Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Love And Other Battles

Title: Love And Other Battles
Author: Tess Woods
Publisher: 17th June 2019 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary, historical, womens fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

Three generations of women. Three heartbreaking choices. One unforgettable story.
1969: Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier ... but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.
1989: Jess's daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life - marriage, children, stability - then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.
2017: When Jamie's daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down ... and the past returns to haunt them.
Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.
My Thoughts

‘If I do what you want me to do, then that’s it. It’s over. No second chances. You’re gone, and I’m left all alone.’ She cried with full force now. ‘And I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with you.’

Tess Wood’s third novel is truly triumphant. Little more than part way in and I knew I was onto something special. The three generations of women (from the same family) in Love and Other Battles had me completed invested with their individual, yet related, stories. They were real and they were relevant. That, Tess Woods, is exceptional story telling. 

I often refer to myself as the ‘sandwich generation’ (caring for aging parents while supporting your own children) and this book encompassed that and so much more. There were teenager issues, there were midlife issues and then there were the aged care issues, all succinctly entwined. I thought for sure I would lose track of characters or timelines, but the writing soon put that qualm to rest. This book spoke to me, resonated with me so clearly, I can't praise it highly enough.

‘She’d learned enough about Parkinson’s disease to know that it wouldn’t kill him. He could keep deteriorating like this for another ten or more years, barely able to move or communicate, but with his organs doing just enough to keep him alive, trapped in the body that had failed him.’

There are serious issues tackled in Love and Other Battles and it hopefully provides a springboard for discussion. With subjects covering drugs, sexting and self harm, chronic disease and assisted dying, Tess presents but never overwhelms - her words are captivating. I hope that many read this book and topics are broached amongst families and communities. And just as you reach the conclusion, thinking all has been put to bed, Tess still keeps the punches coming with a few final surprises. So powerful.

Having read other books by Tess, I believe this one (which she had doubts about!) seriously surpasses anything she has written before. I appreciated all three timelines and loved the way they worked together to provide a bigger picture. This is a book that will take you on a journey and is most compelling, speaking directly to me and I am sure will be the same for many others. 

‘Had she predicted him rotting away in a nursing home surrounded by strangers who had lost the use of their bodies or minds? Trapped in the same four walls with a window looking out at the same patch of grass forever? Had she seen that and kept it to herself? Or was she every bit as shocked as Jamie at the devastating turn his life had taken?’

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, September 21, 2019

Review: To the Land of Long Lost Friends

Title: To the Land of Long Lost Friends
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: 10th September 2019 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 227 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary fiction, Africa, mystery
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Mr J. L. B. Matekoni usually steers clear of Mma Ramotswe's cases, but on this occasion he is approached by a client of the garage who tells a tale of woe. This man has entrusted his brother to oversee the building of a house, yet the project is complete and now the brother won't leave. How is he to get him to move on? Surprisingly, Mr Polopetsi comes to the rescue. Elsewhere, a woman with a troublesome daughter comes to see Mma Ramotswe, and Mma Ramotswe finds herself trying to reconcile the two. Finally, Charlie is still enamoured of Queenie-Queenie. She, however, has developed a fancy for Fanwell. With the threat of an awkward love triangle looming, Mma Makutsi gets involved and so do her shoes . . .
My Thoughts

"Mma Ramotswe sighed. You had to sigh sometimes, because life was so complicated or impenetrable; or because people behaved in a messy way; or because there was simply no ready solution to a human mix-up ... you should not expect a resolution of everything because some details in any picture were simply not there, and never would be?" 

I cannot tell you the complete and utter joy I get in opening up a fresh new tale from the ‘No.1 Ladies Detective Agency’. It is hard to believe this is the 20th instalment! Yes! You read correctly, twenty .... and still going strong. Precious Ramotswe and her life in Botswana is a place I long to retreat to after a long, hard day. 

Followers of this series are in it for the long haul as it’s like catching up with old friends. More often than not, it’s not the slow, gentle story/investigation that unfurls that draws you in, but rather the tidbits that make you smile, or pearls of wisdom that cause you to pause and consider. These are tales that make you feel. 

Alexander McCall Smith has managed once again to write another wonderful tale where our leading lady, Precious, encourages us to slow down, ponder and express gratitude. To many it might at times appear trite, but such is the superb craftsmanship of Alexander that it provides us with a gentle reminder to be more open minded and extend warmth to those around us. 

"She rose from her desk. She had already had a cup of tea at home, before she left for the office, but that was no reason not to have one now. A cup of tea usually restored perspective on things,and that was what she needed now, rather than to sit and think about the ways in which the modern world was ordered. And she was right: a steaming cup of redbush tea was sufficient to banish thoughts of change and decay and to restore the spirits. This was going to be a good day - she was determined to make that so -  and she was going to work steadily and efficiently through the list of tasks she had written out for herself."

Thanks goes to Hachette Australia for a copy to read and review. 

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, September 9, 2019

Review: Heart of the Cross

Title: Heart of the Cross
Author: Emily Madden
Publisher: 19th August 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

From Ireland to Kings Cross, a legacy of loss and hope echoes across the generations ...
Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves.
Rose Bay, 1984 Haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But Maggie has plans of her own, and Rosie can only pray the grief that plagues the Hart name won't follow her.
Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie's past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy. Is the Hart family's legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?
My Thoughts

‘Feathers are brave—they go where the wind takes them. Feathers are patient—they arrive at their destination, fall to the ground and wait. And they’re strong—just like the Hart women.’

Heart of the Cross is wonderful historical fiction by Aussie author Emily Madden and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Once again, I found her writing to be rich and engaging with this novel firmly cementing her as a ‘go to’ or ‘must read’ author. On this occasion, we have three timelines, with three women - Rose, Maggie and Brie - all from the same family. The emotions that flow through all three stories demonstrate a real dignified strength and determination.

There is much to appreciate with plenty on offer given there is such an extended timeline. A rich and fulfilling family saga most certainly, that is filled with not only the expected sadness and heartaches, but also keeps you eagerly turning pages with an enticing mystery, slowly unfurled with puzzle pieces gradually placed together. Then there is also the setting, Kings Cross (Sydney, Australia) - almost a character within itself. It was fascinating to watch this iconic destination transform over the years and I especially enjoyed the 1950's-60's time period. At my age, I also could smirk over many of the 80s references such as Island Cooler’s that brought back some fond times. 

However, at its heart this is a story of great tragedy held together by the firm ties of family and friendship despite all of the many hardships. Each main character  held her own in their given time period (Rose has to be a firm favourite with all she endured and then achieved in her lifetime) and you easily transition from Rose in the 50s to Maggie her daughter, to then Brie in the present day. The voices of all three women were strong and relatable. All in all, this is a wonderful story, incredibly heartwarming amidst the heartache and one which I highly recommend.

‘You can travel to the ends of the earth, Brie, but one day you’ll realise that what you were looking for was right here all along. Only then it might be too late.’

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.