Vietnam Veteran’s Day

Today is the 54th Anniversy of Vietnam Veteran’s Day.

As a teenager I remember watching Tour of Duty on TV, but it wasn’t until recently that I really gained an understanding of what the show was actually about. As a teenager we weren’t taught anything about the Vietnam War which seems incredible considering the long term repercussions for the soldiers who fought in it. I still feel ignorant about this time in history, but thanks to some great novels now being written about it I am beginning to gain some understanding and knowledge.

The song ‘I was only 19’ by Redgum, was always an emotional song, but through my reading over the past 12 months, it has gained new meaning.

Now I feel I understand it so much more.

I’d like to share a couple of the novels that have made an impact on me and given me a small education about this terrible war.

First up is New Zealand author Carole Brungar, she has written 2 incredible novels around the Vietnam War and the young men and women who served their country. Carole says “I set out with the aim to make readers stop and think about what our veterans experienced and in many cases still are experiencing.” These two novels certainly do that and I highly recommend them both.

Screenshot_20190817_231641The Nam Legacy: The Nam Legacy is an epic love story set during the 60’s and 70’s. When the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane drove parents crazy, teenagers found sexual freedom and peace slogans covered placards. When the Vietnam War abducted the nation’s young men and sent them to fight in New Zealand’s most controversial campaign.

After eighteen months in Vietnam, New Zealand soldier Jack Coles thought killing others to stay alive would be the hardest thing he would ever have to live with. He was wrong. Although the nightmare of what he saw and did haunt him constantly, what tortures him the most, is what he has left behind.

Not everyone who lost his life in Vietnam died there, not everyone who came home from Vietnam ever left there.

The Nam Legacy is Jack’s story

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

New Zealand author Carole Brungar has written a powerful story, starting just before the Vietnam war and continuing through the war; we see the impact the war has on everyday people and their loved ones. The people in this story had hopes and dreams, some they were able to follow and some got derailed. Evie and Jack were a great couple and Terry was the sort of friend anyone could ask for. The scenes in Vietnam were incredibly realistic and I could see myself there in the midst of things with Jack and Terry. The trials these characters went through, the growth and change, made for an emotional story which at time required tissues. It looks at PTSD which nothing was really known about back then, certainly not how to deal with it and help people. I look forward to Carole’s next book.

Screenshot_20190817_231621The Nam Shadow: From the author of the bestselling novel The Nam Legacy comes The Nam Shadow.

To carefree, naive, young soldier Terry Edwards, life’s an adventure. But how easy is it to cope with the extreme fear and intense emotions that come with the war in Vietnam, when you know life balances on the accuracy of a bullet in meeting its target? Sometimes, taking chances is the only way to stay alive.

For combat photographer Frankie Proctor, every young soldier in Vietnam has a story to tell. The problem is, can she tell it before the war claims them? Or her? Her days are filled with bloodshed and death. Sometimes, the only way to cope is to grab any opportunity you can to celebrate that you’re still alive.

Destined to belong to a brotherhood of men who live in the shadow of Nam, Terry finds himself fighting a war he never saw coming. As Vietnam eats away at him from the inside, can he outrun the shadow? Can Frankie?

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

The Nam Shadow is Terry’s story.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

I have just finished The Nam Shadow and I have to say I was have blown away. I loved The Nam Legacy, but this was just wow, what an amazing story. I absolutely loved reading Terry’s story, I thought he was the best friend a person could have in the first book, but he was so much more. And Frankie, she was awesome, what a character. The relationship between Terry and Frankie was so powerful and important, especially during those times in Vietnam and I was kept hoping until the end that they would both get a happy ending. Carole Brungar took me back into that war zone, back into everything those boys and Frankie went through and ripped my heart out several times.
This story covers some important issues such as PTSD and the medical issues that the majority of Vietnam Vets and their children have suffered from due to Agent Orange issues that were denied for many years.
An incredible and moving story that I highly recommend.

Screenshot_20190817_232914In The Valley of Blue Gums by J.H. Fletcher: Journalist Thea Anderson’s adventurous life has been one of endless danger. Even her childhood, where she and her mother were forced to flee Malaya in the fish–stinking hold of a junk in the dying days of colonialism, was fraught with peril.

For a time it seemed she would find safe harbour in Tasmania in the arms of winemaker Peter Torrance, but her restless spirit cannot be contained. Thea’s ambition is to travel the world as a foreign correspondent but Peter is dedicated to his family vineyard in a blue gum valley: it seems their love must fail.

Thea makes her name internationally with her coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy then the escalating war in Vietnam, one of the only women in the field. Her job leads her further into peril and death stalks her all the way, until a return to Tasmania opens the door to a new and exciting career.

Will this opportunity allow her to become reunited with the man she used to love? Or has that dream vanished, like mist in the valley of blue gums?

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

This book was so good, I loved the dual timelines, I probably enjoyed the Vietnam storyline the best, but it was all great. This is the first book by J.H Fletcher I’ve read and I must remedy that, I really enjoyed the writing and the way he is able to describe things and make me feel like I am completely there and experiencing life along with the characters. It also shows that the media and the way it continually distorts the truth is not a new thing, the way Thea’s company tries to manipulate the story she wants to tell about Vietnam to suit the story the government wants told is so spot on for the way things are today also. I enjoyed all the relationships throughout the story, and the way love can be with different people. Though I haven’t been to Tasmania, after reading this I kind of feel I’ve been there, and I would definitely like to visit. I recommend this for lovers of historical fiction. 

And lastly, but definitely not least is

davLove and Other Battles by Tess Woods:

Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier … but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.

1989: Jess’s daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life – marriage, children, stability – then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.

2017: When Jamie’s daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down … and the past returns to haunt them.

Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

There are three time lines threaded through this novel and three generations, all connected in the present 2017 timeline.

CJ, a Seventeen year old high-school student is dealing with and going through so many things, my heart was in my throat for the first half of this novel whenever I came to her chapters. This novel took me a lot longer to read than it normally would, not because it wasn’t good, it was fabulous, but because CJ’s plight triggered my anxiety and I had to put the book down everytime I read her part of the story. This says much about Tess’s ability to write characters that are completely relatable. The fact I could put myself in CJ’s story so completely despite having passed that point over 20 years ago is impressive. I was also able to completely relate to CJ’s mum Jamie and her struggle despite not having children of my own and Jamie’s mum, Jess’s dilemmas also, despite never having had a love like hers or never having had to deal with the turmoil and decisions she is being forced to deal with. Three generations and I could put myself in each of their shoes.

Today’s youth have an even tougher time than when I went through school. I dealt with much of what CJ deals with, but at least I didn’t have to deal with the added threat and fallout of social media and smart phones. They may have their benefits, but they most certainly have their downfalls, and the issues our children deal with need to be bought into the forefront of society’s minds and youth of both sexes need to be educated in how to behave, how to treat people and how to deal with these issues when they do arise.

Jess’s timeline starts in the time of the Vietnam War, I’ve recently read a couple of novels set during this time, which I think added an extra layer to this timeline for me. Reading about Jess and Frank and their dreams, beliefs and differences and the reality of the Vietnam war, was one of my favourite dynamics in this novel.

Jamie’s story, starting in 2000 wasn’t as involved as the other two time lines, but had a huge bearing on CJ’s story and on who Jamie is in 2017.

I loved this novel, once I passed the worst of what CJ was going through, I couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished. I thoroughly enjoyed all three timeline stories and loved the way they entwined together to form the bigger picture. This is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel, that will take you on a journey of emotions, it’s a story of love, family, secrets and so much more, dealing with many issues that need to have people thinking and talking.

 

 

Out this month is the movie Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan which I think is going to be a hard movie to watch, but one with a story that needs to be told.

 

I pay my respects to those who fought in this war, those who lost their lives and those who live with the devastating fallout of this war.

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Book Review: Lethal Tide by Beth Prentice

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I’ve just finished book #2 in the Samantha Reynolds Mysteries which is book #10 in the Aloha Lagoon series. Samantha decides once again to do some amateur sleuthing to clear her boyfriend’s name this time and ends up putting herself and her friends in danger.

I was determined to read this before book #3 (#15) comes out on the 20/8/19.

Samantha is good fun, she has a tendency to jump to conclusions and 2+2 often equals 7, but her heart is definitely in the right place and she’s extremely passionate. In this case though, I thought some of Samantha’s conclusions were fair enough and I was right there with her jumping to conclusions of my own.

So, after reading Deadly Wipeout, I thought Samantha’s boyfriend Casey was pretty wonderful. I started to have my doubts during this latest adventure; I thought maybe I’d been mistaken. He did some pretty questionable things, and his behaviour with the Lori was disheartening, I felt he should have put her in her place straight away, even though I knew nothing was happening. I have to say, I completely detested Lori from the start and that only got more intense as the story progressed. I have issues with women who make moves on another person’s partner.

This cosy murder mystery sees one of Casey friends from the past turn up at Aloha Lagoon and then subsequently is found murdered by Samantha, her brother Luke and BFF Alani. Soon after, a couple of Casey’s other past friends show up at Aloha Lagoon, this is when the questionable behaviour, secrets and conclusions (2+2=7) start to happen.

This was a great read though and a mystery that had some red herrings. I’ve often wondered if I’d chose to play amateur detective if the opportunity arose, but I think, probably not. I love how Samantha doesn’t have much of a filter and I like how she describes the people she sees; I feel for poor Detective Ray when he is questioning Samantha in his investigations.

I do worry about the number of murders that seem to happen in this small place. I’m not sure I’d want to holiday or live there after all.

Another fun read, I’m looking forward to picking up Beth’s new book Fatal Break tomorrow night since I’m lucky enough to have gotten my hands on an early copy.

Amazon AU

Amazon US

Aloha Lagoon Boxset #6-10

Beth Prentice Website

 

Book Bingo round 17 and New Release Book Review: Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart

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This fortnight I am crossing off the square Book with a place in the title, author Alison Stuart pointed out that this would be the perfect book for that square.The choices are getting smaller. If you have any suggestions for the remaining squares, I’d love to hear them.

Early twentieth-century Singapore is a place where a person can disappear, and Harriet Gordon hopes to make a new life for herself there, leaving her tragic memories behind her–but murder gets in the way.

Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon Mystery #1)Singapore Sapphire is book #1 in the Harriet Gordon Mystery series and was a great introduction to this new character and setting of 1910 Singapore. I enjoyed this novel a great deal and thought Harriet was a great character, she was a contradiction of the times and definitely not one to be kept in a box. Harriet takes things into her own hands doing some investigating of her own to try and figure out who the murderer is.

My favourite character after Harriet was Inspector Robert Curran who is in charge of the murder investigation. He was another character who was ahead of the times and didn’t always toe the line. I really enjoyed his interactions with Harriet and how he realised it would be helpful to have her on his side rather than trying to make her stand on the sidelines.

This isn’t a simple murder though and there are many twists and turns, people who aren’t who they seem to be and mysteries that arise from the past.

The imagery that Ms Stuart manages to portray through her words was wonderful and I could absolutely see Singapore as it was in 1910. The characters of the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ were well written, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be on the bad guys hit list.

I look forward to the next Harriet Gordon Mystery.

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Deadly Wipeout by Beth Prentice

Screenshot_20190815_194425Deadly wipeout is part of the Aloha Lagoon series, a series of books written by different authors but set on the same island. Beth currently has two books in this series, book 3 Deadly Wipeout and book 10 Lethal Tide and book 15 Fatal Break, which will be out next week.

Beth’s Aloha Lagoon stories are focused around the quirky character of Samantha Reynolds who has a tendency for getting herself into trouble. This was a fun read, with some good laughs and a dose of intrigue.

I had to laugh straight up when Samantha goes to a job interview as a surf instructor and has absolutely no idea what she is doing, lol, it’s something like I might do myself, in at the deep end and all that jazz.

On Samantha’s first day, a body washes up in the surf and she is drawn into a murder mystery that sees her putting herself in danger while uncovering secrets and trying to clear the names of those closest to her.

I loved the cast of characters who are part of Aloha Lagoon and who welcome Samantha to the island. There’s hunky British bartender Casey, who I’m totally in love with, what a hunny he is. Then there’s fabulous new best friend Alani who owns the surf shop. Samantha’s brother Luke is a great brother even if he can be moody at times. Alani’s grandmother is good fun and I enjoy the scenes she is in while the girls are gathering information (or is that gossip).

The bad guys are not very nice at all, and really, they aren’t overly smart either. But they can be dangerous. There is plenty of intrigue as the murder is uncovered.

I really enjoyed my first visit to Aloha Lagoon Resort and am going back to visit Samantha and co tonight with Lethal Tide. If I could I’d consider moving there for the perfect weather alone. I am concerned about the murder rate however.

Amazon AU

Amazon US

Aloha Lagoon Boxset books 1-5 Amazon AU

Aloha Lagoon Boxset books 1-3 Amazon US

Beth Prentice Website

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New Release Book Review: Home For June by Juliet Madison

I absolutely loved this lovely second chance romance. I have all of Juliet’s books and I’ve loved every one that I’ve read. I have all the Tarrin’s Bay books, but for some reason I haven’t gotten round to reading any before now. Home For June was absolutely enjoyable, so I’m going to have to go back to The January Wish and start from the beginning of the series. They are definitely able to be read as standalone novels though.

Screenshot_20190709_115504I’ m glad I have finally gotten to experience Tarrin’s Bay, I think I’d like to move there in fact.

In Home For June we meet Hannah who is making moves to leave Tarrin’s Bay to live in Sydney (big mistake, I hate cities). We also meet Luca who is returning to Tarrin’s Bay after leaving 20 years beforehand. These two were friends in high-school and had a connection but nothing ever happened. Is it too late now or can they find out where that connection might lead.

I loved these two characters, Hannah and her plans, her need to have everything laid out exactly as it’s going to play out. I enjoyed the times she let go and was spontaneous. But afterwards it was straight back to following the plan.

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This is my favourite line and I’m lucky Juliet made a meme just for me to use (lol). Hannah was so stubborn about veering off the plan, I so hoped she could see what might be had by doing just that.

Luca was a beautiful guy, having lost his mum just recently and having made the decision to start a new and set down roots in Tarrin’s Bay, I loved the way he threw some disorder into Hannah’s carefully laid out plans.

I really enjoyed the interactions between these two characters, I liked how the relationship grew and changed and made them both take stock. Working together to create Luca’s dream restaurant pushed them together and allowed for these changes.

I enjoyed the secondary characters, Hannah’s parents especially, they were great people and cause for some added humour. Luca’s brother Stefan had a great relationship with Luca, if only all siblings could have such a great relationship.

Juliet Madison always manages to infuse her novels with humour and this one is no exception. Her characters are relatable, as are their problems and circumstances. A lovely feelgood romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Amazon AU

Amazon US

HarperCollins

 

New Release Book Review: Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods

Tess Woods is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects. Her last book tackled refugees and how they often struggle to fit into our society and how we as a society treat them. This time she tackles several important topics, but I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll try to be vague.

davThere are three time lines threaded through this novel and three generations, all connected in the present 2017 timeline.

CJ, a Seventeen year old high-school student is dealing with and going through so many things, my heart was in my throat for the first half of this novel whenever I came to her chapters. This novel took me a lot longer to read than it normally would, not because it wasn’t good, it was fabulous, but because CJ’s plight triggered my anxiety and I had to put the book down everytime I read her part of the story. This says much about Tess’s ability to write characters that are completely relatable. The fact I could put myself in CJ’s story so completely despite having passed that point over 20 years ago is impressive. I was also able to completely relate to CJ’s mum Jamie and her struggle despite not having children of my own and Jamie’s mum, Jess’s dilemmas also, despite never having had a love like hers or never having had to deal with the turmoil and decisions she is being forced to deal with. Three generations and I could put myself in each of their shoes.

Today’s youth have an even tougher time than when I went through school. I dealt with much of what CJ deals with, but at least I didn’t have to deal with the added threat and fallout of social media and smart phones. They may have their benefits, but they most certainly have their downfalls, and the issues our children deal with need to be bought into the forefront of society’s minds and youth of both sexes need to be educated in how to behave, how to treat people and how to deal with these issues when they do arise.

Jess’s timeline starts in the time of the Vietnam War, I’ve recently read a couple of novels set during this time, which I think added an extra layer to this timeline for me. Reading about Jess and Frank and their dreams, beliefs and differences and the reality of the Vietnam war, was one of my favourite dynamics in this novel.

Jamie’s story, starting in 2000 wasn’t as involved as the other two time lines, but had a huge bearing on CJ’s story and on who Jamie is in 2017.

I loved this novel, once I passed the worst of what CJ was going through, I couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished. I thoroughly enjoyed all three timeline stories and loved the way they entwined together to form the bigger picture. This is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel, that will take you on a journey of emotions, it’s a story of love, family, secrets and so much more, dealing with many issues that need to have people thinking and talking.

 

Book Review: A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird

I have just finished a story that has touched my heart and soul so deeply. I cried bucket loads for nearly half the book, and I can’t stop crying. It’s not all sad crying, there’s healing in these tears, healing, happiness and hope. I moved from one emotion to the next, on to the next, and found I couldn’t and didn’t want to put the book down.

“Grammy doesn’t wipe my face, but she moves her chair closer. She says you shouldn’t wipe people’s tears away because they have the right to cry them. Instead you should sit beside them so they don’t have to cry alone.” 

davI’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that touched me so much, and that’s saying something because I’ve read a lot of books. This was an incredibly powerful story, incredibly written and inspired and brave. This book has some amazing lines and words to live by. Grammy and Silver Willa have some of the best things to pass on to us.

“Believing impossible stuff is the start of how we make it possible.”

Three Willa’s, aged 8, 33 & 93. Three Willa’s who have lived through trauma, and are all still dealing with that trauma at different stages of their lives. It’s a story of magic, magic from a jar with an ocean inside and magic from within, magic we aren’t always aware we have inside us.

I fell in love with 93-year-old Silver Willa from the first page, with her fabulous gumboots and her fading memories. She’s such a character and has some wonderful lines, all the while trying to remember some very important things that she writes in her notebook. Willa is on a mission, when she can remember that is.

Ninety-three is the kind of age that has infinite potential to shock and annoy people. I’m fabulously old enough to wear red with purple, spots with stripes. To say whatever flitters into my head and pretend I haven’t the faintest clue why people are huffing and puffing. To need sensible shoes and then turn around and buy yellow gumboots.”

Middle Willa was the hardest character for me to like to begin with, but she definitely left her mark on my heart by the end of it. Middle Willa is still trying to deal with her childhood trauma and it is a struggle to do this. Middle Willa’s two children are great, especially Eli who can see the magic that happens with the house and the ocean in the garden that comes from a jar.

8-year-old Super Gumboots Willa is a child full of potential and imagination, who uses her stories to survive those things that are too hard to remember. This small girl has a huge heart and is so full of a mix of emotions.

We travel through this story, uncovering the past and the present from the three Willa’s viewpoints. At times heartbreaking and at others life-affirming, the journey is one that will stay with me.

“I’m going to tell you something. It took me too long to deal with the hurt my father caused me. Your mother was grown and married to your father before I could see how little I knew about letting Shane go and loving myself. Instead, I gave all these wounded lessons to your mother as a child and she in turn gave them to you. Oh, what a marvellous job we all do of passing brokenness down through the generations. Maybe you don’t want to keep that particular tradition? “

I do want to say there are some definite triggers in this novel, so just be aware when you are picking it up.

A wonderfully brave and powerful story that I can’t recommend enough. Thank you to Tabitha Bird and Penguin Books Australia for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.