New Release Book Review: Spring at Lake Grange by Eliza Bennetts

Spring at Lake Grange

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, I love the fact that the women are over 40, are strong women and are still able to find their happily ever after.

This one especially ticked all my boxes due to its abundance of inclusion from so many aspects of our society.

I really loved our main female character Maria, we were introduced to her in book 3, Winter in Mason Valley and it was lovely to see her get her own story. She’s such a positive, sassy, sexy lady and I loved that she really seemed to know who she was.

Ethan was a different kind of character altogether, described as socially inept and he certainly was that, part of it came from his upbringing, and lack of positive role models and lack of relationships formed when he was young, but part of me continued to feel that he seemed to be on the autism spectrum, whether this is because I work in this industry or not, I don’t know, but I liked that this man, who had so many social issues, was still able to find ‘the one’ and form a meaningful relationship. I did find myself rolling my eyes many many times at Ethan’s complete inability to understand feelings and felt sad that he thought feelings were to be avoided at all costs.

I liked Maria’s whole family, her brothers were both good characters and I especially loved her brother Steven and I thought it was very brave and right of him to decide it was time for him to be happy and to be truthful to his family no matter the fallout, in order to be true to himself. I loved how wonderful Maria’s relationship was with Steven and how she had his back completely.

There was so much to like about this novel, it was a story of family, of inclusiveness, of figuring out who you really were and what you really wanted, a story of coming to terms with what life has dealt you and loving those around you for who they are no matter what. I definitely ended this novel feeling good for all the characters involved and knowing that they would all be travelling happily ever after.

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#AWW2020 19/50

New Release Book Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

I have a few Kelly Rimmer books residing on my shelf, waiting patiently to be read, and if it hadn’t been for Beauty and Lace, Truths I Never Told YouTruths I Never Told You may have been sitting there for just as long.

This was a very moving story about family, relationships, secrets, death, grief, but most importantly about postpartum depression and how it can affect both the sufferer and those who care for the person suffering.

Despite not having suffered postpartum depression, I very much related to both Beth and Grace’s experiences, because I have suffered from depression and they look pretty similar, minus the children. Because of this I always worried if I had children, I would not cope and could completely see where these two women, especially Grace, were coming from.

From the beginning, when I read Grace’s first letter, I knew I was in for an emotional time, and there were definitely moments that make me cry or brought tears to my eyes. All the characters, excepting Grace and Maryanne’s parents we so relatable and I enjoyed passing my time with them, even in the sad parts.

I liked the ways the stories ran in parallel, the 1996 timeline telling Beth’s story and the 1958 timeline telling Grace’s story through her letters to herself and then Maryanne’s story, all complimented each other and I enjoyed uncovering things slowly with Beth, though for much of the time we know much more than Beth and her siblings, we get to uncover the final secret at the moment Beth does.

Patrick’s illness, his heart disease, and his dementia were extremely sad, it is always a sad thing when someone ceases to be the person they were, but even sadder for Patrick as he couldn’t verbalise what he was wanting to say. This was a new type of dementia I was unaware of, where language is interpreted in painting or some other creative pursuits. I could visualise Patricks series of paintings so well in my mind, imagining what he would have painted to go with each of the letters. Art is a wonderful way to get our feelings out and at least Patrick had this outlet for his emotions.

There were other topics that were important throughout this story, especially the expectations put upon women to marry, look after the house and have children, the lack of say in what they can do with their own bodies, the lack of access to birth control and the way it was frowned upon to use it if you could access it. All of these things that we as westerners now take for granted. This is what Maryanne and her desire for change was hoping to get for women everywhere.

Beth – “It’s hard to believe how different things were for her. I mean, I’ve been sexually active for…” I pause and do the math, then grimace, “God. Over twenty years. I was on the pill for more than half of that time, until Hunter and I started trying to conceive. It was actually quite easy for me to avoid pregnancy until I was ready.”

  “Society moved on so fast. That’s what we wanted, of course,” Maryanne says and sighs as she pats my son to sleep. “But there’s a cost in rapid progress like that, because women your age don’t always understand how lucky you are. 

It’s true, we forget how lucky we are in many respects compared to only 60 or so years ago. One thing that still hasn’t changed enough though is the stigma around mental illness, yes it is more understood and less stigmatised than it was, but we still haven’t reached the point where people are comfortable asking for help and worrying about what others will think. Stories about mental illness are vitally important if we are going to change this. Beth, unlike Grace, had lots of support even when she didn’t want it, how different Grace’s life and in turn Patrick and the children’s life might have been had she had the support of her parents.

This was a very moving story with some very important themes and I was hooked from the beginning. I’ll definitely be getting the rest of Kelly Rimmer’s novels as soon as possible.

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Book Bingo 2020 – Round 2: Friendship, Family, Love – Gang of Four by Liz Byrski

This is the second post for #BookBingo2020 hosted by Theresa Smith Writes & Mrs B’s Book Reviews & The Book Muse

IMG_20200208_101625Gang of Four

Gang of Four by Liz Byrski was chosen as our bookclub read at my face to face bookclub, I’ve read other books by Liz Byrski in the past and thoroughly enjoyed them, and this one was just as good as I remember them being. This fit perfectly into the Friendship, Family, Love square as this book had all three in huge amounts.

The four women in this novel are all dealing with different things, but it takes Isabel making the decision to take a year for herself away from her husband and grown-up children, to make the other three women take a good look at their own lives and decide to make changes too.

These three women, Isabel, Grace, Sally and Robin are all so different, and my feelings towards each of them went through many changes through the course of the novel as I got to know them, their backgrounds and their dreams. They all changed a lot during the year they took to find themselves and discover what they needed to to live life more fully.

There was trauma, the loss of a child, the loss of self, family expectations, affairs, secrets,  growth, death, illness and love in its many shades. It was a really enjoyable tale that made me look at some of the things in my life and wonder.

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New Release Book Review: Rapt: The Price of Love by Tania Joyce

Screenshot_20200130_100748Rapt: The Price of Love by Tania Joyce is book #3 in the Everhide Rockstar Romance series where we catch up with Gemma and Kyle who had their story in book #1 Ripped: The Price of Loyalty. In this book they are planning their wedding, though both have different ideas of what the wedding should be like.

The band Everhide consists of Gemma, Kyle and Hunter, who had his romance in book #2 Ruined: The Price of Play. It was great to see Hunter and Kara were still together.

Gemma and Kyle have been through so much to get together, their wedding should be a time of joy. But on top of their differences in opinion on the wedding, they find out they have a stalker who is threatening Gemma if she dares to marry Kyle. Their team has been hiding the messages from them but Gemma has found a note in her bag and theirs no hiding the threat any more.

Gemma, Kyle, Hunter and the team take these threats very seriously, as they should, but it also causes some rifts between Gemma and Kyle, who can be in gemma’s mind, over protective. Who can they trust, is it someone in their inner circle or a fan? I was kept guessing and changed my mind a few times, though I did have an inkling of who it turned out to be.

I really loved the special close friendship between Gemma, Kyle and Hunter, having friends who are as supportive and loving as these is a great thing.

There was a lot of repetitive internal dialogue for Gemma and Kyle, and it got slightly annoying, but then I realised that I’m known for that all the time, I’m forever going over and over the same thoughts in my head, so it’s pretty true to life, I even annoy myself.

I really enjoyed this romantic suspense novel and look forward to reading more by Tania Joyce.

Thanks to the author for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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#AWW2020 5/50

 

A-Z Author Challenge – X

 

A-Z Author Challenge post #2

X is a hard letter to find an author for, luckily they are a bit lenient and you can use a name with X in. So I picked Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

It was the cover and the title that drew me to this book without even knowing what it was about. Then I saw that author Tabitha Bird was reading it and she said it was good, so I thought I’d give it a go, it sounded different in a magical kind of way, and that interested me. Magic is something we need more of in this crazy world.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is indeed about magic and believing in the unbelievable, it’s about adventure, hope, love, loss and good and evil.

I will say that it took me a while to be completely captured by this novel, it wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying it per se, but I just couldn’t really grasp where it was leading me. It wasn’t until about page 130ish that it all started to come together and I began to be hooked on finding out what magic was in these pages.

At first, we are introduced to January, a young girl of odd colouring, a coppery-red colour, who doesn’t fit into society’s norms, nor have the right colour skin for society as it was in the early 1900s. She is talking about Doors with a capital D, trying to explain them to us, her readers. We meet her benefactor, a Mr Locke who doesn’t really seem as good as she seems to think he is at the beginning of the story. We also hear of her father, Julian or Yule Ian, who is always off on quests for Mr Locke and barely sees his daughter.

Interspersed with January’s tale is another tale written in the form of a book, this I think is where I became a bit lost and wondered how it was all going to come together. But when it did become clear, I was compelled to keep reading.

January does a great deal of growing up in this story, as things happen to her and she starts to uncover the truth about who she is and who her parents were and especially who Mr Locke and he society are, things begin to go wildly out of control for her and so begins an adventure of great proportions as she goes on the run for her life and simultaneously hunts for the truth.

The Doors are a wonderful concept, that there are fissures, thin places that sometimes people find and discover a doorway leading to all manner of worlds, though not all of them are good places to visit. I really love this and so want to believe that they do exist, maybe from growing up reading first Enid Blyton’s books, especially The Enchanted Woods and The Faraway tree and then onto Narnia and E.S. Nesbitt’s books as well as of course The Wizard of OZ and Alice in Wonderland, I’ve retained that childhood belief in magic and other worlds.

This is a unique novel that I highly enjoyed once it all came together.

Book Review: Fleeting Moments by Rania Battany

I’ve finished my first book of the year and my first book in the #AWW2020 challenge and what a fabulous book to kick off the year.

IMG_20191219_111738I actually read this at the end of November, but I was having an issue with fatigue and wasn’t up to writing a review, I also had a thought in bed after reading it about why Maya, the main character annoyed me so much, but by morning it had flittered away. I thought it only fair to reread it so I could give it a proper review, and I’m glad I did. The thought that came to me after reading it the first time was, ‘Hmm I think the reason Maya annoys me so much is that in many ways I totally relate to her and she has many of the characteristics I don’t like so much in myself’, as is so often the case with things that annoy us about others.

Reading this for the second time, I could see so much of myself and some of my relationships, in Maya, it was so clear and confronting. Rania Battany says in her author’s note at the end of the book “I wanted to create a heroine that was flawed, and Maya is seriously flawed. I often read stories with strong, independent and powerful women, and while these characters may empower others, I can never relate. I wanted to create a character who had to fight her way back after loss, not only the loss of a loved one but the loss of connection with themselves and others – the loss of self-identity and relationships. Regardless of each personal journey, the struggle of fighting through a period of darkness is a universal one, and I believe Maya’s journey is one a lot of women will be able to identify with.”

Well, Ms Battany has certainly achieved this, at least as far as I’m concerned, I identified a great deal. Her author’s note really connected with me the first time I read it too. Reading Fleeting Moments for the second time, was even more satisfying in some ways than the first time, maybe because I knew how it ended and I was able to relax a little more, maybe because this time I knew why Maya annoyed me so much and because of this I had far more empathy for her this time around, just like I realise I need to have for myself.

Maya really is a great character, she is flawed and sees herself as different from others, unable to connect properly, unable to be understood, she deals with anger and hurt by withdrawing or getting angry (I feel like I’m talking about myself).

When the book starts we meet Michael, an asshole, and her longtime partner, things hit rock bottom for Maya soon after and we ride along with her for the fallout.

Then we meet Sam, (big sigh), what a gorgeous guy, (just the kind of guy I need) and maybe the kind of guy Maya needed. Sam is positive, easy-going, generous, kind and a great friend. I loved Sam and wondered why he persevered sometimes with Maya (hmm another insight into myself). I loved the relationship that Maya and Sam started to develop, the whole getting to know someone can be fraught with many challenges, especially if you are full of self-doubt.

Another element to the story is Maya’s grief at losing her father and how this has impacted just about every aspect of her life. We all deal with grief differently, there is no right or wrong way and sometimes it can be really messy. I am lucky and haven’t experienced grief like Maya, I’m not sure how I’d cope and hopefully, I won’t have to find out for a very long time, but I imagine it would be a very messy and mixed up time. Seeing how Maya had coped with this grief was heartbreaking, losing the one person she thought truly understood her, made other relationships tumble.  Maya’s relationships with her sister and her mother are difficult and I  lived alongside Maya while she worked through the issues she had with them, wondering if they could be repaired in any way. My heart really went out to all three of them, I could completely empathise with each character.

We also meet Amanda, who Maya works with and who extends to Maya a hand in friendship. Amanda, and what she is dealing with, is a reminder that we need to connect with others, that we need to see past what is there on the surface and get to know people and find out how they really are coping with life. Connections with others are so important and we can all gain so much from taking the time to get to know people on more than a surface level.

This is a story of loss, grief, hope, love, friendship and finding oneself amidst the chaos of this thing we call life. This is a story I am sure I will revisit again one day because Rania Battany certainly achieved her goal of writing a character I was able to identify with and one that would give me hope “that healing is possible no matter how deep the pain

Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review. Thanks also to the author for giving me so much to think about and work on in my own life.

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Book Review: The Art of Friendship by Lisa Ireland

IMG_20191103_171448I bought this book when it first came out which is over a year ago now, I got just over a quarter of the way through but was getting annoyed with one of the main characters and obviously wasn’t in the mood for being annoyed because I put it down with the intention of picking it back up down the track, but it never happened. Luckily my friend has just started a bookclub and she chose The Art of Friendship as the first book our group needed to read, which gave me the opportunity to pick it back up. I started from the beginning as it had been so long between reads. And what a great novel it was, I still didn’t like Libby, the main character who annoyed me the first go-round, but this time I was in the right headspace to be able to deal with that.

This novel really does explore the many aspects of friendship, old friendships, new friendships, long-distance friendships, colleague friendships, friendships you make because you belong to the same group or because your kids go to school together, and the way they survive or don’t survive. It really made me think about the friendships I’ve had over the years and the ones I have now, those that are just a few likes on Facebook and those that interact, those I catch up with or chat to regularly and those that I might only have contact with now and again, but I know they are there for me if I ever need them. Not many of my friendships from childhood or even highschool have survived the test of time, (not past Fb anyway), which is kind of sad in a way but also made me wonder about those past friendships and why they died.

As I said, I didn’t like Libby, one of the two main characters, I found her need to please everyone, to make people think she was something she wasn’t, (to make herself be something she wasn’t), to be very annoying, I’ve never been one to pretend or to ‘keep up with the  Jones’, so I always find people like this very false. As the story progressed and you get an idea of why she is how she is, I still didn’t take to her, but despite that, I enjoyed the novel this time around.

Kit, on the other hand I liked a lot, yes she did make some questionable decisions and they both had a hand in making their friendship one that wasn’t wholly based on truth and honesty, but she was still more real and likeable than Libby.

I liked the way Lisa Ireland drew out the secondary characters backstories and how we think we know one thing about them but it turns out to be something completely different, I especially liked that in reference to Libby’s husband.

With Libby’s son, we get to explore, bullying, mental health, and healthy parenting and some of the outcomes are unexpected. Lisa Ireland has done a great job of bringing these important aspects to life and giving you something to think about.

Spousal abuse is yet another theme that comes up in this novel, why and how people let it happen and how they are able to hide it, also, how friends and colleagues miss or justify signs that it is happening. It isn’t a straightforward topic and there isn’t always a way out or a right way of dealing with it.

Lisa explores so many themes in this novel and she does it so well. A really great story that I’m glad I finally got around to finishing.