Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review: So You Think You Know What’s Good For You

Title: So You Think You Know What’s Good For You
Author: Dr Norman Swan

Publisher: 29th June 2021 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 335 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: Health, Mind & Body | Nonfiction (Adult)

My Rating: 4.5 cups


We all want to be healthier, but do you know what's good for you? 


For over thirty years, Dr Norman Swan has been delivering straight, honest, common-sense health information to ordinary Australians as both a physician and much-loved broadcaster. And when Australia needed clear, scientifically backed COVID-19 facts and advice, it was Norman Swan who stepped up every day to provide the answers we required. 


After many years of listening, Norman Swan knows what medical issues people are curious and concerned about. Drawing on the questions he hears time and again, from millennials to baby boomers and all the generations between, So You Think You Know What's Good For You? is a one-stop handbook that will settle fruitless anxieties and allow people to focus on what matters to them. Replace medical myths, half-truths and misconceptions with the information you need to make better decisions about how to eat and how to live to put your mind at ease and ensure your and your family's health is the best it can be. 


So You Think You Know What's Good For You? is the new authoritative must-have for every health-conscious Aussie household.

My Thoughts

When COVID-19 hit our shores, we tuned in to listen to Dr Norman Swan - a familiar and trusted voice for many. In fact, for decades he has provided honest and upfront facts to Australians. He has become the trusted voice. 

‘It's all about what I spoke of at the beginning of the book:  our goals and the insight into how these change. The ‘life’ bit is, of course, about the four ‘F’s - fun, family, friends and freedom.’

Drawing on his wealth of knowledge and experience, we yet again turn to this trusted physician for answers regarding all things supposedly ‘good’ for us. And does he provide them! Jam packed into this book, the reader will find an astounding range of questions and answers about all things good for you - or so you thought!

‘This control thing isn’t some namby-pamby, squishy, lefty idea. There’s hard science behind it.’

Myths and misconceptions are all put under the spotlight in this far reaching reference book that covers so much on health and wellbeing for the everyday person.  You cannot help but embrace his no-nonsense approach and find the facts and advice both readily accessible and sensible. His natural, easygoing manner is evident through each page and topic covered. He is honest and that cannot help but ‘speak’ to people at their own level about how we can make our lives and those of the ones we love better. 

‘So if you look at it this way, it’s not a crisis at all.  The thing is that the women in these popular culture accounts aren’t necessarily broken. But many women in this group feel lost and stretched to a point that they feel they’re likely to snap.’

This does not have to be a cover to cover read and will serve as a handy ongoing reference for many people. His wit and dry humour will make the steps towards a healthier living doable as he breaks down and puts in plain words many misconceptions and misleading falsehoods that are ever present in our society today. Thank you Dr Swan for both your honest and frank assessment of the perplexing world of wellbeing we find ourselves inundated with. 

‘This book is about knowledge - that’s information plus analysis. It allows you choice and gives strength to some of the key decisions you have to make about how to feel good; sometimes feeling okay about feeling bad; what you put into your body; what you take out of it; what you can add to it; how to ignore ageing as a concept; as well as stuff about sex, drugs, kids and recognising bullshit.’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Review: The Bookshop of Forgotten Dreams

Author: Emily Blaine

Publisher: 18th June 2021 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 352 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance, chick lit

My Rating: 3.5 cups


Sarah and Max should never have met. She’s a shy bookworm who’s barely ever left her little village; he’s a bad boy actor with the world at his feet. But when Max crosses one line too many, he’s faced with community service in Sarah’s bookshop. With an unruly theatre group to run and a gorgeous, tattooed stranger under her roof, Sarah’s about to discover that real life is more complicated than anything she’s ever read in her beloved books.

My Thoughts

‘I’d been afraid, afraid to throw myself into real life, without the possibility of closing the pages of my book if a scene frightened me.’

One picks this style of book up knowing how things will play out. It’s the ‘quick fix’, the light and fluffy between the heavier reads. So imagine my surprise to discover that this book delved a little deeper than others of its genre. I liked the two lead characters and their journey of redemption. Of course, throw in homage to all things bookish and it’s a great little read. 

“Why do you want to save this awful dude so much?” He took my cup of coffee out of my hands and finally answered: “He’s not awful, just lost.”

The Bookshop of Forgotten Dreams is the classic stereotypical bad boy meets good girl, yet … I found there to be this little added dimension that, for me, made all the difference. On this occasion it was the fact that both leads were on a journey of self discovery and I just loved learning about them and their backstory. Then, more importantly, how they sought to move towards their goals together. It was the realisation that they both needed to change in order to grow and with the positive influence on each other, they were able to achieve their individual evolution. Nice. 

‘Sarah had succeeded where most people had failed … or given up. She’d taken the time, talked to me, given me time. She’d hung on, despite my warnings, and that was what attracted me to her: her selflessness.’

Now let's just talk about this massive focus on all things bookish - a delightful escapade for any bibliophile. Sarah’s passion for books is music to our literary souls and her bookshop somewhere I would love to visit and spend time. Being an introvert, Sarah’s life revolves around books and her bookstore as they provide her safe place and an escape. The way she speaks of books is sweet and intoxicating:

‘I thought about books every minute of the day … and I talked about them just as much … books had always been my passion. I read ardently, almost in a sort of uncontrollable binge. I would have done anything to escape my life, and books had quickly allowed me to do it.’

So if you are looking for that in between read then reach for this classic retelling of opposites attract for some light escapism. 

‘… my passion for books had saved me from a reality that was too hard to take. I’d fallen in love with fictional men, dreamed of an ideal family, led investigations with great detectives.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Review: The Librarian of Saint-Malo

Author: Mario Escobar

Publisher: 1st June 2021 by Thomas Nelson

Pages: 384  pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, world war II

My Rating: 3.5 crowns


Libraries are being ransacked. France is torn apart by war. A French librarian is determined to resist. Told through smuggled letters to an author, an ordinary librarian describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village and the extraordinary measures she takes to fight back.

Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is drafted to fight against Germany. As World War II rages, Jocelyn uses her position as a librarian in her town of Saint-Malo to comfort and encourage her community with books. Jocelyn begins to write secret letters smuggled to a famous Parisian author, telling her story in the hope that it will someday reach the outside world.

France falls and the Nazis occupy Jocelyn's town, turning it into a fortress. The townspeople try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly begins to destroy part of the city's libraries. Books deemed unsuitable by the Nazis are burnt or stolen, and priceless knowledge is lost.

Risking arrest and even her life, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while desperately waiting to receive news from her husband Antoine, now a prisoner in a German camp.

Jocelyn's mission unfolds in her letters: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city in sweeping and romantic prose, re-creating the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.

My Thoughts

‘Books don’t have owners; they’re free agents we just happen to hold for a brief moment’.

Overall this is an interesting addition to the range of WWII stories available at the moment. To learn more about one particular place during the war, namely the City of Saint-Malo in France (fascinating to Google and learn more about this locale) and told through the eyes of the city librarian, makes for worthwhile reading. 

‘They look just like plain yellowed paper with fading ink and printed letters of little import, but they are much more than that. Herein lies the soul of those who wrote them and the heart of everyone who has poured over their pages. Look at this card: almost two hundred people have read this book in roughly one hundred years. Most of those people are dead now, but last week a twelve-year-old-girl read the book. It keeps living and fulfilling its mission’

If you are a bibliophile then reading this will resonate on many levels. Jocelyn’s dedication to preserve the books and their history/stories is admirable. Once again, you will find yourself running to learn more factual detail of the fate of the library and that, to me, is a sign of a great historical novel.

“We were a small handful of intellectuals armed only with books, which did little against bullets.’

The library and its preservation is what drives Jocelyn. It is her life. With the German occupation, Jocelyn will find every facet of her life impacted. The format is through letters, which whilst I appreciate the intention, made it a little difficult to follow at times. The author has an important story to tell but it gets a little lost in the range of plots as if unsure which path to follow - historical fiction, romance, action, drama.

‘Teachers, writers, booksellers, and librarians - we’re in their way. Deep down they’re afraid of us. They know we can dismantle their lies in the blink of an eye.’

As to the personal story - the romance aspect - neither of them really rang true for me. From her husband in the early pages, to the liaison with the Nazi solider, it lacked a certain believability and therefore I was not invested in that aspect of the book. All up this is a good story for history lovers, WWII buffs or bibliophiles who wish to learn more in a fictional way of past events. Any story that entertains and educates is worth your time. 

‘We’ll all disappear one day … but this’ - I took in the whole library with a gesture - ‘must go on. Books are our legacy … if the Nazis destroy our books, they really have won the war. We won’t know who we are or what we’re doing here.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Review: Fully Human

Title: Fully Human
Author: Steve Biddulph & Shaaron Biddulph

Publisher: 25th May 2021 by Pan Macmillan Australia

Pages: 288 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: Health, Mind & Body | Nonfiction (Adult)

My Rating: 5 cups


What if there were parts of our minds that we never use, but if awakened, could make us so much happier, connected and alive? What if awakening those parts could bring peace to the conflicts and struggles we all go through?


From the cutting edge, where therapy meets neuroscience, Steve Biddulph explores the new concept of 'supersense' - the feelings beneath our feelings - which can guide us to a more awake and free way of living every minute of our lives. And the Four Storey Mansion, a way of using your mind that can be taught to a five-year-old, but can also help the most damaged adult.


In Fully Human, Steve Biddulph draws on deeply personal stories from his own life, as well as those of his clients, and from the frontiers of thinking about how the brain works with the body and the wisdom of the 'wild creature' inside all of us.


At the peak of a lifetime's work, one of the world's best-known psychotherapists and educators shows how you can be more alive, more connected. More Fully Human.

My Thoughts

‘... if you are struggling in any area of your life, that is something that can change. You can reawaken your supersense and begin to know who you are and what matters to you, and bring wholeness back into your life again. Your life can be so much more.’

I was aware of Steve Biddulph’s writing from his books on ‘Raising Boys’. So I was keen to read about his more encompassing, ‘Fully Human’. I was not disappointed - what a fabulous read. 

‘Because one day it stops, and then it’s too late. And the realization of that is the saddest thing in the whole of life. We chased the wrong things, and while we did, the ordinary but wonderful joys of our life - sunshine, flowers, animals, loving partners, children, friends, beaches - were all ignored or relegated to the gaps and small glimpses, to one day, when there’s time. And we wasted our lives.’

This book is all about tuning into your intuition or ‘supersense’ as Steve likes to call it. He also breaks down and adopts a Maslow style hierarchy of needs model in what he calls our mansion - wonderful tips about how to really tune into self and all in an effort to create our best self. The mansion has four floors - the first floor represents the body, the second our emotions, the third our thoughts and the fourth a roof terrace open to the stars and our incredible spirituality and wisdom. 

‘... this is your natural state, this is you with the stress taken away. It’s simply that, in modern life, we are over-revved nearly all the time, and have come to think that’s how it must be. Meditation is getting back to how our bodies and brains are supposed to work.’

I went crazy with my highlighter in this book - so many gems and key concepts to really remind and assist us on this journey of life. It truly is packed with so many words of wisdom, a wonderful book to have and hold, especially when you need some gentle reminders. 

‘A part of you is needing attention, it’s been neglected, and might even be dying. But its perfume is suddenly there, and you must follow it down.’

Something I learnt (obvious when you come to think of it) is how much of an impact the events of the 20th century have had on our emotional evolution. Why do we struggle so much today? Well maybe it is because of the huge trauma our great grandparents, grandparents, parents endured - world wars, depressions, refugee crisis - and that is just the tip of the iceberg. How could they cope with all that? Shut down emotionally. 

‘You can arrive at a life full of meaning by consciously deciding to care. Thinking at its best can ease your suffering, give you a perspective and instil meaning in the tough corners of life.’

Fully Human is somewhat like a roadmap and Steve your guide on how to navigate the ups and downs of life.  He wants this book to teach us how to engage with the natural guidance system that is within each of us. It is such an excellent resource perfect for those of us already on this journey of discovery to make the most of this gift of life and would be a wonderful treasure for anyone wondering where to begin. 

‘The skill that will grow in you from reading this book is that, little by little, you’ll find yourself being a calm observer, someone who moves easily through the rooms of your mansion, never getting stuck in any of them ..... Perhaps we can become, at last, fully human.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Review: The Last Night In London

Title: The Last Night In London
Author: Karen White

Publisher: 5th May 2021 by Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 480 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, world war II, women’s fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her. Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew. As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

My Thoughts

I’m not frightened.” Mr. Danek’s eyes darkened. “You should be. Being brave isn’t the same as not being frightened. Being brave is feeling frightened and still doing what needs to be done.”

I have to state it from the outset, this book was amazing! From the gripping prologue I simply could not put it down and lost myself in a complete other world. If historical fiction is your thing - particularly WWII - then stop right now and go get yourself a copy. Two equally compelling storylines, two friends in war-torn London whose secrets will impact upon those in years to come - this is a story that had it all!

‘She looked past me, and in her eyes, I imagined I saw the reflection of airplanes in a night sky, of flames bursting through windows.’

This would be one of the best dual time narratives I have read - whether I was dressing for a night out in London with bombs reigning down, or sifting through old photos in search for a clue - I was there breathing in the smoky room or smelling the nostalgia literally leaping off the old black and white photos.  The delicate and clever links from one timeline to the next were subtle and intuitive. The mystery - whether it be in 1940 or 1919 was there and little ‘crumbs’ dropped along the way only encouraged you to not put the book down as the drama played out and I audibly would gasp as I felt my heart constrict knowing this was how things would possibly play out. 

“That’s the point of photographs, isn’t it, Maddie? To choose which parts of our lives we want to remember?”

The characters (....pause....sigh....) well, I just felt so much for so many of them. Karen’s writing is so rich that I found myself either tearing up as tragedies unfolded or alternatively, smiling at the romantic banter and consequent tension between would-be lovers. There will be secrets, there will be betrayals, there will be love and there will be absolute heartache. The stories from either life in the South (Georgia USA) or during the blitz in London were informative and engaging - particularly the latter. The old fashion house of London and those that worked there were iconic on so many levels. 

‘A life without rain is like the sun without shade.’

I consider myself a connoisseur of this time period having read so many books and this one is up there with the best of them. Karen brings to life so many places, people and problems that I was running to air raid shelters or sipping whiskey late at night in quiet contemplation. I simply could not get enough of these people and their story. You will have all the feels and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

“In case I forgot what?” He glanced down ... “Reinvention.” He lifted his head, met my gaze. “How life is all about reinvention. If you don’t like how your story’s being written, rewrite the ending.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Review: The Thief

Title: The Thief (Borderland Brides #2)
Author: Allison Butler

Publisher: 2nd June 2021 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 326  pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical romance, fiction, cultural Scotland

My Rating: 3.5 cups


She needs a home, he needs a bride ... neither wants to fall in love.

1402, the Anglo-Scottish border.

To fulfil his father's dying wish, border laird Lachlan Elliot must marry and sire a legitimate heir, cementing his family's name in the tumultuous borderlands. But he is determined his marriage will be one of convenience only - he has no time for the pain and betrayal of love.

So even when Lachlan catches a spirited thief stealing his horse, and she turns out to be the breathtaking daughter of a neighbouring laird, he vows to marry her, bed her, but never love her.

Kenzie never wanted an arranged marriage, but to be forced to wed the domineering laird who catches her thieving from his lands is even worse. Feisty, strong-willed and determined to make her own way, she may have no choice but to agree to the marriage, but she will never give up her independence. Lachlan may own her body, but he will never own her heart ...

My Thoughts

Well it’s getting cold Downunder and we are in lockdown yet again, so what better way to pass the time than romancing it in the Scottish Highlands. For that quick, simple, smiley read, look no further than Allison’s latest book to pass away a chilly weekend. 

You know the drill - an accidental yet fortuitous meeting, an arranged marriage but luckily (how lucky can you be!) they are both good looking, kind and falling for each other because of above said qualities.  Keeping their distance and secrets, they dance around each other (literally and figuratively) until we get our prerequisite happy ending after jumping through the necessary hurdles (including a rather awful and manipulative sister).

No brooding laird here, no damsel in distress either. It was great that we had two rather sound and sensible leads who gently let their defences down to be honest with each other. Both lust and love are now on the horizon for this couple. 

If you too are staying indoors don’t be shy about venturing out to secure a copy of the latest Borderland Bride to while away a few hours around the hearth. If Scottish flings are your thing, you won’t be disappointed. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.