Friday, May 31, 2019

Review: The Printed Letter Bookship

Title: The Printed Letter Bookshop
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: 14th May 2019 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, contemporary, womens fiction
My Rating: 4 cups

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.
While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.
The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.
My Thoughts

‘Claire wove her way around ... so much life and literature packed into such a small space. A sanctuary. A haven. A bookshop.’

Katherine Reay has written some wonderful books that I have read and in  The Printed Letter Bookshop, she continues her literary theme, if in a somewhat different approach. This is a wonderful book for people who love books - YOU! There is no denying Katherine is a very good writer and this story, overall, engages the reader through a selection of interesting characters.

“As I said, don’t give up.”
Chris brushed my cheek with his fingers.
“Let’s simply trust we’re where we need to be.”

This is a tale of three women brought together through ‘The Printed Letter Bookshop’, their trials and tribulations and the bonds of friendship that form through it all. As the shop transforms, so do the lives of these three women. This is not an intricate plot driven tale, rather, more character orientated. Each character being on their own journey, yet drawn together through their love of books and Maddie who left the shop in their care after her death. Throughout, Katherine shines the spotlight on some serious social issues - divorce and teen issues for example, yet all brushed with understanding and forgiveness.

‘... something had cracked inside me. I thought, at first, it was the end—my security wrenched away piece by piece. But rather than break me, the cracks opened spaces that had never existed before.’

As a lover of books, there is so much to enjoy here concerning the power of a good book - how each story can be a lesson, teaching the reader about themselves and how to apply learnings to their own life. There are plentiful quotes and bookish references sprinkled throughout to delight any avid reader - all of which are considerately listed by the author at the conclusion. Let yourself loose in this bookstore ... who knows, a new title may speak to you.

‘I looked around my own apartment. Despite all the work I’d put into it, it felt like the home of someone I expected to be rather than someone I was. Or maybe it reflected someone I’d never become. Maddie’s home had been warm, inviting, and lovely—it wasn’t the quality of the pieces within it, but how they reflected her...’

Katherine Reay’s writing is a definite highlight here. There is much to be considered though both character and book references, but still presented in a light and easy way to consume. With strong themes of friendships and second chances, it encourages you to let go of the past or preconceived ideas of how your life should be, and instead, embrace the uncertainty. Some sections/characters work better than others and after a slow start, I ultimately delighted in The Printed Letter Bookshop and highly recommend it to all book lovers and those interested in female tales from a range of ages.

‘Aunt Maddie and her book list. Every title led me here . . . How had she known? And had she meant for me to read them in order? If she had, if she’d thought that far ahead and listed them with purpose, she could not have chosen better. Each story gently propelled me to question my 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.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Review: The Cinema at Starlight Creek

Title: The Cinema at Starlight Creek
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 20th May 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups

A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. How far would you go to follow your dream?
Queensland, 1994 When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she's captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia's most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema's reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire's career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.
Hollywood, 1950 Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena's timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.
Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they've dared to dream?
My Thoughts

Looking at this stunning cover, I was eager to get into Alli’s latest tale - a dual time narrative (a fave here at GRTL) blending modern day and historical stories. The Cinema at Starlight Creek moves between 1950’s Hollywood, to 1994 small town country living in the Queensland's sugarcane belt. There is much to love in both locations and both timelines.

‘What kind of world are we living in when people willingly buy into fairy tales that are totally unrealistic? What’s wrong with the ups and downs of real life?’
‘Sometimes real life is too painful to endure. Movies and books and music can transport people, change their emotions, soothe their hurts, trigger memories of happier times or give them hope that their luck will change.’

I have thoroughly enjoyed Alli’s previous books and here, once again, she presents two strong women from both time periods, who attempt to break down the gender barriers in their respective film industries and live their own dreams. There is much to love in both tales - love and lies, dreams and disasters - yet it is the courage that shines through as the most endearing quality for both women. Whether it be Hollywood in the 1950s and Lena’s dream of becoming a Hollywood star (but at what price?) to Claire’s 1994 dream of becoming a documentary maker (but at what price?) - both women have obstacles and challenges to overcome.

I truly feel that with each novel Alli’s storytelling gets better and better. This is a great book. Always happy to learn something new, it was obvious the research she had done into such things as the Hays Code and the Communist witch hunt in the US of the 1950s. I also appreciated the detail of the filming industry, whether it be the Hollywood starlit 1950s or the pressures of filming at a grassroots level in today’s society. Both stories provided engaging windows into the ‘behind the scenes’ events and the fact that it’s not all good or pleasant.  

‘Romantic movies always ran the risk of breaking the Hays Code, which slithered its tentacles into every movie produced in the USA, but Harry had found a way to tell the stories and take scenes right to the edge before the censorship board wielded its shiny scissors.’

The Cinema at Starlight Creek really cements Alli as one of the now established sensational Aussie authors currently producing fabulous stories. If you are interested in historical drama with a particular focus on Hollywood 1950s you are sure to enjoy this tale. However, combined with the current day story, the book provides an overall message for women to follow their dreams, stay strong and be true to themselves.

‘I will make this up to you.’ Lena grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
‘You don’t need to. It’s society that has it wrong, not 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.

Review: Something in the Wine

Title: Something in the Wine
Author: Tricia Stringer
Publisher: 15th May 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, contemporary, womens fiction, Australia
My Rating: 3 cups

A warm-hearted rural romance set among the scenic vineyards of the Margaret River from bestselling author Tricia Stringer, the authentic voice of Australian storytelling. Reserved high school teacher Keely Mitchell is more than ready for her holiday on the west coast of Australia, so when a medical emergency turns over all her plans and an intervention by a kind stranger finds her recovering in a Margaret River vineyard, she is at first downcast.
Keely had wanted to put recent traumatic events out of her mind, and recuperating alone in a stranger's house won't help that. But slowly the lovely food, spectacular wine and beautiful landscape of the area begin to work their spell. As Keely makes friends with the locals and adapts to the rhythms of the vintner's year, she starts to feel part of the scenery too, particularly when her artwork and jewellery-making somehow find a home at Levallier Dell Wines.
But clouds are on the horizon in the shape of a warring father and son, interfering family friends and a rival in love. Keely didn't mean to fall for anyone, but she can't help her feelings for clever, passionate wine-maker Flynn Levallier. Sadly, it seems he only has eyes for the beautiful Kat, daughter of a rival wine-maker. Can what Keely feels be real? Or is it just something in the wine?
My Thoughts

Over ten years ago, Tricia self published a short story which has now been refurbished into ‘Something in the Wine’. This story is set in the glorious Western Australian wine region of Margaret River. In essence, this is a sweet tale of learning to follow your heart.

This is an easy read, incorporating family dynamics and romance. I think the real enticement here though, is the wine growing region itself. Tricia beautifully captures the locality from the vines to the coast, including the flow of tourism to the area. If you are at all interested in wine making then this is the book for you! Much research has been undertaken and it is very interesting to learn about grape growing and the problems that can arise. It provides a wonderful backdrop to a story that was quite simple.

I struggled with some of the characters. I found the main female lead, Keely, to be too meek (given her age) especially when dealing with her parents. Also, as many other reviewers have noted, the family bickering between father/son and neighbouring wine growers, grew a little thin at times.

So whilst not my favourite Tricia Stringer book, it still makes for a interesting rural read, inclusive of all the necessary ingredients of fear and hope, rejection and love and the journey to learn to follow your heart and do what makes you happy.

“I was a little girl then.”
“The same Katerina lives within.” He reached across and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Follow your 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, May 16, 2019

Review: Finding Dorothy

Title: Finding Dorothy
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Publisher: 4th April 2019 by Quercus Books
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

A richly imagined novel that tells the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , the book that inspired the iconic film, through the eyes of author L. Frank Baum's intrepid wife, Maud--from the family's hardscrabble days in South Dakota to the Hollywood film set where she first meets Judy Garland.
Maud Gage Baum, widow of the author of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, met Judy Garland, the young actress playing the role of Dorothy on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. At the time, Maud was seventy-eight and Judy was sixteen. In spite of their age difference, Maud immediately connected to Judy--especially when Maud heard her sing "Over the Rainbow," a song whose yearning brought to mind the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living--until Frank Baum's book became a national sensation.
This wonderfully evocative two-stranded story recreates Maud's youth as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of Maud and Frank's early days when they lived among the people--especially young Dorothy--who would inspire Frank's masterpiece. Woven into this past story is one set in 1939, describing the high-pressured days on The Wizard of Oz film set where Judy is being badgered by the director, producer, and her ambitious stage mother to lose weight, bind her breasts, and laugh, cry, and act terrified on command. As Maud had promised to protect the original Dorothy back in Aberdeen, she now takes on the job of protecting young Judy.
My Thoughts

‘You need to understand that you have an obligation. To many people, Oz is a real place. . . . And not just a real place—a better place.’

‘The Wizard of Oz’ has to be one of my favorite movies, so when I heard of this book, I simply had to read it. ‘Finding Dorothy’ is the story not only behind the making of the movie, but more importantly, where the story originated from. This is the story of the books creator, L. Frank Baum and told through the voice of his wife - Maud Gage Baum - this is her story.

‘Her worn face in the mirror was telling her something. Reminding her that of all the roles she had played in her life—tomboy, student, wife, mother, widow, and steward of Frank’s legacy—the most important of these had been mother. Was she really so old that she had grown blind to the plain truth in front of her?’

It is through Maud’s story that we learn the whole origins behind this iconic tale. This is a dual time narrative that details the personal lives of firstly, Maud and then upon marrying Frank, both of them in the late 1800s. Then there is the second story of a much older Maud in her 70s at Hollywood through the making of the movie in 1939. Whilst being a wonderful tribute to all that is ‘Oz’, I fell completely under the spell of this fictionalised story of the Baum’s and the events of their lives that led to the creation of this iconic tale. The tale of a man who dreamed of a better place and I simply loved how the author foretold that certain events and people throughout the years would come to play a part in the final version. Fictionalised, but based on fact where possible, it was simply a genius move on the authors part.

“You see that rainbow?” Maud nodded miserably. “You know where I’d like to live?” Frank said. “Where, Frank?” Maud said.
“If one end of this rainbow lives on this bleak and soulless plain, then I’d like to be clear out at the far end of it. Somewhere, somewhere over there is a place that is better. I’m just sure of it...”

“But what’s it about?” Maud asked, wonderingly. “Well, it’s about a girl and her companions, and they’re on the move. It’s hard to explain, Maud, but it’s all in there.”
“What’s all in there?”
“Why—everything!” he said, grasping her hands and gazing into her eyes. “Our whole life and everything we’ve ever endured and imagined, all wrapped up and turned into make-believe.”

Which leads to Elizabeth Letts and the story she has created here. It would appear (from a fascinating ‘Afterword’) that this is incredibly rich in detailed research. Having been inspired by what she found, it was a bold move to centre the tale around Maud, but boy! Does it work! Maud in herself is quite a remarkable character - the daughter of an important suffragette, attended Cornell in one of the first co-ed classes in history; and of course, inspired in many ways, the writing of her husbands book.

‘Sometimes, when the tin woodman leaves home, when he goes on the road, leaving his family to sell his chopped wood, he feels so hollow he bangs on his chest, just to hear the echo inside. That’s what it’s like to be a man of tin. It’s very lonely.”

This is a well written tale that I was fully engaged with. A truly fascinating take providing creative interpretations into not only the lives of Frank and Maud Baum and family, but also, the people involved in the making of the movie. If you loved The Wizard of Oz then you will love this book. I encourage you to take a nostalgic journey down the yellow brick road once more - it is charming, original, enchanting and a real comfort read.

‘Maud watched anxiously. She knew, she had always known, that for the film to contain the same essence that was captured in the book, the quality that had given the book its staying power, the audience would need to believe the girl—to understand that she was trapped, and genuinely miserable, but that somehow she looked beyond, harnessed her imagination, tapped into a deep wellspring of hope, and kept going.’

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, May 10, 2019

Review: Under the Midnight Sky

Title: Under the Midnight Sky
Author: Anna Romer
Publisher: 1st May 2019 by Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: mystery
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Chilling secrets buried deep in wild bushland drive this thrilling new novel from bestseller Anna Romer
When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.
But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.
As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.
But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.
My Thoughts

‘... at Ravensong we’re the stars in the midnight sky that everything else revolves around.’

I am a HUGE Anna Romer fan, her books are always amazing - her latest is no different.  Under The Midnight Sky is her fourth novel and once  more delves deep into mysterious occurrences in the Australian setting.

Anna presents us with another captivating psychological thriller, that will keep you guessing right to the very end. Comprised of two timelines, that not only compliment each other, but will also converge to a very enthralling conclusion. The secrets of Deepwater Gorge will slowly unfurl with a haunting and mesmerising tale that I highly recommend.

Anna is now a proven master storyteller who weaves a tale full of suspense and slowly unravels long buried secrets that have impacted on both past and present characters. There are plenty of twists that will keep you second guessing. This is crime fiction at its best, where the use of setting provides some mystic gothic overtones on a small country town.

Combined with the mystery, Anna brings not only the setting of a bush landscape but even the house itself to life, they seem like characters in themselves, taking on a story of their own. A little romance is offered but does not take away from the core of the book. Do yourself a favour and partake in this dark mystery full of secrets, trauma and families in a tragic tale, but not without glimmers of future hopes.

‘Was there a source of evil, a source of blame? Or was there just a long chain of random events, leading a person inevitably towards their fate?’

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, May 6, 2019

Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop

Title: Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop
Author: Rebecca Raisin
Publisher: HQ Digital, 4th March 2019
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Humour, Romance
My Rating: 5 cups


The trip of a lifetime!
Rosie Lewis has her life together.

A swanky job as a Michelin-Starred Sous Chef, a loving husband and future children scheduled for exactly January 2021.

That’s until she comes home one day to find her husband’s pre-packed bag and a confession that he's had an affair.

Heartbroken and devastated, Rosie drowns her sorrows in a glass (or three) of wine, only to discover the following morning that she has spontaneously invested in a bright pink campervan to facilitate her grand plans to travel the country.

Now, Rosie is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, and the chance to change her life! With Poppy, her new-found travelling tea shop in tow, nothing could go wrong, could it…?

A laugh-out-loud novel of love, friendship and adventure! Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Holly Martin.
My Thoughts
Rebecca Raisin has said she aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. This is certainly the case with the characters in Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop. I absolutely loved this heartwarming story from beginning to end and literally couldn’t put it down (I read it in 2 days).
“Not spontaneous enough? Cold fish? Spinster? Like my dad? I’ll show you...I’m going to prove to the world that I’m not staid. Not stuck in a rut. I’m going to surprise even Callum, by doing the opposite of what he expects because I know if I don’t move on fast, I never will.”
Rosie certainly did show her ex-husband and anyone else who doubted her. She embarked on a lifetime adventure travelling around in ‘Poppy’, her bright, fuscia coloured caravan. She had many adventures along the way and was very lucky to meet her travelling companion straight away who became a dear, loved friend. Her name was Aria and she had her own painful past, she was escaping from.
“We shake and she gives me a wide smile as if my presence has brightened her day…’I’ll make you a brew and we can chat’...”
Another thing I loved about this book was all the references to tea and books. Being both a tea and book lover, I identified with this book in a big way! I adored all the tea brews Rosie made up and Aria’s van was a perfect bibliophile’s nook! I thought their idea for the festivals was fantastic and they really complimented each other. Even though they were opposites in many ways, they had lots of similar characteristics and it was a beautiful friendship!
“We are opposites, that much is certain, but don’t they say opposites attract? Aria’s effusive, bubbly, and definitely popular...That’s what I aspire to be like, to have that ability to blend in easily, to not be the person on the sidelines all the damn time. I want adventure, a new purpose, to really grab life by the shoulders and shake it up!”
There is a couple of love interests for Rosie along the way, which make for very interesting reading and some funny situations! She bumbles along in this new life of hers, tentatively taking every opportunity that comes her way, but she is still having trouble trusting those closest to her after being so hurt and betrayed by her ex-husband. Unfortunately the person she chooses to confide in isn’t who she thought they were and she learns a hard lesson.
“The break in my heart, the one that’s just healed over, twinges. I should never have left London, I should never have pushed myself to be an extrovert, to make friends, worse-to try and find love.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and very highly recommend it. It’s a light hearted, heartwarming read that fills you with hope and happiness. A 5 cup read!
"Maybe you can't fall in love over the internet but you can fall in love after a kiss."
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.