New Release Book Review: Our Own Private Fig Tree by Rania Battany

IMG_20210930_173447After reading Rania Battany’s Fleeting Moments two years ago, and her subsequent novels, I knew this book would pull at the heartstrings. As well, it encouraged me to look both inside and outside of myself and think about the different cultures and rules we live by in our society.

This was a brilliantly written novel that explored the importance of culture, and the expectations that families can put on their children to conform to that culture, even if they now live in a different country.

It also celebrated differences in culture. The music, the food, the big family celebrations, the support from large families when tragedy happens, and the way it can give us our identity.

It is a story of two teenagers, Caleb, ‘white boy’, an Australian and Samira, a Lebanese girl, who live across the road from each other, fall in love and have to hide this from everyone because it wouldn’t be acceptable, especially from Samira’s families perspective.

But it is more than a story of forbidden love, it’s a story of true love and how to be true to that love if society’s rules and cultural rules say it’s wrong.

There is a tragedy that nearly destroys a family and separates these two for nearly a decade. When they meet again, nothing has changed, both between them and with Samira’s family expectations. There are secrets that have been kept for decades that come out that cause Caleb to take a look at who he is and his identity, it also helps him see that if he wants a life with Samira, he must fight to gain acceptance in her world, and convince her he is worth the risk. History could be repeated or they could forge a new path, one that combines their cultures and their families.

I really did love this novel, it had everything in it I needed to make it a wonderful read. I loved all of the characters and their differences, I especially loved Jim who was such a special person in the lives of so many and in the choices he made for love.

I went to school with a fair few Greeks, Italians, Malays and various other cultures, but I never really thought about how different their home lives, or their parents’ backgrounds might be. I wonder now, did they feel some of the same expectations on them that Samira did in this novel. Were there expectations that they would choose a partner from the same cultural background, work in a certain job, marry and have children? Did they fight against those cultural expectations or roll with them so as not to upset their families? So many things to consider that I wasn’t even aware of 20+ years ago.

This is a story full of warmth, heartache, acceptance and love. It is about learning about our identities, respecting our cultures, but learning to combine those cultures to take what works from each one and make it something even better.

In this multicultural world, we live in, this is important because there are many more cultures sharing this land we call home, cultures will become blended, but we still need to be able to hold on to the heart of that culture while finding the path that works towards a future for all.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: The Forever Place by Michelle Montebello

The Forever PlaceThis was a really great read, a compassionate look at a woman struggling with alcohol addiction and the havoc it plays with her life and those around her.

I was completely engaged in this story from start to finish, I felt so much compassion for Marley and her struggle with alcohol addiction and the choices she makes and the impact this has on her relationships and her professional life.

Sometimes it really does take hitting rock bottom to make you take a look at what is going on, and for Marley it took hitting rock bottom and an ultimatum from her sister before she is willing (albeit under duress), to make a change.

Marley is a criminal defence attorney whose life was badly affected by the repercussions of a case she worked on a couple of years before. Without being aware of it, alcohol has become more than just a fun time. I could relate to this myself and really felt for her when she became aware just how much she was relying on alcohol to function and also how much certain relationships relied on that alcohol consumption.

Michelle Montebello introduces us to ‘Blue Zones’ which are some of the healthiest places on earth to live, (there is a link in the back of the book if you want to know more), White Cedar Island is off the coast of Nova Scotia (this is actually a made-up blue zone based on the real blue zones, which is a shame because I could have lived there myself for half a year (the summer half) if it had been real). Cedar Island is a small community with healthy eating, mostly a vegan diet, self-sustainable for the most part and very little alcohol available.

Marley originally goes there for two weeks to dry out after her sister’s ultimatum, this is extended when she makes friends with her landlady Noelle, who plays a big part in Marley’s recovery, and with Lachlan, a lovely guy who befriends her, along with his gorgeous dog, and realises if she returns to her life at this point she will go back to drinking and nothing will change. I admired Marley’s determination, once she admitted she had a problem, to make changes in her life.

She has some hard decisions to make during her time on the island and she also makes some bad decisions too, I wanted to pull her aside and say nooo don’t do it, but she had to make her own mistakes in order to learn and move forward.

I think that Marley and Lachlan both had very real flaws, ones that made them both easy to relate to. There were a couple of not so nice characters who played quite important roles in Marley’s life and the outcomes that occurred, both on the island and back in Australia.

This really was a wonderful read, an emotional one, highlighting the very real struggle of addiction that so many people deal with every day.

Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Michelle Montebello for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

Half year round up

Wow, 6 months has gone by in a bit of a flash, I’ve fallen down a bit in my reviewing, but I’m hoping I can get back on track from now on. I have read some great books this year so far and thought I’d share 6 of my favourite, one for each month, a hard thing to do.

I’ve read 147 books out of 150 for my Goodreads challenge, these consist of physical books, ebooks and audiobooks, I think I’ll make it don’t you.

And according to my kindle I have read far more than that in ebooks alone. I’ve also read for 153 weeks in a row and 297 days in a row, so that’s pretty cool.

Future Girl

So my first book I’m picking is Future Girl by Asphyxia I didn’t get around to writing my thoughts on this yet, but it was a great #ownvoices YA read by an Australian author who is deaf. Her character is deaf and I learnt a lot about the deaf community and Auslan. She also is a big advocate of being self sufficient and the book is full of ideas on growing your own veggies and composting etc. Set in the near future in Australia, it seems very real possible furture in some ways. I read this back in January, so the fact it has stayed with me all that time says a lot. I actually got the library to buy this in for me, it is written in the form of an art journal and I felt a physical copy was necessary to get the full experience.

The Boy from the Mish

Next is another I haven’t written my thoughts on, another library book, aren’t librarys wonderful, was The Boy From the Mish by Garry Lonesborough another #ownvoices YA novel, a coming of age book about an indigenous boy struggling with his sexuality in an outback community. A powerful read full of emotions.

Raft of Stars

Next is Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff I did actually write a small review for this one: What an emotional story on so many levels. I was taken for a ride right along with these boys who are running from their actions and the adults who are running to save them. The descriptive writing was wonderful and I was completely swept up in this story, swept along that river with its many faces, not quite sure until right at the end what the outcome was going to be. A story of friendship, consequences, actions, and reactions, love and grief; the outcome of the boys’ actions will have consequences for everyone involved.

A Home Like Ours

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe was a fabulous read, see my review here. A novel which covers a lot of important topics such as racism, homelessness, refugees, single mothers and domestic abuse.

The Things We See in the Light

Next is The Things We See in the Light by Amal Awad an #ownvoices novel that had me gripped from the start. This novel grabbed hold of me, pulled me in and refused to let me go until I’d finished. I was immediately drawn to Sahar and the story of her past journey in Jordan, married to a man she barely knew, as it is slowly revealed to us, as well as her present journey discovering who she is now she has taken control of her life.

I loved that Sahar was in her 40s and still discovering who she was, there’s hope for me still.

The cast of characters surrounding Sahar were so wonderfully varied, all with quirks and their own issues. My favourite was Luke, I enjoyed watching him open up and in turn cause Sahar to open up to new possibilities also.

I loved this story, it spoke to me in many ways, a story of friendship, love, of journeys with plenty of lessons to learn along the way, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Father of the Lost Boys

And lastly, ahhh this was hard to pick one last book, but I’ve gone with a non-fiction read, a memoir by a South Sudanese man who now calls Perth his home. Father of the Lost Boys by Yuot Alaak this was a powerful read and showed just what people are capable of, both the good and the bad. See my review here.

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I’m currently reading The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock, I’m nearly half way through and I think this will be going on one of my top reads for 2021.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the 147 books I’ve read so far, the link to my reader challenge is here.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them or are wanting to read them. And I’d love to know what your favourite books of 2021 are so far.

New Release Book Review: A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

A Home Like OUrsHow gorgeous is this cover.

I thought this was a fabulous read, it had so many issues weaved into the story that are of great importance to me; homelessness, racism, refugees, single mothers, domestic abuse; I thought Fiona Lowe did a great job of covering them all and bringing them to people’s attention.

Though I have several of Fiona’s books waiting on my shelf, this is the first one I have read and I am now determined to get around to reading them all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the cast of characters were so varied, all going through their own struggles. Some I liked, some I didn’t, but they all played their part in making this story a full experience. 

Set in a small town, where tension towards refugees and immigrants is high, I was upset at the way some of the people of the town behaved towards these people, because of the colour of their skin or their religion, just as I am upset when I see it and hear about it daily, I really appreciate authors who bring these issues to the fore. Whilst some of the characters in the story were willing to learn about who these people actually were, to look beyond what was on the outside and see the person and their experiences, to see what they could bring to the community, there were those who were too closed-minded and bigoted to do any such thing, these are the kinds people who I wonder if they will ever wake up and see that we are all people and all entitled to be treated equally.

Homelessness was also a topic covered, Helen used to be homeless, now she caretakes the community garden and works in a cafe in town. She also takes food and invites the hidden homeless women in the town to join her for a meal, she knows it isn’t much, but it is a way of letting these women know they haven’t been forgotten and providing them with a meal they otherwise mightn’t get. It is incredible how blinkered people are to issues that don’t personally affect them, and this is the case when people would ask, oh, do we have homeless people in our town? Homelessness is a big issue and more women are becoming homeless every day through no fault of their own, it is an issue for everyone to address, not just the government.

This novel made me think and feel and I felt compassion and empathy towards the characters. This is a big novel, over 500 pages, but it was one I couldn’t put down and ploughed through, completely engaged and invested in the people of this town.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: How to Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns

How to Mend a Broken HeartI loved this novel, I was a little bit wary about whether I would feel I’d missed anything by not having read The Art of Keeping Secrets, but Rachael put enough information into the story that I didn’t feel I was missing anything, I would like to read it at some point though, it’s been on my shelf since it was published back in 2016.

New Orleans is one of the few places in America that I am interested in visiting and it was great to be able to experience it with Flick and Zoe. I wish someone would offer me the opportunity to work someplace wonderful for a few months like Flick is able to do. I found learning a bit about taxidermy quite interesting, I have a friend who practices the art of taxidermy, and while it’s definitely not my thing, it is very interesting.

I completely understood Flick’s need to take off from her life, while everyone around her was moving on, even her ex-husband, she felt stuck and lost. Flick’s ex-husband, now a transgender female, Sofia, would have been a hard person to continue being close with after all they had been through, but I could see how hard it was for Flick to admit that even to herself.

I really enjoyed seeing Flick come alive again and find herself. It certainly helped that she met Theo, the owner of the jazz bar next door. As well as helping her to learn to have fun, their blossoming relationship also forced her to really take stock of her feelings and her hangups and determine what was important in her life. Theo was gorgeous (I want to meet my own Theo), he had a secret that caused a big issue, I got a bit nervous at one stage that things weren’t going to work out the way I wanted them to (I nearly scrolled to the end to make sure lol).

Zoe suffers heartbreak from her ass***e husband and follows her mother to New Orleans. I have to admit to not liking Zoe much to start with, I completely understood her heartbreak and the grief she was going through, but she treated Flick awfully in the first week of being there, I thought her spoiled and self-indulgent. She did grow on me though, especially after she met Mrs Harranibar(Miss H). After literally knocking her over.

Miss H’s story is a sad one and in the end, being knocked down by Zoe changes her life completely.

I really liked ghost hunter Jack who bumps into Zoe when she first arrives in New Orleans. He was a lovely warm character and I liked how much of a gentleman he was. I hoped Zoe would wake up to herself, and though her marriage had just ended, who is to say when is too soon to meet another person.

New Orleans itself is a big character in this novel and it is definitely high on my travel list when we are able to travel freely and safely again, in the meantime, I’ll continue to travel vicariously through the wonderful characters in novels.

A wonderful heart filled read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: A Week to Remember by Esther Campion

A Week to RememberThis is the third book I have read by Esther Campion, Leaving Ocean Road and House of Second Chances were both very enjoyable reads. This one loosely connects the characters we meet in those two books but is otherwise a complete standalone.

I enjoyed returning to the small Irish town in West Cork where Ellen and Gerry have finally opened their holiday farmhouse to visitors. It is at this farmhouse where the story takes place. 7 very different characters decide to holiday at the farmhouse in that first week. A couple whose marriage is going through something, a middle-aged dentist who has lost the joy in life, a young woman who is trying to determine what she wants from life, and a long lost resident of the town who has spent half her life running from her past.

As I got to know each of the characters and uncover their backstories and see where they were at, I got very involved in hoping that things would work out the best way for each of them. Each one in their own way is trying to determine where their lives and relationships are heading and where they went wrong along the way. It was a joy to travel with these people and see where the stay in this beautiful rugged place led them in their journeys.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

 

New Release Book Review: An Unusual Boy by Fiona Higgins

An unusual boy

I went into this novel not knowing much about it and found that it was a fabulous read, I do like it when you stumble upon a great and original read. It was a novel full of heart, of differences, of family and friends, a story with a warning about online gaming and lack of supervision of our children.

This is a novel about an atypical ‘neurodiverse’ 11-year old boy, Jackson, and his atypical family and an incident that turns their lives upside down. I found it hard to put this down. My heart was in my throat several times throughout when the incidents with his ‘friend’ Digby occurred and when he has to deal with the policewoman. Fiona has done a wonderful job of portraying these characters, especially Jackson, who I fell in love with from the start. What a wonderful young boy, but I could see and understand the toll it took on his parents at times, trying to understand his differences. I loved learning about the way Jackson’s mind worked and how this leads to some of the traumatic things that happened to him in this novel. I work with people with special needs and it is always good to get an insight into some of the issues they may have.

Jackson’s sisters, Milla and Ruby, were both amazing the way they were with him and I loved his younger sister who came out with some great comments. His dad Andy, didn’t know how to deal with him, which I found sad, but understandable, while his mum Julia, did everything she could to try and understand and work with his behaviours. I thought the way the relationship with Nana Pam changed between herself and Julia was really lovely and just shows you that when your chips are down, it can often be the people you least expect who have your back. There are a couple of secondary characters who were a wonderful support to Jackson and his family, but there were also characters in the background who because of Jackson’s differences, jumped to conclusions and made things worse for them.

This was an emotional read and a powerful one. I highly recommend this novel if you are looking for a heartwarming read dealing with some important issues.

Thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Her Last Words by Kim Kelly.

her last wordsI have sat with this review for a week because I just didn’t know what to write about this wonderful new novel by Kim Kelly. Every novel she writes is so distinct from the previous ones, it is always a delight to open up her book and see the words she has written transform into something wonderful. Once again this novel is entirely different, both in the way the story is told and the story itself. It is many things, a crime novel, a love story, an insight into the publishing world, a search for redemption, a story of grief.

The inspiration for this novel came from a very sad and personal experience of the authors. Also, knowing some of the author’s background as a writer and book editor working in the publishing industry for over 20 years, Penny’s journey as a commissioning editor deciding if she wants to remain in an industry, such as the big publishing world has become, has a definite personal feel to it.

Throughout the story, there are many serendipitous moments that are seemingly unconnected to each other but show the ‘small world effect’ where things are interconnected in ways we may never fully be aware of. Though some of these moments seem most unlikely or too serendipitous, I loved them all the more for this reason and I loved how they were woven into the story.

There are 6 main characters in this novel, though one, Thisbe, who is murdered at the start of the novel, is the catalyst for the things that transpire for the other characters. I loved all the characters, except Jane, I hoped with everything I had that she would get what she deserved by the end of the story. I was easily able to understand or empathise with the rest of the characters and loved being part of their journey, I wanted to be there for them for the ups and the downs, the triumphs and the defeats.

There were many moments in this story that spoke to me and many lines I highlighted to read again.

He’d always thought the idea of sticks and stones breaking bones but names never hurting was stupid, especially after he’d banjaxed his ankle at eighteen playing football, and three months later his very first girlfriend was telling him,‘ I do like you, but I don’t want to go out with you anymore. You’re too weird.’ He could say then, definitively, that words hurt worse. Bones heal, don’t they, and a bit of physical incapacitation is always a good excuse for more reading; good for reassessing that career as a world-famous midfielder you were never going to have, too. But words hang in the air forever; they write themselves onto your soul so that when you least expect it, they return, their power undiminished.

I could empathise completely with John’s struggle with depression and the description the author uses to describe depression was so apt for me personally.

Depression is an eel that slips between the ribs unnoticed until it’s feeding on your heart. It darts between circumstantial sense – the relationship between bad things happening and bad feelings had – and the shark shadows of every nightmarish dream, every unnameable, aching need.

And lastly, Penny and I are on the same wavelength with this quote.

‘If I’ve enjoyed a book, the last thing I want to do is see the movie. Breach of copyright on the one I’ve already made on my own – always a poor ripoff.’

This was a wonderful novel that brought out many emotions and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.