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

New Release Book Review: Rewind by Tania Joyce

rewindRewind is book #5 in the Everhide Rockstar Romance series and follows the couple we met in Ruined #2, Kara and Hunter which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This was another emotional read, (you may need tissues), Kara and Hunter have now been together for a year and things are going well until Kara decides she wants to try for a baby using a surrogate. Kara and Hunter’s journey to becoming parents and at the same time following their dreams is full of ups and downs and plenty of struggles and drama.

I have to say, I found Kara slightly selfish and single-minded in Ruined, but she takes it up another level in Rewind and I found it hard to deal with. Yes, she wants a baby desperately, but she didn’t take Hunter’s thoughts or career into account at all instead she just didn’t let up at him until he changed his mind and went the way she wanted to. Saying that I still very much enjoyed Rewind, and about halfway through Kara becomes a nicer person to deal with. 

Hunter and his friends from Everhide are reaching new heights and they have the next two years of their career planned out, a new album and touring. I found Gemma seemed to flip-flop in her feelings about Hunter and the baby issue and seeing as Kara was one of her best friends I found her slightly lacking in support. Kyle, I loved, he was a good friend and supportive all the way through. 

Hunter doesn’t only have to deal with Kara wanting a baby, but also with having problems with his voice, something no lead singer would find easy to deal with. I really felt for him in this, though I did think he should have listened to the experts to start with, everyone has to make their own choices and mistakes and there were possible negative side effects with surgery so I could see where he was coming from.

I really enjoyed getting to know Kara’s sister better and I thought the gift she gave to Kara and Hunter was something very special, and her husband for supporting that choice. Kara’s parents are as toxic as they were previously and I didn’t like them at all and I would have preferred a different ending when it came to their relationship with Kara, but maybe I’m just cynical.

Despite my issues with some of the characters’ behaviours and choices, I really enjoyed reuniting with the Everhide family and enjoyed taking the emotional journey with Hunter and Kara especially after the struggles they had been through and overcome in the past. Theirs is a love that burned strong despite all their differences and they both needed to see what was important if they wanted to be together.

Thank you to Tania Joyce for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Red Dirt Heart series by N.R. Walker

Red dirt heart seriesThis was a wonderful series, I flew through all 4 books one after the other, I  adored Travis and Charlie, such different people who fit together just right.

I felt for Charlie, growing up ashamed of being gay, a father who made him feel less than and unloved, struggling to make his dead father proud while hiding who he is from the community and deciding he doesn’t deserve to find that special someone. Then along comes Travis, a Texan who believes he was meant to come to Sutton Station, meant to meet Charlie and that they were meant to be together if only he can convince Charlie of this.

I loved reading about station life, I can’t even imagine how hard farming is out there in the Territory, but I do know how amazing those open plains were when I drove through 10 years ago. Charlie comes a long way in the Red Dirt Heart series,  he has a lot of healing to do and a long way to go to completely believing in himself as more than just a farmer.

The supporting cast, the other farm workers, who have become his family, a family that grows over the course of the series, and Ma and George who were his true parents in every way were all wonderful characters to get to know.

There were plenty of emotional times throughtout this series as Charlie heals and grows, Ma gets sick, Travis may have to leave the country for good, Charlies mother returns out of the blue, bring secrets long buried with her and Travis and Charlie go through their ups and downs. But there were plenty of laughs along the way as the Sutton Station crew live their lives in a harsh environment that is full of love.

I highly recommend this series.

AWW 2021

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: The Polly Principle by Davina Stone

The Polly PrincipleIn the second book in this series by Davina Stone, we get to meet Polly properly and learn all her quirks and hangups about life and love. Love it seems is only for other people, not for her, definitely not for her, of this, she makes it abundantly clear.

When Polly meets Solo at a wedding, a quick one night is all she is wanting, but things don’t go to plan and Polly’s world begins to be turned upside down, forcing her to feel things she doesn’t want to feel, and Polly is awfully good at denial.

I really liked Solo, and I actually felt very sorry for him when it came to his relationship, or lack thereof with Polly, due to her hangups about love, she really treats him quite badly and I don’t know that I’d have stuck around the way he did if someone blew that hot and cold with me. Obviously, he saw deep inside just what Polly was trying to hide and his feelings towards her were very strong.

Solo comes with his own issues and a past that he too needs to deal with, oh this story is a complicated web of feelings for our main characters.

Polly’s family, especially her father, plays a big part in what has shaped Polly into being who she is and how she is and with her dad’s 70th birthday coming up, we get to find out more about her past.

Polly also has a complicated relationship with her body, and on this, I can completely empathise with her. Polly has beautiful curves, but she doesn’t see them, and constantly wants to change how she looks, while self-sabotaging that at the same time. Oh, Polly, my heart was with you on this one.

This was a novel of self-discovery, for both Polly and Solo, a story of healing for them also, and for Polly’s dad Ted. A really enjoyable novel, I’m looking forward to book 3 where we get to see if Carts, Polly’s friend and Solo’s housemate finds true love.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: Ulara by Leesa Bow

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This was a really good read, with a very novel storyline. A story of travel, of soulmates, forbidden love, forbidden journey’s, secrets and ultimately finding out who you are and what you want from life; a journey of self-discovery.

I loved the way Eden and her friends went off travelling, each wanting different experiences from the trip and each having a go at what the other wanted to experience regardless of whether they thought they would enjoy it or not. It makes me want to do a lot more travelling, to go out of my comfort zone and find out what is underneath.

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One of the taglines states Even if it meant doing the one thing my father warned me not to do—enter the jungle. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me.
And I won’t come out the same.” And that is certainly true for the journey that Eden finds herself on after meeting Samuel and deciding to hunt him down because her connection to him is that strong. While at first, I felt Eden made many mistakes after arriving in the jungle, especially when not listening to Samuel and taking what he said seriously, I felt that Eden’s growth really happened after Samuel left her there alone while he went on his own journey. But Eden isn’t the only one changed by her meeting with Samuel, Samuel is also changed and they both end up questioning where their paths are heading and if what they thought they wanted still holds true.

Samuel and Eden’s connection was on a soul level, but they both had issues they struggled with when it came to forming a relationship. I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop and morph into something deep.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of life for the Ularan tribes people, I found it fascinating and an interesting way of life. I can see why they would want to stay hidden and continue their ways. It’s a shame that the environment in which they live and survive is being decimated by the greed of humanity.

Eden’s family had some interesting dynamics, some that shift as the story progresses and some that you get more enlightenment about once Eden returns from her trip. There were some secrets uncovered which may have unknown outcomes down the track for everyone.

I can’t wait for book #2 Wild at Heart due to be released in August.

To read an excerpt click here

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AUTHOR BIO

Leesa Bow is a romance author who began her writing journey years ago when her daughter fell ill. After writing for therapy Leesa now can’t imagine doing anything else. Thankful to be following her passion for romance, she is living out her own happy ever after with her husband in Brisbane, Australia.

In her spare time Leesa enjoys watching sport, having beach days with the family, catching up for coffee with girlfriends, and taking long walks. Most importantly the cinema dates with her husband to watch all the Marvel movies.

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New Release Book Review: Forrest’s #Win by Jennifer Cody

Forrest's #WinThis was an emotional read, dealing with two friends, Forrest and Blake, who have to learn to heal after Forrest is raped and Blake feels responsible for it happening.

These guys were gorgeous, Forrest lives his life by an extremely strict schedule and Blake is paid to help him manage everything. The friendship and understanding between these two were really lovely and it made it seem very organic to move from friendship to more when down the track they are forced to look at how they interact and how they really feel about the other.

When Blake sets Forrest up with a hookup, on his request, things go very wrong, and while the scene was graphic, it was short and I think the author did a good job of conveying the terror involved whilst still being sensitive to readers (please be aware this may be a trigger). Forrest doesn’t deal with this well, as you would expect, and neither does Blake, who blames himself. Thereafter follows a long journey of counselling for both of them, I really appreciate how well Jennifer Cody navigated the whole structure of this and how they moved forward, but not always in a straight line and not always without a few backwards steps; to portray anything else would be unrealistic.

Forrest’s way of talking and behaving was what I am guessing would be on the spectrum, as such it didn’t always flow smoothly, but that is how it is meant to be, the author did a good job, I think, of depicting his quirks and different ways of thinking and behaving.

Once again, this is another novel that shows us that sexuality is on a massive spectrum and things can change and emerge over time. When the novel starts, Blake is definitely into women, while Forrest is exploring his sexuality. Blake’s one night with a girl from Forrest’s D&D game has far-reaching consequences down the track and I wasn’t completely sure about this direction of the storyline, but still found it an enjoyable part of the read.

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

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