Category Archives: Womens Lit

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

View all my reviews

Review: The Fifth Letter

the-fifth-letter
The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Do you have a group of best friends? Do they know everything about you or do you think you know all there is to know about each other? I have a group of my own best friends; four of us grew close during high school – almost like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina. Like them, 3 of us are married with children and one has just found The One and about to tie the knot in a few months’ time. *sniffs – am so very happy for her*

The beginning of their friendship is almost laughable. It was pointed out to them that they all have 2 things in common: surnames starting with “C” and their star signs (Scorpios). It’s not the silliest thing that have begun deep friendships, of course, but this was the basis that Joni decided that the four of them are meant to be best friends forever. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most innocent start of the group…

scorpio

Years later, they were still good friends. They see each other regularly and even have girls weekend away sometimes. This weekend though, things rather fell apart. They decided to each write an anonymous letter of secrets to tell each other. It really wasn’t that easy to be anonymous when you know each other well and in addition to that, Joni found a fifth letter with a rather menacing tone. What is she to do with it? Is she supposed to do anything about it?

I really enjoyed the beginning of The Fifth Letter. The stage was being set with Joni finding the letter, her confessional conversation with a Catholic priest (my favourite character), then flashbacks to their teen years. I started smiling on page 3 and found at the end of my train trip, that I still had a wide smile on my face. It wasn’t just funny but the flashbacks also remind me of my own memories of my friends. I didn’t actually like any of these 4 ladies even though I can identify/empathise with all of them in one thing or another. Joni, being the main protagonist and whose perspective we read from, can be very frustrating! She is lovely really but oh, she can be so blind! In saying that, however, I also couldn’t really pick the fifth letter writer. And that precious ending, oh wow, I was literally choking with laughter!

What began as a rather humorous and reminiscing read, this novel took a turn into a dark complex of human emotions. These women each have their own issues which they feel they cannot voice yet that is the first step towards healing. The Fifth Letter engages the reader to look beyond the surface, to check our unrealistic expectations of women and see them as a person, an individual, who is not perfect (no one is perfect) and needs loving supports.

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for this novel and the chance to reflect of my own friendships. Like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina, I’m sure that we do not know everything about each other and that’s okay… I am certain, however, that none of us harbours any ill will towards anyone in the group 😀

Thank you Harper Collins Publishers Australia for providing paperback copy in exchange of honest review

View all my reviews

Review: Between The Vines

 

between the vinesBetween the Vines by Tricia Stringer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Between the Vines is a novel of beautiful and intriguing setting. Set in the famed South Australian vineyards, in Coonawarra, it lends a gorgeous & sunny air as the atmosphere of the novel. Being set within the vineyard itself with characters involved in winemaking engages my curiosity and also reminds me that I need another holiday!

The initial attraction between Taylor and Ed was thrilling. Taylor hasn’t had the best of luck in the men department so whilst she wanted to take the chance with Ed, she also needed to take it slow. As it turned out, he wasn’t what he seemed. Pete, on the other hand, is a bit like the boy next door –a lovely man whom you’d not glance twice if you walk past them on the street. Tension between these three characters were drawn taut but with a clear line of what’s really the best outcome for them all.

For some reason, I got really confused between Ed and Pete (I kept forgetting which brother is which!) in the beginning so I needed my full concentration reading that I even missed my train stop (*grump*) but I got into the swing of it pretty soon. I also seemed to have missed the humour in the F’s… I found this penchant of Taylor actually annoying and could do without it.

Overall, Between the Vines is a fine leisure read. Unfortunately, as this was a train-read for me, I could not have a glass a wine whilst reading though I really really wanted to –this would have improved my reading experience.

Thanks Harlequin Australia for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

View all my reviews

Review: The Secret Years

the secret yearsThe Secret Years by Barbara Hannay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I find that I’m fascinated by love story in war time… The preciousness of life, of happiness, are just so keenly felt that finding love is such a bittersweet experience. This is what drew me to The Secret Years… asides from my penchant for rural romance, of course 😉

The novel tells of a love story which spans three generations though the middle one is somewhat neglected. It tells of the glorious once-in-a-lifetime love of Harry and Georgina who found each other in the midst of great uncertainty but the fates were quite generous to them as proven by the existence of the next generations.

In the present times, we follow Lucy, Harry and Georgina’s granddaughter, as she returned home from being deployed in Afghanistan. Home, however, didn’t quite turn out the way she dreamed of. Being at loose ends and burdened by a great curiosity of her family’s mysterious past, she goes to England in order to unveil some of her family’s secrets.

Lucy and Georgina are two loveable characters. They are both courageous women; strong, intelligent, grounded, and just so easy to be with. Rosie, on the other hand, was a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, her perspectives is very limited in this novel. I found it a little strange that the “secret” weren’t more fleshed out the novel. The secret was revealed in an almost-dry voice and it was over very quickly. I am comparing it to Kate Morton’s works where the dirty secret hung over you right from the very first word and when it was all revealed, you’d have this stab-in-the-heart sort of pain. There’s no such pain in The Secret Years.

If you adjust your expectation to a good rural romantic novel, I think you will really enjoyed this book. It was so easy to get into and proved to be a delightful relaxation companion. This was my first Barbara Hannay though I just found out that she’s really a prolific writer so can’t you just see my tbr becoming ever more insurmountable?

Thanks to Penguin Australia for paperback copy in exchange of honest review

Pssst, there’s an excerpt that you can check out.

View all my reviews

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: Evergreen Falls: A Novel

evergreen fallsEvergreen Falls: A Novel by Kimberley Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

The Blue Mountains hold a special place in my heart. Asides for having been there numerous times in my teens for youth Christian camps, it is also where I met my husband (during one of these camps). No, it wasn’t insta love… in fact, we barely spoke and only really got to know each other afterwards. Nevertheless, this is one reason why I was drawn to this novel: the setting.

There were a few things which fascinated me in the novel: the era (the 1920s always drew me in), the area (I have visions of going on a bushwalk and seeing the falls), and the image of exploring an old ruin of a hotel. Evergreen Falls was a fairly easygoing read –an easy slow dip into another world for a leisurely stroll through other lives and to emerge, contented with life.

Neither of the two main protagonists really drew me, unfortunately, I was actually more drawn to (& very curious) about other minor characters (Lauren’s brother, Adam, and Flora, Violet’s love-interest’s sister). Violet I found to be to be frustratingly blind, sometimes due to naivety but sometimes, stubbornly and foolishly so! I also found that I just can’t make myself believe the insta-love moment she had with Sam. There were other insta-love moments I believe in but for some reason, this moment between Violet and Sam just didn’t register in the ‘believable’ spectrum. It may be that I’ve already guessed what Sam’s issue is right from the very beginning so everything he did / said is coloured by doubt on my part. Plus, reading it from Violet’s perspective (see blindness above), I was distrustful of her truth.

Lauren posed an interesting character at the beginning because of her background / family. And due to this background, she’s a bit hot and cold for me. Sometimes, she just plunges into a situation while other times, she’s so timid, you just wonder at it. Overall, Lauren is an average likeable character who sometimes amuses the reader by her actions.

Evergreen Falls is a story of courage –of braving oneself in stepping out of the mould as made by your family. There wasn’t much in the way of twists and the ‘tragic’ circumstance wasn’t really that bad but I was happy that the ending was not depressing.

Thanks to Touchstone via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

View all my reviews

Review: Close to Home

close to homeClose to Home by Pamela Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I have really enjoyed reading outback romances as they usually involve animals and nature. In a way, this is like a sea-change or tree-change vicariously through these characters. The sounds and smell of the train fade away and I’ll be in the wide open spaces of the Australian outback. If you’ve not tried any outback romances yet, I’d recommend it. This is also my first Pamela Cook and I’m keen to check out her other 2 books.

I found Close to Home a little bit like one of those science thrillers (deadly disease etc) with a full dose of romance set in my own backyard. I can’t say that it’s as suspenseful as a thriller as it’s not meant to be one but it does give the story a bit of an edge which I’ve appreciated.

Close to Home is an enchanting tale of love and forgiveness. Amidst the threat of an outbreak of a contagious disease, a reunion of family and meetings of new friends will see them working together to fight for the wellbeing of the small hometown. A dark past is overshadowing the present but with acceptance, forgiveness, and an open heart, the future doesn’t have to be just as dark.

A lovely and engaging read in which time will fly pleasantly unnoticed. An easy book to get into and it warms the cockles of one’s heart.

Thanks to Hachette Australia via The Reading Room for copy of book in exchange of honest review

View all my reviews