Friday, January 28, 2022

Review: Love on the Nile

Title: Love on the Nile

Author: Ellie Gray

Publisher: 19th January 2022 by The Wild Rose Press, Inc

Pages: 200 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: romance, women’s fiction, Egypt, Ellie Gray

My Rating: 4 cups


Natasha embarks upon the holiday of a lifetime with her brother, looking forward to exploring the ancient sites Egypt has to offer. What she hasn't bargained for is spending her holiday cruising along the Nile with Kyle Richardson, a handsome but moody archaeologist. Despite taking an instant dislike to Kyle, Natasha finds herself increasingly drawn to the man, particularly as his interactions with her brother reveal a gentler, more caring side to his character.

Having lost everyone he has ever loved, Kyle is a loner, believing himself to be cursed. He now spends his life moving around Egypt, ensuring he never lingers anywhere long enough to form meaningful attachments. Despite his better judgement, he finds himself drawn to this feisty young woman, but is afraid of the deeper feelings she stirs in him.

Can his feelings for Natasha convince him that it's worth taking a risk on love?

My Thoughts

Love on the Nile I knew would be the book for me - a little romance, cruising down the Nile - where do I sign up? Many years ago, I had such an adventure and was so pleased to revisit and relive both the locale and my great love of this idyllic place. It was the perfect combination of romance and realism with the places visited along the way. 

‘From an early age, she had developed a keen interest - some might say an obsession - with Ancient Egypt and, as a teenager, was hardly to be seen without a book on the subject.’

Egypt was always on my bucket list since I studied it in the first year of high school. All my dreams came true once I found myself staring up at the Sphinx. Ellie has done a superb job in recounting trips from Cairo to Luxor. It is as if you are there walking amongst the ruins or crawling into the tombs. 

Add to this once in a lifetime trip some well written romance and it is almost perfect. I really enjoyed all the characters in this story as they were likeable, particularly Natasha’s brother, Nicky. It is also great that Ellie writes from the perspective of both Natasha and Kyle thus enabling the reader to understand both points of view. 

This is a sweet romance along the majestic Nile River with day trips to exotic locations and likeable leads, what’s not to love? 

‘Natasha couldn’t help but smile with happiness. This was the Egypt she had dreamed about: camels, sand, dust, searing heat, and an ancient city … the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay

Title: The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay

Author: Julie Brooks

Publisher: 29th December 2021 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 387 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction

My Rating: 4.5 cups


This darkly gripping dual-time debut, will transport readers from World War One England to present day Australia, with a thrilling story of family secrets to be hidden at all costs...

Two women set sail for a new life in Australia, bound by a secret that will change everything. The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is a gripping dual-time novel, with a wealth of twists, turns and secrets, and an absolute book club treat, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Rhys and Hannah Richell

England, 1919: Rose and Ivy board a ship bound for Australia.

One is travelling there to marry a man she has never met.

One is destined never to arrive.

Australia, 2016: Amongst her late-grandmother's possessions, Molly uncovers a photograph of two girls dressed in First World War nurses' uniforms, labelled 'Rose and Ivy 1917', and a letter from her grandmother, asking her to find out what happened to her own mother, Rose, who disappeared in the 1960s.

Compelled to carry out her grandmother's last wish, Molly embarks on a journey to England to unravel the mystery of the two girls whose photograph promised they'd be 'together forever'

My Thoughts

The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is a well written generational family drama. A historical narrative from the early years of the 1900s to WWI and then to the present day with family members seeking answers to strange occurrences. Was everything as it appeared in that smiling photograph of Rose and Ivy from 1917?

‘We all have our ghosts, dear. Some take human form, while others are as ephemeral as regrets.’

The story alternates between the dual time narrative of past and present and I am happy to say, I enjoyed both storyline’s. With the historical narrative an assured winner, I was excited to be so invested in the contemporary tale with Molly's (great granddaughter) efforts to unravel past mysteries whilst undergoing her own personal challenges.

‘She didn’t have to live the life that was expected of her. She could live an unexpected life. If she chose to. If she dared to reach out and make it so.’

In the past, the tale of Rose and Ivy - friends from a young age yet grow apart as a consequence of their different social standings - is one fraught with conflict and turmoil. Julie does a great job of leaving clues along the way as you seek to find out which of the girls will arrive on Australian shores. As stated, I enjoyed the current narrative just as much with Molly who is fighting her own demons as she seeks to find peace from her past. Despite readers possibly piecing together the mystery before its conclusion, I still feel that Julie included some unexpected twists that kept me fully engaged until the final chapter. 

‘History is the reason we are what we are. We can’t simply bury it and forget it.’

Julie Brooks first novel with this new publisher is a sure winner. It's a solid dual time narrative in inviting locations with strong characters and a worthy mystery. I was invested from start to finish and would recommend this to lovers of this genre. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: Must Love Books

Title: Must Love Books

Author: Shauna Robinson

Publisher: 18th January 2022 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Pages: 336 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, mental health

My Rating: 4 cups


Meet Nora Hughes―the overworked, underpaid, last bookish assistant standing. At least for now. When Nora landed an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, it was her first step towards The Dream Job. Because, honestly, is there anything dreamier than making books for a living? But after five years of lunch orders, finicky authors, and per my last emails, Nora has come to one grand conclusion: Dream Jobs do not exist.

With her life spiraling and the Parsons staff sinking, Nora gets hit with even worse news. Parsons is cutting her already unlivable salary. Unable to afford her rent and without even the novels she once loved as a comfort, Nora decides to moonlight for a rival publisher to make ends meet...and maybe poach some Parsons authors along the way.

But when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author no one can afford to lose is thrown into the mix, Nora has to decide where her loyalties lie. Her new Dream Job, ever-optimistic Andrew, or...herself and her future.

My Thoughts

‘And the final line under the desired skills and qualifications section sealed her fate, three little words that curled around Nora’s heart and told her she belonged in publishing: Must love books.’

This was not the book I was expecting but proved to be a really interesting read. It most definitely is not a romcom - yes there is romance, however, it is very much a side plot and thankfully, sensitive to the overall direction of the book. The couple have laughs, however, I far more appreciated their discussions surrounding happiness and mental health - this being the surprise package of this read. 

‘… the only person left standing was Nora, alone. Working on books she didn’t understand or give a damn about, with authors who rearranged the same words on different pages year after year to make another royalty check.’

This book is very much about the lead character, Nora and her quest for a meaningful life with happiness. After several years in the same job, she is finding herself lost and literally staring at the ceiling fan. It’s not just about the meaningless job but also the issue of making ends meet on a poor wage especially given the extra tasks assigned to her. The author herself states that, ‘By unpacking the myth of the “dream job,” this story explores happiness as a fluid, ever-changing thing.’

‘Whenever Nora mentioned anything to do with publishing - manuscripts, books, working with authors - there was a faraway look in Kelly’s eyes, like she was on the verge of swooning.’

One of the reasons I selected to read this book was a chance insight into the life of a publishing company - and it provided this in bucketloads! It gave a detailed (and rather depressing) look at a career in publishing (a bibliophile’s purported dream job) and that it may not be a path for many. The surprises in this book were the themes surrounding mental health: (trigger warning) self harm and suicide thoughts. This was really quite powerful and overall well handled I felt. It also touches on racial issues (Nora mentions her ethnicity on occasions) and this, whilst minor, is still worth mentioning. 

‘She could be the person she’d always imagined being, working on books - novels - that could actually help someone. Not help them leverage synergy to maximize productivity, but help them the way books had helped Nora. Help someone feel connected to something. Help someone feel less alone.’

Given the clear focus on one person’s journey to find meaning and purpose in life, I was both relieved and grateful for the ending which remained true to what I felt to be the author’s goal. My only issues are that, firstly, it was a trifle repetitive and slow on occasions. Secondly, Nora’s resolve to call a meeting to discuss her possible futures appeared somewhat out of character given her personal struggles throughout the book. 

‘Nora ducked into a bookstore across the street to be among books and forget, for a minute, how they were made.’

So if an insight into life in a publishing house as a ‘dream job’ appeals to you, look no further. There are excellent Discussion questions at the conclusion along with an Author interview. Not the book I had thought to be reading, I did however, walk away much richer for my understanding of publishing career paths and, more importantly, when your dream job turns out not to be your dream job - what do you do? Nora’s journey of reevaluating and making tough decisions to alter her life path was something I very much appreciated. 

‘learn(ed) how to find a new dream. And another, and another, until he found something that worked out for him.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Review: Since We Last Met

Title: Since We Last Met
Author: Bronwyn Sell

Publisher: 5th January 2022 by HQ Fiction

Pages: 400 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary

My Rating: 4 cups


Five years ago, Carmen and Bruno spent the night together. Their daughter, Mika, was born nine months later ... but Bruno doesn't know she exists. Can the couple find each other, and the truth, in a tropical island paradise? A sparkling romance for readers of Alissa Callen and Penelope Janu.

Single mum Carmen Lowery's life might be annoyingly imperfect, but at least it's orderly and predictable. Until a tall, dark, handsome stranger mysteriously arrives at her family's Whitsundays resort island - and turns out to be not quite a stranger after all.

American special ops pilot Bruno Michel fell off Carmen's radar five years ago after they shared the wildest night of her otherwise straitlaced life. The self-confessed fly-by-nighter when it comes to love is delighted to be temporarily reunited with his uninhibited dream woman, but there's something he doesn't know. Their liaison came with a consequence - a little girl who has his eyes.

Carmen and Bruno pick up where they left off, but the legacy of their liaison runs deep - and Bruno is hiding his own not-so-white lie about that night.

Before he ships out and Carmen's happy-family fantasy drifts away on the trade winds, they must decide whether their unexpected bond can survive life-changing secrets, meddlesome relatives, and a heartbreaking vow made decades before.

My Thoughts

Since We Last Met is a sequel/spinoff of Lovestruck by Aussie author Bronwyn Sell. Not familiar with the latter, I still found it was easy enough to read this new offering as a standalone. It is a perfect romcom summery read, set in the lush Whitsunday islands off Australia - a perfect paradise for all the romance and drama that unfolds.

‘I don’t want my life to be messy and random. I want it to be like the home and garden magazines, where there’s never any dishes on the bench or weeds in the garden or finger marks on the walls.’ ‘Then you’re setting yourself up for misery.’

There is quite the lineup of characters to get your head around, however, Carmen and Bruno are the stars and they make a great duo. I loved how relatable they were to the reader - Bruno being decent and genuine, Carmen the frazzled, hardworking single Mum - as they navigate arising challenges. I appreciated that despite the obvious humour (and there are many funny/awkward moments) Bronwyn does not shy away from the more serious underlying issues and themes. It was this that brought a real sense of reality and relatability for the reader. 

‘This whole human life thing is just one big doomed experiment. None of us knows what we're doing... No one ever learns from anyone else’s mistakes; every generation fucks it up all over again, with ever-worse consequences ... It’s like we’re stuck in a revolving door … we spin around for a bit, all dizzy and going around in circles and finding and losing people and crashing into each other, until suddenly we get spat out, and then a new human gets thrown into the same revolving door to make the same mistakes all over again. We suck. We’re an evolutionary disaster.’

Bronwyn provides some great armchair travel to a beautiful part of Australia - just what I needed - a tropical time out with loads of love and laughter. As with all romcoms, you know exactly where this tale is heading, but gosh the journey getting there is fun and highly enjoyable. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Review: The Girl from Paris

Title: The Girl from Paris

Author: Ella Carey

Publisher: 4th January 2022 by Bookouture

Pages: 388 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


Vianne rushes through the crowded streets of Paris as the German bombs begin to fall. As she rounds the corner she sees the familiar spires of the old church burst into flames. Too late, she realizes that her mother and sister are trapped inside…

Paris, 1918. The end of war is in sight, and young seamstress Vianne Mercier is longing for the day when she can stop sewing military uniforms and start creating the beautiful dresses that she has been dreaming up in her head.

But just when it seems like peace is within reach, Vianne’s mother and sister are killed in a terrible air raid. To make matters worse, Vianne’s brother has returned home a changed man. Controlling and cruel, he presents Vianne with an ultimatum; give up her dreams of becoming a designer, or be forced onto the streets, penniless and alone.

With nothing left for her in Paris but sad memories, she decides to sail for New York. Determined not to look back, she throws herself into her new life—spending her days sewing dresses for wealthy Upper East Side women, and her evenings dancing the Charleston to Duke Ellington in the new downtown clubs. When Vianne meets handsome Italian Giorgio Conti, he encourages her career, and she feels safe for the first time since she lost her family.

Then news of a terrible accident compels Vianne to suddenly return to France, where she discovers proof of a wartime secret that changes everything she thought she knew about her family. Facing the threat of sickness and ruin, the people who forced Vianne out of her home now suddenly need her help.

Will Vianne find the courage to follow her heart, return to New York and her life with Giorgio? Or will duty bind her to the family she had left behind and force her to remain in France?

From Amazon Charts bestseller Ella Carey comes an utterly gripping and emotional historical wartime novel about the terrible choices people made during humanity’s darkest days.

My Thoughts

I love Ella Carey books. She is one of those authors who you don’t even have to read details about the book because you know you will read anything of hers whatever the topic. The Girl From Paris is another sensational historical fiction read - third book of the Daughters of New York series but all can certainly be read as standalone.

“I want a feature on the girl from Paris so that all of New York know who you are.”

Things I loved about this particular book is that it takes place in post-war Paris and New York and it’s just fascinating to note the contrasts between these two great cities. At this critical phase after the end of WWII, the differences in socio-economic cultures, lifestyle and attitudes is immense. Ella has certainly done her research into this time period and I just loved the inclusion of real life people from the era. If you follow my reviews, you know I love searching up Google about the facts behind a fictionalised account of real people and here you will be introduced to the likes of Edith Cavell, Emilie Grigsby and Josephine Baker! So very fascinating. 

‘Vianne fixed her gaze on the river. The Seine had always been her compass. She’d come here whenever she was at a turning point, no matter how small. The river had flown through and around her life in Paris, and here she was, back again, come full circle, unable to see anything but shadows in its depths.’

Another thing I loved was seeing New York in the 1920s! Ella writes so well that you just feel so immersed in what is happening, where people are going and what they are wearing. I loved reading about the fashions and work in the atelier. I wanted to eat at Giorgio’s Italian restaurant or dance the night away at one of the jazz clubs they frequented. 

“Welcome to New York. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Then there are the themes of the book: the era of women wanting to have both marriage and a career, or, the fallout for families after the war and the impact on their mental states and wellbeing. Ella weaves and structures an amazingly captivating tale that will take you from the war in Belgium, the triumphant liberation of Paris, starting afresh in New York or hiding in the Scottish Highlands. I didn’t think so many threads and locations could all be written together so smoothly but in the hands of Ella Carey, it’s a walk in the park!

“Because of that loss, I want to make the most of my life, be someone, not just exist, you see. I want to be my own person, in my own right, not someone’s adjunct.”

With strong and inspiring characters and a plot that is so engaging, Ella has completed another stunning addition to the Daughter of New York series. I could have kept reading about Vianne for much longer as I did not want her story to end. I simply can’t wait to see what Ella will offer her readers next. 

“You believe in yourself, and you make whatever you want of your life. Don’t follow trends, just follow your inner voice.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review: Beautiful Words

Title: Beautiful Words

Author: Vanessa McCausland

Publisher: 1st December 2021 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 368 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, mystery

My Rating: 5 cups


Two best friends, one summer night, and twenty years of silence ... what happened at the lighthouse?

The stunning, haunting new novel from the author of The Lost Summers of Driftwood.

Sylvie is a lover of words and a collector of stories, only she has lost her own. She has no words for that night at the lighthouse when their lives changed forever. What happened to cleave her apart from her best friend and soulmate, Kase?

Sylvie yearns to rekindle their deep connection, so when Kase invites her to the wild Tasmanian coast to celebrate her 40th birthday, she accepts - despite the ghosts she must face.

As Sylvie struggles to find her feet among old friends, she bonds with local taxi boat driver Holden. But he is hiding from the world, too.

Through an inscription in an old book, Sylvie and Kase discover their mothers have a history, hidden from their daughters. As they unpick what took place before they were born, they're forced to face the cracks in their own friendship, and the question of whether it's ever okay to keep a secret to protect the person you love.

Vanessa McCausland's enthralling new novel is about betrayal and forgiveness, the stories we tell, and the healing power of words.

My Thoughts

‘… the heaving bookshelves … which told her whole story, in the way that books map one’s internal journey through the world. She had tried to part with some of them, but it felt like giving away pieces of her soul.’

I loved this book. I feel more in tune with who I am having read this book. The ‘beautiful’ words from this book will stay with me forever.I started reading Beautiful Words on my Kindle but such is the nature of this tale - how it speaks to the heart of every book lover - I quickly had to buy a paperback (in actual fact, my daughter got it for me as she realised the connection I was forming with this book) so that I could fully immerse myself in the experience though highlighting and creating tabs of the wondrous experience that Vanessa provides her readers with in this unforgettable tale.

Vanessa wrote an article on the HarperCollins website (HERE) that shines a light on her own motivation and other similar books she has read that were based around a love of words. She was thrilled to finally gift us her book about books. With a main character who is a logophile (a lover of words) it's ironic and sad how she has lost her own story. ‘It’s a story about the stories we tell ourselves, the fallible nature of memory, and the power of words to heal.’ (Vaness McCausland)

‘She slipped a few books out, smoothing their worn covers, their browning pages, wondering about the others who had read them, the tea that might have been drunk over them. How their stories may have shaped their readers’ lives.’

I have read and loved all Vanessa’s previous books but her latest offering demonstrates how her writing has gone to the next level. In the lead character, Sylvie, you will find a friend. Vanessa’s ‘beautiful’ words exemplify such exquisite use of language that it is intoxicating (thus the necessary tabbing for future reference).  Yes, there is a wonderful tale full of mystery, there is romance and there are locales so vividly described as to lose yourself in. Overarching are themes ranging from fate and fortune, to abuse and heartbreak. The nod to literary classics from Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye) and Plath (The Bell Jar) will have you making your own investigations to cement links made. 

Reading this novel is to partake in a love story … a love story in celebration of words. The title could not be more apt. Vanessa has penned the ultimate indelible tale, equally compelling and tragic. You may wish to savour the words but these words will carry you along with a force of their own.  Thank you Vanessa for writing a book that I felt such a connection to - there are not enough ‘beautiful’ words to convey just how much I loved this book. 

‘I want to believe that there are more lives for us. But maybe that’s why we have books. Don’t you ever find it sad that you’re confined to your own story? That your life is bounded by your mind inside your own head?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.