insight into the cut throat life at court. If the tales here provide any indication, it is no wonder a revolution ensued.

‘There was distinctly more than a whiff of revolution in the air. It was a stench. Like the smell of smoke before a fire, people could sense it coming.’

Secondly, the book deals with a lot of supernatural themes. A lot. It’s so overt that some readers are bound to be put off with explicit sordid details. Once more, the author does not feign the details of character traits, sexual activities or occult outcomes. Dark or black magic is certainly at play here. I love reading about the Romanov’s but found their portrayal here sad, said to be driven by drugs and the influence of Rasputin.

‘But I am the reason Rasputin is not here!’ ‘To hell with him!’ ‘He’s the only one who can help.’ ‘You don’t really believe that! You’re much more powerful than him. You made him!’

There is such potential, but it is never fully realised in this opulent tale. It’s a strange read - really strange. The pace was slow which does not bode well for a large book and the repetition of the sisters attempts to influence the royal family become boring. Conceptually there is most definitely a story, but in fruition it failed to deliver. Without doubt, the author is most passionate and well informed with a plethora of facts and details from this period. So if the final days of a dying dynasty appeal to you then this window into Russian court life is the book for you.

‘No wonder my family are haunted by death, no wonder they hide in their palaces, fearful of assassination. No wonder they cower when they’ve been hunted and shot like dogs over and over again, for centuries.’

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, November 6, 2018

Review: The Truth Waits

Title: The Truth Waits
Author: Susanna Beard
Publisher: Legend Press, Nov 1st 2018
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thrilllers.
My Rating: 4.5 cups


Anna has everything worked out – a successful company, all the comforts she needs and no ties. But when she stumbles across the body of a young girl on a deserted beach in Lithuania, everything changes.
Anna is compelled to uncover the story behind the tragedy, despite concern from her partner, Will. Everything points towards sex trafficking, but as she searches, her own deepest secrets start to surface.
When Will disappears without a trace, Anna is pulled further into the murky world of organised crime. Time is running out for them all, and there’s a killer out there who will stop at nothing.
Beard enthralls the reader in this fast-paced psychological crime thriller. Anna serves as the perfect power-house protagonist, her daring escapades leaving the reader questioning: how far should one go to solve a murder?

My Thoughts

The Truth Waits starts off quite slow, but when it sped up, I was unable to put it down! Every chapter had me wondering what was going to happen next. It begins with the protagonist, Anna’s, business trip to Lithuania being extended due to a volcano erupting nearby. She decides to go for a walk on the beach and she discovers a young girl’s body.  

“The eyes of a young girl stare out at her, empty, lifeless.”

After her shocking discovery, she meets a man called Will and strikes up a friendship with him. He tells her about the human trafficking that goes on in that part of the world. She begins to wonder about the young girl she found. She also meets a couple who she immediately doesn’t like or trust.

“...they could be perfectly respectable. But I’ve learned that very often things are not what they seem.”

When she returns to England she finds that the discovery of the body has really affected her and she finds it extremely difficult to return to her normal life.

“...I can’t stop thinking about Margryta. I see her all the time, at night, in the street, in a magazine. It’s like she’s stalking me.”

The mixture of mystery and human relationships in this book made it a very compelling read and the balance between light and dark is expertly managed by Susanna. I began to realise that there was something in Anna’s past that made her unable to forget about the young girl and soon she was obsessing over finding out what happened to her. She is warned by several people to forget about it and move on, but she can’t.

“There’s a lot of very nasty organised crime around. Drugs, money laundering, people trafficking. You only need to scratch the surface and a lot of horrible nasties can crawl out and bite you.”

It was very clever of Susanna to be able to write in this way and all the loose ends were tied up at the conclusion. I enjoyed getting to know all the different characters along the way and their relationship to Anna.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery and thrillers or even if you don’t! There’s a bit of everything in here, suspense, relationships, love, money, greed, power, tragedy and corruption.

“We have them...Now we must look after 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.