Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: The Italian Job

Title: The Italian Job
Author: Kathryn Freeman

Publisher: 6th May 2022 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 369 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

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

My Rating:  4 cups


Dream job. Dream house. Fake fiancé.

A year in a gorgeous Italian castle…

When Anna Roberts’ life implodes, an online search leads her to an ad for the ultimate dream job – management of a gorgeous castle on the shores of Lake Como, accommodation included. The only catch? Anna can’t do it alone…

…With the last man on earth she’d choose!

The castle owners will only accept a couple as caretakers, which means Anna needs a man on her arm at the interview. Enter her neighbour, Jake Tucker. Though Anna and Jake have never seen eye-to-eye, Jake’s had a rough few years and an escape to Italy sounds ideal. Yet, when they get the job and jet off, Anna and Jake face an unexpected challenge. Pretending to be a couple is difficult … but pretending the tension simmering between them doesn’t exist is quickly proving impossible!

My Thoughts

Having read and loved Kathryn’s, The Beach Reads Book Club, I was eager to try some more of her writing. On this occasion she gives her readers a story of enemies-to-lovers, a couple who are fake dating in order to run a castle in stunning Lake Como, Italy. That in itself is reason enough to pick this one up.  

‘Hope is what drives us forwards, what keeps us going through the tough stuff.’

The setting for the book is gorgeous, I just wish there had been more written about it. We had visits to the local village, Italian dialogue with the locals and swimming in the lake, however, I would have loved more armchair travel to this stunning destination. The relationships between Jake and Anna with the supporting characters felt very genuine and heartwarming. The two main leads were most definitely opposites but the background stories for them are solid and it added depth to their character arc as individuals. It is the perfect slow-burn romance with loads of chemistry. I loved and related to Anna’s organisation and list making with the banter between the two being top notch. 

‘You’re the organised to my chaotic, the sensible to my crazy.’ He kissed her softly on the end of her nose. ‘The calm to my impetuous. You’re strong when I’m weak, smart when I’m stupid. Brave when I’m a coward. And I bloody love every part of you.’

The only drawback was the amount of misunderstanding through miscommunication. The repetitiveness of their insecurities was overplayed somewhat in my opinion with the continual assumptions drawn proved rather exhausting at times. I really liked both main characters with a classic supporting cast but just wish there had been more descriptions of the locale and not so much stomping off!

The Italian Job by Kathryn Freeman is the perfect inbetween read. It is fun, charming with great chemistry and vibes between the two romantic leads. Readers of this genre are sure to fall in love with this book. 

‘The job was never the dream. The dream has always been finding someone I love that I want to spend the rest of my life with. You’re my dream.’

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, May 23, 2022

Review: The German Wife

Title: The German Wife

Author: Kelly Rimmer

Publisher: 27th April 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 441 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


Inspired by real events, the bestselling author of The Things We Cannot Say and The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel about two women from opposite sides of WWII, whose enmity culminates in a shocking event as anti-German sentiment sweeps America. An unputdownable novel of a community torn apart when a former Nazi family moves into town to work on NASA’s space program.

Berlin, 1934—Ilse Meyer is the aristocratic wife of a scientist whose post-WWI fortunes change for the better when Ilse’s husband, Jurgen, is recruited for Hitler's new rocket program. Although Ilse and Jurgen do not share the popular political views rising in Germany, Jurgen’s new job forces them to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their financial security. But too late they realize the Nazi’s plans to weaponize Jurgen’s technology as they begin to wage war against the rest of Europe.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1949—Jurgen is one of hundreds of Nazi scientists offered pardons and taken to the US to work for the CIA’s fledgling space program. Ilse, now the mother of four, misses Germany terribly and struggles to fit in among the other NASA wives, who look upon her with suspicion. In a moment of loneliness, she confesses to a neighbor, Rachel Carlson, about Jurgen’s membership in the SS and her resentment for being forced to live in a country that will always see her as the enemy. What she doesn’t know is that she has trusted the wrong neighbor.

When the scandalous news about the Meyer family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart a community and a family before the truth is finally revealed—but is it murder, revenge or justice?

My Thoughts

‘What kind of a person should try to undermine a family’s new life without even trying to understand their old one?’

Kelly has outdone herself with her latest, The German Wife, producing a powerfully written story that will grab you from page one and linger long after the cover is finally closed. I was just floored not only by this complex and well researched tale but Kelly’s delivery being so breathtaking and confronting.

The German Wife has timelines from Nazi Germany, the debilitating drought and Dust Bowl of Texas in the 1930s and life in post war Alabama.Whether it be the living the terror in the rise of Nazism, the literal and figurative suffocating Depression in Texas of the 1930s or the segregation of Southern life in 1950s USA, Kelly takes you there. What comes out clearly in each locale is that no journey is easy. When freedoms and choices are stripped away, sacrifices will have to be made … but at what cost?

‘This is how polite society gives way to chaos. The collapse that comes at the end of the process is a consequence of the slow erosion over time.’

I was totally enthralled by how cleverly Kelly presented both points of view from the lead characters and how the women carefully considered and played the cards life had dealt them. Whether it be the ensuing terror of living in Nazi Germany or dealing with life on the land during a drought, it provided the necessary backstory of how these experiences helped shape and impact the characters lives at the time and, consequently, for the future. 

“And tell me, madam, what do you do when you go to a restaurant and there is a sign in the window that says Whites Only?” the woman demanded, jabbing her finger toward me aggressively. “Do you ‘do something’? Perhaps you should look into your own backyard before you make sweeping judgments about things you do not understand.”

The story set in Alabama in the 1950s was such an eye opener. I had never heard of the rocket program either in Nazi Germany as a form of weaponisation or post war where the USA brought these same German rocket scientists over to the States to work on the space program. What kind of can of worms was that sure to open! The research Kelly has undertaken was obvious but to weave a story around it so convincingly without information dumps was impressive. Not only did I learn so much (with is always an added bonus) but I found on this occasion Kelly has gone to the next level with not only delivering her usual high standard exceptional storytelling, but added into the mix, controversy. Her final comments in her Author Notes provide testimony to both the fascination and frustration regarding the whole situation. Politics and ethics collide with a fallout demanding either accountability or absolution. Kelly lets you be the judge. 

This is historical fiction at its finest. I found The German Wife to be absolutely phenomenal and cementing Kelly as one of Australia’s finest authors. When a book allows the reader to not assume but assess, to consider then conclude which side you would uphold and support, that is mastery. This is a book that all historical fiction lovers must definitely read.

‘When the story of the war is written, the pages will be full of men saying I was only following orders and the world will know that is fiction. Every single time I opted not to take a stand, I was taking a stand - for the wrong side.’

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.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review: Book Lovers

Title: Book Lovers

Author: Emily Henry

Publisher: 12th May 2022 by Penguin General UK, Fig Tree, Viking

Pages: 384 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, romance

My Rating: 5 cups


One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn't see coming…

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he's Nora's work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she's the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That's why Nora's sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month's holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It's a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into...Charlie.

She's no heroine. He's no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?

My Thoughts

‘Maybe this is why people take trips, for that feeling of your real life liquefying around you, like nothing you do will tug on any other strand of your carefully built world. It’s a feeling not unlike reading a really good book: all-consuming, worry-obliterating.’

Finally I can claim, ‘Yes! I have read an Emily Henry book.’ Now, time to go back and read them all! I adored it! Simply stated, it is a book by a book lover, about book lovers and should be read by all book lovers. How freakin’ awesome!

‘It’s never taken effort - that’s what made me fall in love with reading: the instant floating sensation, the dissolution of real-world problems, every worry suddenly safely on the other side of some metaphysical surface.’

How can the one book contain so much! Let me tell you, through simply exquisite writing! You will get all the feels, all the laughs and yet still …. so much depth and true to life that lifts it into the stratosphere!

“I’m always a fan of the truth,” he says. “No one’s always a fan of the truth,” I say. “Sometimes the truth sucks.” “It’s always better to have the truth up front than to be misled.” “There’s still something to be said for social niceties.”

The banter between Nora and Charlie was so on point, it was good, not to mention a slow burn romance that is up there with the best of them. The commitment to family and siblings is inspiring. Nora and Libby’s relationship brought a tear to my eye. Yet, for me, watching Nora’s personal journey of growth … well, that left me speechless. I could feel everything she was feeling particularly with regards to her upbringing and a desire to hang onto certain traditions and memories.

‘The words break apart like alphabet soup, letters splintering off in every direction, utterly meaningless now.’

Book Lovers is fun and heart warming but also serious and sentimental. There was everything I was hoping for from an Emily Henry book -  a wonderful romance, a story of devoted siblings, a love of books sprinkled everywhere and a small town trope with a twist. I highly recommend this to romance lovers and book lovers in general!

‘That is what I’m looking for every time I flip to the back of a book, compulsively checking for proof that in a life where so many things have gone wrong, there can be beauty too. That there is always hope, no matter what.’

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.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Review: What Eden Did Next

Title: What Eden Did Next

Author: Sheila O'Flanagan

Publisher: 26th April 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 448 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary, women’s fiction

My Rating:  4 cups


Five years after the death of her firefighter husband, Eden knows better than anyone that life can change in an instant. Now, instead of the future she had planned with Andy, she has Lila - the daughter he never got the chance to meet. And instead of Andy, she has his family.

Then Eden meets someone. Someone she knew before Andy, before Lila, before the tragedy. Someone who reminds her of how she used to be. But Andy's mother has other plans. And Eden is facing an impossible choice. One that could tear a family apart . . .

Honest and emotionally gripping, What Eden Did Next is an irresistible, sometimes heart-breaking, ultimately joyful, novel of love, loss - and finding your own way to happiness.

My Thoughts

‘You all seem to think you know what I need!’ Eden exclaimed as she pushed her chair back from the table and stood up. ‘But you don’t. So leave it. I’m going for a walk.’

Sheila acknowledges the impact of the last couple of years on people throughout the world in her acknowledgements: More than ever we’ve come to realise the importance of the people closest to us, especially when we can’t be with them … Part of Eden’s story deals with her mourning the life she should have had. I think many of us have felt that way over the past years as we’ve seen milestones go by without the customary celebrations, as reminders of cancelled events popped up in our timelines, as we were forced over and over again to isolate ourselves from the people we love.

Therein Shiela presents another delightful book for her readers to absorb and lean into. She creates a cast of characters that are sure to resonate with readers, a real community whether it be the local residents or the online group chats. There are important issues addressed throughout - love and loss, self doubt and grief. At times heartbreaking, at times heartwarming. There is real depth to the characters and the community as they face everything from the daily work grind to family pressures.

This is a book that you know the drill but as always it is the journey that reaches out and takes your hand. All about love and second chances, What Eden Did Next is the comfort read you were looking for. Ready yourself for the journey as you sink into your sofa with a warm cup of tea and take in all the feels with Eden and friends.

“We didn’t give up our lives,’ said Kevin. ‘We adapted, but we were still doing what we wanted to do. So the question is, Eden, what do you want to do?"

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.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Review: The Fugitive Colours

Title: The Fugitive Colours

Genevieve Planché Book 2

Author: Nancy Bilyeau

Publisher: 12th May 2022 by Lume Books

Pages: 224 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 4 cups


The highly anticipated follow-up to the sweeping historical thriller The Blue is a story of silkweavers, painters...and spies.

As Genevieve Sturbridge struggles to keep her silk design business afloat, she must face the fact that London in 1764 is very much a man’s world. Men control the arts and sciences, men control politics and law. And men definitely control women.

A Huguenot living in Spitalfields, Genevieve one day receives a surprise invitation from an important artist. Grasping at the promise of a better life, she dares to hope her luck is about to change and readies herself for an entry into the world of serious art.

She soon learns that for the portrait painters ruling over the wealthy in London society, fame and fortune are there for the taking. But such high stakes spur rivalries that darken to sabotage and blackmail—and even murder. 

Genevieve begins to suspect that her own secret past, when she was caught up in conspiracy and betrayal, has more to do with her entrée into London society than her talent. One wrong move could cost her not just her artistic dreams but the love of those she holds dear.

It’s a delicate dance, and a dangerous situation. And not just for Genevieve and her loved ones. . . because all the while there are ruthless spies who wish harm to England itself watching from the shadows.

A sequel to Nancy Bilyeau’s The Blue, The Fugitive Colours again reveals a dazzling world of glamour and treachery in Georgian England, when beauty held more value than human life. She immerses readers in a fictionalized account of real lives and events whilst staying faithful to the historical and social context.

My Thoughts

A Nancy Bilyeau book is always something to get excited about. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed so many of her books - from Tudor England to Dreamland on Coney Island. I recently read The Blue, a historical thriller involving spies, art and the race to create a new shade of blue. The Fugitive Colours is its sequel and is another great read by Nancy. This time the focus remains in eighteenth century London still involving art, spies and the central character Genevieve. 

“What is it that you want, Mrs. Sturbridge?” Jean’s question from this morning torments me. In the most private part of my soul, I want what I’ve always wanted. I thought I’d stamped out this ambition, but … here, on this cold and dreary Spitalfields street, I must face the truth that my dream of success as a true artist still lives.’

I found The Blue so very interesting and I enjoyed learning about the world of painting fine porcelain and how important the color blue came to be. The Fugitive Colours centres around Covent Garden, the world of art looking for new colours and the cutthroat world of harlots with the backstabbing ton. 

“… my aim is to try to paint moments of everyday life in London. By doing that, I want to show the truth of their existence in difficult times.”

Whilst this book started out a bit slow, the pace increased and Nancy brought the story together well. Although touted as a standalone, I would definitely recommend reading The Blue first. With a focus this time around on the silk industry and the world of art in London during the late 1700s both place and people are brought very much to life. If you have not read a Nancy Bilyeau book I highly recommend you choose one from her wide range of time periods. 

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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review: This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

Title: This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

Author: Tabitha Carvan

Publisher: 2nd March 2022 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages: 280 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: nonfiction, self help, biography, feminism

My Rating:  4 cups


If you feel that sense that there is something missing from your life, some gap between who you are on the inside and who you are on the outside - then this is the book for you.

This is, as the title says, not actually a book about Benedict Cumberbatch.

In fact, it's a book about women and what we love, about what happens to women's passions after we leave adolescence and how the space for joy in our lives is squeezed ever smaller as we age, and why. More importantly, it's about what happens if you subvert that narrative and simply love something like you used to.

Drawing upon her personal experience of unexpectedly falling for the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch while stuck at home with two young children, Carvan challenges the reader to stop instinctively resisting the possibility of experiencing pleasure. Hers is clarion rallying cry: find your thing, whatever it may be, and love it like your life depends on it.

Funny, intelligent, transporting and liberating, this book is a total joy.

My Thoughts

‘If … I told you it was okay, not everything needs to be about making meaning, that not everything has to be justifiable as a good use of your time or mind - then, could you let … your body find its way towards loving what it loves? And what would that look like for you? It’s not that easy.’

Okay … you got me. With an intriguing title like that who wouldn’t pick it up! Tabitha takes her obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch to investigate how the reality of life for women - family, job etc etc - can take away from who you once were and rob you of some of the joys to be found in this world. 

‘You should indulge in things which refresh your spirit or make you laugh or make you feel something.” She sighs. “People deserve indulgences. I wish they could do more. I tell them, ‘Go somewhere! Do something! Feel something! Anything!’

I am a little conflicted with this book. I was not sure whether to read it or not … undecided for the longest time. Eventually I took the plunge and ultimately was glad I did as I walked away affirmed and with many pearls of wisdom, joy bubbles and affirmations. Yet, I am here to say, this is most definitely a book about Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, whilst I like Benedict and find his work to be of the highest calibre, the constant mention (and I get it … he is symbolic as one example of what women of a certain age *cough … splutter* may embrace *figuratively speaking … although I am sure this author would like it otherwise*) it just became a bit too much at times.

‘I did not follow a route determined by the things I loved; the things I loved were determined by the route, my graduation from one life stage to the next. Which is why falling in love with Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t feel natural or unsurprising at all. It felt like a step backwards, in the very wrong direction.’

That has to be put to one side if you are to truly enjoy the many colours of this book -  part memoir, part pop culture, part passion pursuit, part art dissertation on feminism.What this most definitely is a book about, is women. Why is it we often lose that spark along life’s journey and how to stand proud and embrace whatever our passions may be at any age. Here! Here! I fully support the key message that this book offers and I am ever so happy someone stood up and proclaimed “it’s okay!”

‘… motherhood is. The “shattering” is what the writer Sarah Manguso calls it in her Harper’s essay about writing and mothering: the “disintegration of the self, after which the original form is quite gone.’

So, the main message, find your thing! Embrace it! Squeeze every last drop out of it for life is too short to do otherwise. This book affirms that it’s okay to get ‘obsessed’, ‘carried away’, ‘ridiculous at your age’ or worried about what others may think. Tabitha’s book encourages you to recognise and find your lost spark and then build it into a great big fire that will lead you to joy and fulfilment. 

‘I’m desperate for you to know that it’s worth it. Finding your thing, I mean. Feeling a spark of something, and instead of instinctively dousing it, fanning the flames.’

Women need more in their lives than the usual work and family. They need to play! If you feel that this may be something you have been unsure of or forgotten how to do, then this book is sure to both encourage and congratulate all manner of joyful pursuits at any age. Wise and witty - are you up for the challenge?

‘I need to recast myself in this story as someone who is doing what she wants, because she’s just as entitled to it as anyone else. And who should have started a lot sooner.’

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.