Category Archives: England

Review: Ambulance Girls

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Ever since I fell completely in adoration of Deborrah Burrows’ last book, A Time of Secrets a couple of years ago, I’ve been waiting for another book. And while I was waiting, I kinda stalk her on Goodreads and twitter so I knew she’s been traipsing (sorry, researching) all over London when living there. I greeted the cover reveal of Ambulance Girls with a squeal of excitement and I think my heart might have stopped for mo when I received a copy in the mail.

Firstly, I do love this cover and I really like war historical fiction especially when this particular book’s main character was inspired by a real life historical Aussie woman serving in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station during the Blitz. There were a lot of things I learnt from this novel about women during the Blitz. I guess there have been quite a number of books or even documentaries but the way it was written here made it all the more real to me. It was obvious that a lot of research was done in the writing of this novel and not just about the women or the Blitz as novel itself feels like veritable literary tour of London.

The novel opens with Lily on duty and having to face one of her fears of enclosed spaces. It was a great start to the novel and you’d easily fall in love with Lily. Her other fears though were not as easily conquered… Aside from her courage, empathy, and her wish to do well unto others, she’s also got a great sense of humour. Maybe that’s her Aussie flavoured humour that coloured her interactions with her friends and gave the book a reminiscent air. We follow Lily through her struggles with daily life during the Blitz; the grief of losing a friend and the joy of falling in love. There were some shaky moments where I thought things were just not going to be right with this book but thankfully, all was made quite well! I had to give the book a bit of a hug from relief and an affectionate pat when I finished reading for I was well & truly shaken.

There were a number of characters both likeable and despicable in this book and the variety and dynamics between these characters were really quite interesting. The book is told from Lily’s perspective only so in a way, we miss out on a lot about the other characters as only a few were well developed. However, as this is the first book of a trilogy, I do believe we will get to know some of the others quite well later on (and I look forward to this!). What you cannot mistake in this novel is the author’s views on anti-semitism (ignorant) and Hitler (evil); she’s loud and clear on that front. Hear! Hear! These things can never be stated enough and whilst Hitler is gone, there are still those like him & share his views.

If you loved the show, Call the Midwife, or the books that inspired it, you would love Ambulance Girls. Lily Brennan may not be English but she’s as brave as those midwives in facing uncertainties & adversities of the time. And I dare say that her Australian personality shone through especially against the foil of English reserved façade.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

About the book

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A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

My Blurb

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a beautiful read. Mind you, there were stacks of romance in here though I think you can kind of tell by the number of hearts on the cover 😉 There were times that I found the romance crossed the corny cheesy line but I made the allowance for “First Love”. They really weren’t that bad; just a teeny weeny bit more than I liked so you may love it.

At the beginning, however, Steffi was facing first day back at school without her best friend. She’s 16 so she’s in sixth form; which term I actually had to look up as I’m not familiar with the British education system (thanks, Google!) and it’s like years 12 & 13. She may know all the students there but it’s a big day for her. She is determined that she will speak this year. She needs to prove to herself and her parents that she’s capable of ‘normality’ so they will let her go to university. Minutes later, she met a boy who cannot hear, Rhys, and he’s rather cute…

There is only one perspective, Steffi’s, and we get to hear everything she’s saying in her head. She’s getting help and she’s working very hard to overcome that which limit her. I love that we get to hear these things; she may not be able to speak but it doesn’t mean that her head is empty! I can’t tell how accurate the things she’s thought of in relation to other people who are in the same boat as Steffi but it felt just as how they could’ve thought (feel free to correct me) and in some ways were really enlightening. Meeting Rhys with a different type of limitation helps her in a way as they found support in each other; tackling the world which place those limitations on them and along the way, found her confidence and identity.

I have truly enjoyed this book. It was a fun, educational, heart-warming, and totally encouraging book to read. It really inspires you to reach for your dreams despite what the world tells you; only you can decide your limits.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Quick Q&A

  1. What kind of research was involved in writing A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

A lot! I learned some (very basic) sign language and read as much as I could on deaf culture and community. I also watched videos on YouTube, including those from/about people in deaf/hearing relationships. For selective mutism, I did a lot of general research into things like diagnosis and treatment, and read the materials that were aimed at teachers and parents to get an idea of how they would deal with a child in that situation.

  1. Is there an interesting story/incident that you came across during your research that you could share with us?

Everything I learned about deaf culture and BSL was fascinating, and I really loved watching BSL music videos online – they absolutely blew my mind.

  1. What is it that drives you to write contemporary YA and of such confronting truths?

For me, those are the kinds of books I most love and that I take the most from. I love books that are honest about people, relationships and the world, and so I suppose it makes sense that I would also try to do this in my own writing. Writing is also a great cathartic way to explore issues and problems that goes beyond just talking or thinking about them, so there’s probably an element of that, too.

About the author

sara-barnardSara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Sara is inspired by what-ifs and people. She thinks sad books are good for the soul and happy books lift the heart. She hopes to write lots of books that do both. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS is her first book and a dream come true.

Find Sara on: goodreads  |  tumblr  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club

lady helenLady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected proof courtesy of publisher

I very much adored The Eon Duology! I still remembered vividly staying up late whilst heavily pregnant with my first because I just could not put down The Two Pearls of Wisdom; absolutely captivating and one of my favourite books ever! Therefore, I’ve kept my eye on Alison Goodman and have heard about this Regency project some years ago… I’ve waited a lifetime for Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club!

This story is told from Lady Helen’s perspective and readers are privileged, as well, to know her private thoughts. The novel opens with Lady Helen’s preparation for her presentation to the Queen. Immediately, we are deliciously teased with a taint on Lady Helen’s reputation or rather her mother’s and therefore, hers. A few pages later, her aunt entered with a scandal involving one of her good friends and the second chapter brought a disappearance of one of the maid. The mysteries continued to be piled on top of one another until there is a knot that demands untangling.

Lady Helen herself turns out to be a very admirable character. Right from the beginning, she evinced her independence of thoughts and ingenuity in problem solving. Nevertheless, even as she finds herself becoming different, her upbringing constrained her and she struggled with this new knowledge of herself and the world. I found this struggle to be very realistic and actually made me like her a lot more than I thought I would. Honestly, I wasn’t sure which outcome I’d like for her though of course, the other one will mean that there will be no series ;p

I think I looked too hard for Eon in these pages… I loved Eon very easily but Helen took some time to understand. The world building was just as incredible and hence, probably the reason it felt quite slow… It’s a whole big old but new world! I expect the next instalment to be at a faster pace and even more amazing; I can’t wait!

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for copy of Uncorrected proof in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: The Earl’s New Bride ~a review

 

 

Title: The Earl’s New Bride
Author: Frances Fowlkes
Publisher: Entangled Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Kindle

England, 1819

The Earl of Amhurst has returned to his estate in search of a wife and, more importantly, an heir. Simon Devere isn’t interested in some comely, simpering creature. A beautiful woman only brings heartbreak and ruin, and Simon’s disfigured visage is proof enough of that. No, he wants a wife who is unattractive and undesirable—and the homelier, the better.

But nothing about Lady Henrietta Beauchamp is homely. She is lovely and sweet…and struggles to mix with polite society when she would so much rather have plants for company. And yet Simon is her only hope for keeping Plumburn Castle in her family’s possession. Even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.

It’s an impossible and unlikely match…unless this awkward beauty can bring hope back into a solitary beast’s life.

My Blurb (3 stars)

The Earl’s New Bride is a light-hearted romantic fluff.  The novel opens with Lady Henrietta Beauchamp nervously getting ready to meet the new Earl, the heir to her father’s entailed estate.  The purpose of the gathering, however, wasn’t quite as innocent as it was well-known that the Earl is looking for a wife.  What Henrietta really wants though is the chance to live in her father’s former estate where her memories of him are strongest but the Earl is proofing to be more than she ever expected.

Henrietta was an easily likeable heroine; a beautiful caring person who is also intelligent and gifted.  She has an impediment which the reader can recognise straightaway though this does not detract her beauty and intelligence, it does lower her self-confidence.  The Earl has his own demons to deal with –not only his reputation is society but also internally.  His heart has been betrayed and broken too many times and he’s determined not to let anyone in.

This was a very quick & easy read that you could finish within a couple of hours.  It was entertaining enough; a sweet romance, a light mystery, and an HEA.

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After viewing her all-time favorite love story, “Anne of Green Gables”, at the impressionable age of ten, Frances Fowlkes has been obsessed with affable boy-next door heroes, red-heads, and romance stories with lots of “highfaluting mumbo jumbo” written within their pages. It only seems natural then that she married the boy who used to pull on her curls in her high school English class, had not one, but THREE red-headed boys, and penned multiple love stories with bits of flowery prose.When not writing, Frances loves spending time with her family, fangirling, and planning her next vacation.Frances Fowlkes, originally a northern mid-westerner, now lives in the southeast with her ardent hero of a husband, three playful and rambunctious boys, and one spoiled standard poodle.A self-professed Anglophile and summa cum laude graduate of LeTourneau University, Frances Fowlkes combines her passion for happily-ever-afters with her interests in both American and English histories.

For More Information

Visit Frances’ website.
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 September 7
Book featured at 3 Partners in Shopping
Book reviewed at What is That Book About
September 8
Book reviewed at Griperang’s Bookmark
September 9
Book reviewed at Books and Warpaint
September 10
Interviewed at Review From Here
September 11
Book featured at Harmonious Publicity
September 14
Book review and Interviewed at Bambi Unbridled
September 15
Guest blogging at Lisa Loves Books
September 16
Book reviewed at Archaeolibrarian
September 17
Interviewed at I’m Shelf-ish
September 18
September 21
September 22
Book reviewed at Book Nerd
September 23
Book featured at Write and Take Flight
September 24
Guest blogging at Around the World in Books
September 25
Book featured at Chosen By You Book Club
September 28
Book reviewed at Addicted to Romance
September 29
Book reviewed and Guest blogging at Becky on Books and Quilts
September 30
Book featured at Voodoo Princess
October 1
Book featured at Read-Love-Blog
Book featured at Reviews by Crystal
October 2
Book reviewed at Books Need TLC
Book reviewed at Tien’s Blurb

Review: Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man?

Did  Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? by Ruby Mayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: complete digital copy courtesy of publisher

Book blurb

“A Good man can break your heart but a bad man should never have the right.”

When Jasmine’s crappy relationship with a crappy man falls apart, she goes on an adventure.  An adventure to Tel Aviv.  What follows is a passionate and wonderful journey, filled with food, love, bombs, and Shula.

Ruby Mayer moved to London from the Middle East at six, but returned to Israel in her twenties.  There she worked in a war survivors’ charity while learning the 1950s feminist approach to life from her indomitable grandmother.  These experiences form the basis of her first book.

My blurb

This is the second book I’m reviewing for thepigeonhole and I am ever so grateful for being given this second chance.  Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was an absolute delight to read.  It was funny.  It was sad.  It was light-hearted.  It was serious.  I’ve had a most wonderful journey, thanks to Ruby Mayer & thepigeonhole.

If you’re not familiar with thepigeonhole, they publish books online but in parts (‘staves’).  The first stave of this particular read was set in London and described the emptiness of Jasmine’s life.  Whilst the reader can sympathise with Jasmine’s frustration, there were many moments of hilarity especially in relation to her parents and two colleagues.  I just love her colleagues!  They were not what you’d call BFF but they should be, seeing the things they get away with!  I truly adore these two and was sorry that they weren’t anywhere else in the book.

As the book’s blurb mentioned, Jasmine went off to Tel Aviv… Stave II.  She’s staying with her adorable grandmother, Shulla, who is determined that she should be married as soon as possible.  Henceforth, Shulla’s lessons…

‘Number one,’ she says, ‘be beautiful from your insides to your outsides.’ …

‘You need all your fingers to catch a man – it helps.’ …

‘Number two,’ she says with renewed vigour. ‘Write this down! The most important person to be beautiful for is you.’

Jasmine proceeded to discover herself and Tel Aviv in Staves III & IV.  There were many laughter and just as much tears were shed.

Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was a well balanced read.  It was brilliantly written to continually engage in the reader in a variety of ways: humour, heartbreak, grief, love, etc.  It felt like a light and fun sort of read but at the same time, I also felt I have learnt so much!  I’d highly recommend this to everyone to read!

PS: Shulla is based on author’s real grandmother, check out Q+A with Ruby Mayer for more on Shulla

You can also stalk follow Ruby Mayer on twitter

Thanks to The Pigeonhole for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Review: A Curious Beginning

a curious beginningA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Historical mysteries featuring unconventional heroines are one of my favourites. On the top of my favourites are Phryne Fisher, Maisie Dobbs and Adelia Aguilar. Each of these series were unique in their own rights: Phryne Fisher’s mysteries are set in the 1920s and are such good fun to read, Maisie Dobbs are set in the same era but carry a more serious undertone with a rather Hercule Poirot sort of approach to the mysteries, and Adelia Aguilar is set in medieval England but with such a peculiar character, she appeals to you just as much as Phryne Fisher.

A Curious Beginning began well enough as we are introduced to Veronica Speedwell’s awry thoughts as she buried her aunt. It wasn’t long, however, before I found that she tries too hard to shock people and this really annoys me. I like shocking, unusual / unconventional heroines but in Veronica Speedwell’s case, it didn’t seem natural… it felt like a put-on act. There were also too many repetitions about her sexual adventures and her rule of keeping clear of British men… Say it once or twice but no more, please. I am sad to say that I do not like Veronica Speedwell.

On the other hand, I do love Stoker! I love his physique. I love his rudeness (you all know he’s hiding something, right?). I love the mystery of his past! I enjoyed most of the interaction between Veronica and Stoker and since I have a predilection for “circus” in fiction, I love that part of the story. The big twist or the reason Veronica is on the run, unfortunately, wasn’t a surprise to me. I was disappointed that the story was not more unpredictable.

The cover and the author were the first things to draw my interest. I’ve enjoyed Deanna Raybourn’s historical romance and really thought A Curious Beginning has good potential. It was a fairly easy read and I still enjoyed Raybourn’s prose; I’ve loved the world building in this novel. So, casting annoying main protagonist aside, A Curious Beginning was an entertaining read.

Thanks to NAL via Edelweiss for eARC in exchange of honest review

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Review: A Different Reflection

a different reflectionA Different Reflection by Jane L. Gibson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

This was a total cover crush for me. It’s such a beautiful pink and sparkly cover! It appeals to my very girly side. Plus this is a fairy tale told in modern times… SOLD!

The story is quite beautiful and romantic. It is a very sweet fairy tale that I’m sure all girls would have daydreamed of. It has all the tropes of a love-story x fairy-tales: a bad guy, a curse, a good girl, love, etc. All the characters, especially main protagonists, were easily likeable. All in all, a terrific fluffy-good-feels type of read but unfortunately, not what I was looking for, at the time of my reading it.

It was slow to start though it was fairly easy to get into in terms of language and with easily likeable characters, it wasn’t hard to keep reading. Despite my romantic side, I can’t but help feeling a bit cynical about some things… I couldn’t believe that someone can be as ‘good’ as Kat (yes, okay, she seems to have some issues but is very sensible, wise, and overall, very balanced person; she was too good to be believable –the very epitome of Miss Goody Two-Shoes). The way she speaks also seems a little wrong –I’m really not sure that a ‘normal-modern’ person will speak the way she does. This grated on me a little.

A Different Reflection is just like the cover: a bright, sparkly and sweet fairy tale romance. If you need to switch off your brain for a few hours or some cheering up, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s basically your fairy floss (cotton candy) in fiction.

Thanks to Troubador Publishing Ltd via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

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