Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Review: The Garnett Girls

Title: The Garnett Girls 
Author: Georgina Moore

Publisher: 1st February 2023 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 322 pages

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary

My Rating: 4 cups


In this brilliant debut novel full of heart and warmth, three very different sisters--and their free-spirited mother--must grapple with life, responsibilities, and family secrets.

Forbidden, passionate and all-encompassing, Margo and Richard's love affair was the stuff of legend--but, ultimately, doomed. When Richard walked out, Margo locked herself away, leaving her three daughters, Rachel, Imogen, and Sasha, to run wild.

Years later, charismatic Margo entertains lovers and friends in her cottage on the Isle of Wight, refusing to ever speak of Richard and her painful past. But her silence is keeping each of the Garnett girls from finding true happiness.

Rachel is desperate to return to London but is held hostage by responsibility for Sandcove, their beloved but crumbling family home. Dreamy Imogen feels the pressure to marry her kind, considerate fiancé, even when life is taking an unexpected turn. Wild, passionate Sasha, trapped between her fractured family and controlling husband, is weighed down by a secret that could shake the family to its core.

The Garnett Girls, the captivating debut novel from Georgina Moore, asks whether children can ever be free of the mistakes of their parents.

My Thoughts

"Those Garnet girls. Lookers all of them - brains too. Hard to decide which one I fancy most."

The Garnett Girls is a wonderful debut narrative that explores the dynamics between a mother and her three daughters. Theirs is no ordinary relationship due to a dysfunctional upbringing but there is never any doubt about the love they hold for each other. The story traces how their childhood affected them in the choices and actions as their lives evolve over the years. 

This is such a well written tale that is highly character driven. But gosh! How well are these characters portrayed as real life and personal shortcomings come into play. Margo the matriarch is a force to reckon with and her parties would have been an eye opener. The interactions between the mother and each of the daughters is reflective of the ups and downs in life. Add into this their partners and the wider community from the Isle of Wight and it makes for engaging reading. It just goes to show how much of an impact the loss of their father had on each of them individually and as a family unit.

‘The only place she found certainty and conviction was in her writing. The rest of the time she quaked in the face of the Garnetts passionately held opinions.’

The setting of the Isle of Wight is wonderful and adds another rich dimension to this tale, as does their home. Here is an old house (needing some repair) that holds so many memories - both good and bad - for them all. In many ways, it's what calls them back time and again. The house has stood witness to so much and has a story to tell. I am not sure whether I found necessary some of the passages that went back in time explaining events prior to the current storyline. I felt that the author did such a good job of the contemporary timeline that in many ways, it was not needed. 

The Garnett Girls is a debut novel I highly recommend for readers who love strong family, character driven tales. The writing flows effortlessly as it weaves a story full of the light and dark moments in life - there will be loss and there will be laughter. Most of all, this is a tale about family relationships, mistakes made and how, through love, a family can make it through it all. 

"I'm not sure we'll ever really understand. We might have to accept that some things about our family can't ever be known."

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 30, 2023

Review: Mrs Van Gogh

Title: Mrs Van Gogh
Author: Caroline Cauchi

Publisher: 30th January 2023 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 484 pages

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


Who tells her story?

In 1890, Vincent Van Gogh dies penniless, unknown, a man tortured by his own mind.

Eleven years later his work is exhibited in Paris and his unparalleled talent finally recognised. The tireless efforts of one woman gave the world one of its greatest creative minds.

But twenty-eight year old Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent’s sister-in-law and the keeper of his immense collection of paintings, sketches and letters, has, until now, been written out of history. This beautiful, moving novel finally gives this extraordinary woman a voice…

My Thoughts

‘I’m going to bring Vincent van Gogh’s art to the world. I’ll let others see his genius.’

Most of us know, of course, of Vincent Van Gogh. Many of us know that his work did not become famous until after his death. Then why - I ask myself - have I never asked the question: who was responsible for presenting his art to the world? This book answers all that and more in such a way that will stay with me … probably for my lifetime. 

‘If it takes until my very last breath, one day, every single artist, art lover and art critic in the world will know the name Vincent van Gogh.’ He laughs. ‘You’re as mad as the earless painter.’

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who is even slightly intrigued by a fictional narrative on this topic. In the words of the author herself: “.. shocked and bewildered that despite her key role in the growth of Vincent’s posthumous fame, Johanna’s story had been all but ignored … I’m neither a historian nor a biographer, I had little choice - and much pleasure - in writing an imaginative reconstruction of a brief marriage and the story of how a young widow changed art history … this novel offers a creative account of the remarkable woman who became “the guardian of Vincent van Gogh’s legacy.”

‘He’s one of the most progressive painters alive. He has to keep painting,’ he says. ‘He forces us to surrender conventional ideas when viewing his art. But Jo …  Can I hope that one day he’ll be understood?’

Johanna was only married to Theo for a short two and a half years - mind blowing in the big scheme of things. To consider that in such a short time she met and became engaged to Theo, witnessed Vincent’s mental collapse, married, had a child, witnessed Vincent’s death then, sadly, Theo’s mental collapse and death. ‘A former schoolteacher who stepped into two and a half years of madness, love and grief. After that, aged only twenty-eight, some might have turned their back on the Van Gogh name. But nevertheless, Mrs Van Gogh-Bonger persisted. She spread him over the world, selling at least 195 paintings and 55 drawings by Van Gogh, including Sunflowers to London’s National Gallery of British Art in 1924, the year before she died.”

‘I’m at a loss for words. I’ve stepped into a world where madness and art seem to hold hands to dance. I’m not sure I know how to exist here.’

In light of this, Caroline has penned such an incredible story. It’s raw, it’s heartbreaking but it’s filled with resilience and fortitude that moved me beyond measure. It’s a massive undertaking and Caroline does it with such poise and panache that it truly is one of the most remarkable fictional narratives I have read. I don’t even have the space to go into the ease of her writing, the depth of her research and portrayal of artists of the era or the days in Paris (love the weekly Eiffel Tower photo) and especially, the nod to the role of women in the era. Just do yourself a favour and go read this book! You won’t be disappointed - the tale of such a remarkable woman who became the caretaker of the Van Gogh legacy.

‘For in the routine of daily life there is so little time to reflect, and sometimes days go by when I don’t actually live, but let life happen to me, and that’s terrible. I would think it dreadful to have to say at the end of my life: “I’ve actually lived for nothing, I have achieved nothing great or noble”…’ Johanna Bonger, aged seventeen (March 26, 1880)’

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, January 29, 2023

Review: The Perfectionists Guide to Losing Control

Title: The Perfectionists Guide to Losing Control
Author: Katherine Morgan Schafler

Publisher: 31st January 2023 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 294 pages

Genre: non fiction, self help, personal development

My Rating: 5 cups


From psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler, an invitation to every "recovering perfectionist" to challenge the way they look at perfectionism, and the way they look at themselves.

We've been looking at perfectionism all wrong. As psychotherapist and former on-site therapist at Google Katherine Morgan Schafler argues in The Perfectionist's Guide to Losing Control, you don't have to stop being a perfectionist to be healthy. For women who are sick of being given the generic advice to "find balance," a new approach has arrived.

Which of the five types of perfectionist are you? Classic, intense, Parisian, messy, or procrastinator? As you identify your unique perfectionist profile, you'll learn how to manage each form of perfectionism to work for you, not against you. Beyond managing it, you'll learn how to embrace and even enjoy your perfectionism. Yes, enjoy!

Full of stories and brimming with humor, empathy, and depth, this book is a love letter to the ambitious, high achieving, full-of-life clients who filled the author's private practice, and who changed her life. It's a clarion call for all women to dare to want more without feeling greedy or ungrateful. Ultimately, this book will show you how to make the single greatest trade you'll ever make in your life, which is to exchange superficial control for real power.

My Thoughts

The Perfectionists Guide to Losing Control provides a fresh perspective on perfectionism offering numerous ideas, case studies and life changing ‘aha’ moments that will have you highlighting furiously. Through practical tips and tricks, women are encouraged to embrace their perfectionism in order to free themselves.

‘All perfectionists chase that which is unattainable, ‘unrealistic’, an ideal …. ideals are not meant to be achieved, they’re only meant to inspire.’

The first half of the book breaks down the understanding of the meaning of perfectionism - there being more than one type, which is in itself interesting to consider. This book successfully lays out perfectionism in all its glory allowing the reader to gain a more in-depth understanding in order to learn to work with it. The second half of the book gives you concrete ways to restructure old habits so that they work for you and not against you in attaining your life goals and dreams. This is about trying to reach a mindset that is both healthy and productive. 

‘The more present you are internally, the more you recognise perfection externally’.

As a perfectionist in many ways (falling into the classic category with a touch of some of the other varieties outlined), this book I found to be so enlightening and refreshing with its very honest approach. There are many solid ideas from which I learned and will hopefully weave into my everyday living eg. replacing the word time with the word energy; and, experiencing my ‘Dorothy’ moment ... realising I had the power all along and it was just a matter of learning it for myself.  This book now resides close by as a handy reference when needed. 

‘We put such pressure on ourselves to know exactly who we are and what we want in every moment; it’s okay for some things to be fuzzy’.

I will always love planning and organising - it’s who I am! Reading this made me realise that I do it because I want to and not because everything may fall apart if I don’t! I will work towards going with the flow and not seek to curate each and every experience. As a restored perfectionist I will define success on my own terms ‘understanding that it’s not that you long for some external thing or for yourself to be perfect, it’s that you long to feel whole and to help others feel whole’. 

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 23, 2023

Review: Shelter from the Storm

Title: Shelter from the Storm
Author: Penelope Janu

Publisher: 4th January 2023 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 413 pages

Genre: women’s fiction, romance, contemporary

My Rating: 5 cups


When Patience Cartwright is stranded in her home town, the last thing she expects is a second chance at love...

Fiercely independent naval officer, Patience Cartwright has never had a place to call home, but she knows where she doesn't belong. After an unhappy childhood and a badly broken heart, she'll never return to the country.

But to save her career, Patience is forced to accept a secondment - to an environmental team working near the town where she grew up. There she encounters once more the infuriatingly attractive biologist Hugo Halstead - the very man she's sworn never to forgive.

Given their history, Hugo, as self-assured and honest as Patience is secretive and self-contained, has vowed never to trust her again, but that doesn't stop him feeling just as helplessly drawn to her complicated mix of courage and fragility as he ever was.

As Patience recuperates from a life-threatening illness in the small country town of Horseshoe Hill, she realises the beauty of the landscape and close-knit community promise something very different to the future she's mapped out.

But could the secrets she keeps and the shadows of her past, send her adrift all over again?

My Thoughts

‘Prim said we remind her of a Jane Austen novel. Have you read Persuasion?’

Penelope always guarantees an engaging read with her books and I am excited to say that Shelter From the Storm is my favourite of hers thus far. There is just so much to this tale which kept me engaged from beginning to end, especially if you love second chance romance with flavours of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

‘If I were on the ocean, I could search the stars to navigate. I’d know where to look for the lights. How do I navigate now?’

With much on offer, this really is more than your standard rural romance. Of course, there is a super relationship with a wonderful leading man but it is clearly evident the research that Penelope has gone into for this book. There is an engaging mystery with the environmental issues which I always loved about Peneolope’s books. As always the Australian Outback is on display and I have added a few more locations to my bucket list. There is small town rural living and the whole community that comes with that which is always fun to read - I really need a Greta in my life #loveGreta. A special aspect that Penelope often includes is for all the animal lovers out there - especially those who love horses. 

‘There are fences to keep things in, and fences to keep them out. On what side of the fence do I belong?’

Yet for me I was enamored with themes concerning confronting childhood trauma and facing/overcoming fears with the inclusion of Patience being a math genius. This was a wonderful novel with a story of self-discovery, healing and being brave enough to go after your dreams. With tensions brewing, family dramas, environmental issues, Shelter From the Storm is a must read. 

‘A river, a creek and a sandstone house. A shelter from the storm, a place to call home.’

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 18, 2023

Review: The Artist’s Secret

Title: The Artist’s Secret
Author: Alexandra Joel

Publisher: 4th January 2023 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 379 pages

Genre: romance, women’s fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


The sweeping new saga of strong heroines and family secrets from the bestselling author of The Paris Model. While searching for her lost sister, art historian Wren Summers takes on the glittering world of New York's auction houses.

A missing girl, a hidden masterpiece, and the search for the truth

1965: A beautiful young couple escapes the suffocating weight of family expectations to live a life free of materialism and tradition. But the past does not always let go so easily ...

1987: Art historian Wren Summers starts her dream job at Sydney Art Museum and quickly makes a name for herself. She keeps quiet about her unconventional upbringing and flighty but talented artist mother. Then, just as everything she has built looks to come crashing down around her, shocking family secrets come to light.

Wren heads to New York in search of answers as well as a fresh start, and is swept up in the glittering world of fine art sales and high-stakes auctions. Can she navigate the swirling temptations and pitfalls of glamour and romance, betrayals and deceit while holding true to what is right?

My Thoughts

Alexandra Joel … take a bow 👏 I loved your previous books but I feel that The Artist’s Secret is next level, your best yet - wonderful! A dual time narrative going between 1965 and 1987 seamlessly weaving historical fact and fiction that provides her readers with a highly engaging tale.

‘These were the moments art historians lived for.’

This book presented a riveting tale that I was so eager to return to and lose myself in. The story was well written incorporating themes of art, workplace discrimination, family secrets, love and friendships set against backgrounds from Sydney, Rome and New York. The 1965 timeline briefly touches on a young couple running away from conscription to the Vietnam war. The main focus is on Wren in the 1980s and I enjoyed her journey from hippie childhood, to attempting to break into the Art Auction scene which takes her all around the world and even facing up against the Mafia. There is action and adventure, romance and betrayals all set against a highly engaging story. 

‘You know, it doesn't matter where you have come from. What counts is who you want to be.’

I have no doubts that there is something for everyone in this multi-layered story - from art and auctions, from finding love and even yourself. Readers are sure to be enthralled with this intriguing and lively tale.

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 12, 2023

Review: Her Worthy Rake

Title: Her Worthy Rake
Author: Charlotte Anne

Publisher: 1st January 2023 by Escape Publishing

Pages: 288 pages

Genre: regency, romance

My Rating: 3 cups


Sparkling Regency romance full of wit, warmth and mystery from a fabulous new voice. If you like Georgette Heyer or all things Bridgerton, you'll love this. Is falling for this rake a mistake?

Owen Tattershall might not have a title or immeasurable wealth like other gentlemen of his ilk, but he does have rather excellent taste in the waistcoat department-and taste counts for a lot amongst the ton. It also doesn't hurt that his adopted mother is the dowager Marchioness of Faye and his kind-of-cousin is the Duke of Woodhal. Unfortunately, prestige didn't save his family from the ravages of war, and now what's left is held together by nothing more than heartbreak, hope and bravado. To keep his memories of the war at bay, Owen immerses himself in his work ... until the day Sophy Calder comes colliding into his life.

Sophy has been fending for herself ever since her twin brother was press ganged to fight against Napoleon's forces. But the war ended almost two years ago, and still he hasn't returned. Knowing something dreadful has happened, Sophy is determined to find her missing brother, even if it means infiltrating the world that snatched him from her. But when she encounters Owen, she quickly finds her growing attraction for the only man who's taken her seriously threatening her long-mastered control.

An addictive romp from start to finish, this delightful Regency romance is set in the world of The Unworthy Duke, but is a standalone read.

My Thoughts

‘A gentleman’s daughter she might be, but that mattered little now she was orphaned and unwed at the age of six and twenty, with little of her own but the charity of her missing brother, whose farm had not yielded a decent income for the last three years.’

Charlotte Anne’s debut,  The Unworthy Duke was such a fun read with a warning for purists that it was very much contemporary and not your classic regency tale. She has followed it up with Her Worthy Rake and it follows in very much the same vein. 

The premise was promising, however, it does not quite gel together in execution for me. Charlotte brings mystery and emotion to this particular historical romance yet the pacing was somewhat off and the story seemed to lose its way a bit at times. I am all for reimaginings but this one upped the ante in terms of contemporary regency adaptation to the extent that it left me undecided.

Regency fans need to investigate. This is the type of read - perfect for those in between, lighter literary needs - filled with mystery, steam and requisite angst to come together in creating an engaging tale for modernists. 

‘There’s an important reason why Sherry doesn’t want to be found, even by his sister.’

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.