Guest Review: The Desert Nurse – Pamela Hart

The Desert Nurse

The Desert Nurse

Pamela Hart

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733637568

 

Description:

Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

Brenda’s Review:

Sublime, captivating, heartbreaking, brilliant! These words and more describe Aussie author Pamela Hart’s latest novel. The Desert Nurse is set in the early 1900s when a young Evelyn Northey had just turned twenty-one and expected to receive her mother’s inheritance so that she could study in Sydney to become a doctor – a dream she’d held since she was thirteen years of age. But her father was a staid, old fashioned man, and although a doctor himself, refused to allow his daughter the same privilege. He would hold her money until she turned thirty, or until she married, in which case the money would become her husband’s…

Training with a friend of her father’s in the Taree Manning Base Hospital as a nurse was the best Evelyn could do. She was grateful beyond words for his help – and when she presented the certificate to her father and he ripped it up, she informed him she had another; she was also heading to Cairo as a nurse and there was nothing he could do to stop her. World War I had begun – doctors and nurses would be needed, and Evelyn was determined to do her bit.

As the Heliopolis Palace was turned into the 1st Australian General Hospital, patients began arriving from the disastrous Dardanelles campaign; some were walking wounded, others had shocking injuries. But Dr William Brent, although struggling with a weak leg from polio as a child, was a hard-working, doggedly determined and compassionate doctor, and with Sister Northey by his side, they often worked twenty hours straight in theatre, with barely a break.

Four years of blood, sweat and tears – of heartache and loss; of hope and fear. And feelings that grew, whether they wanted them to or not. What would be the outcome for Evelyn and William – for the many others affected by a horrific and unnecessary war?

Pamela Hart writes historical fiction with seeming ease. The words flow; the research is obvious; the pages turn themselves. I’ve loved her previous historical fiction novels, and this one didn’t disappoint. The cover is perfect for the story; the red-haired beauty is Evelyn to a tee – the background picture of the hospital tents on the front line as I imagined. I can’t recommend The Desert Nurse highly enough – 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

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Guest Review: The Peacock Summer – Hannah Richell

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell cover art

The Peacock Summer

Hannah Richell

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733640438

Description:

Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both.

At twenty-six, Lillian feels ancient and exhausted. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she thought it would. To her it seems she is just another beautiful object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s Chilterns manor house. But, with a young stepson and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and her world is turned on its head.

Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her grandmother, Lillian, falls ill Maggie must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, she will learn that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

Brenda’s Review:

Lillian was a naïve young woman of twenty-one when the wealthy and aristocratic Charles Oberon asked for her hand in marriage. She only had her beloved sister Helene to care for, and Charles assured her he would take care of her needs. Lillian loved Charles’ six-year-old son, Albie and in her innocence, thought she could make a difference to the man who had lost so much. Living in the Chilterns manor house, Cloudesley, Lillian began to feel trapped and caged – but she had no choice. This was her life and her future with a damaged and volatile husband.

The summer that Charles hired a young artist to do a commission for him in one of the rooms of the manor became a changing point in Lillian’s life. Lillian was twenty-six, exhausted and robotic in her endeavours to keep her husband happy. The constant parties where she needed to impress drained the life from her – it was only Albie who kept her sane. But then Jack arrived…

Almost sixty years later, Maggie Oberon, Lillian’s granddaughter, was in Australia when she received the phone call to say her beloved grandmother had taken ill. Immediately rushing to be by her side, Maggie knew she would face aggression and censure over the events of her leaving twelve months prior. But her priority was Lillian. She had raised Maggie – and Maggie owed her everything. But Cloudesley was falling into ruin – the repairs the old manor needed were too many to be attempted; the debts insurmountable. What would Maggie do?

As the past slowly came to light, Maggie found it only created more questions. Would she be able to decipher the secrets of Cloudesley, or would the manor keep them hidden for all time?

The long awaited new novel from Aussie author Hannah Richell does not disappoint. The Peacock Summer, apart from having a divine cover, is a heartbreaking and heartfelt story of love, loss and dark secrets. The answer to one of the questions when it came, was a shock – I didn’t see it coming! Poignant, intriguing and utterly captivating, The Peacock Summer is one I have no hesitation in highly recommending – 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my copy to read and review.

Guest Review – A Month of Sundays – Liz Byrski

A Month of Sundays Liz Byrski cover art

 

A Month of Sundays

Liz Byrski

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781743534946

Description:

For over ten years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone have been in an online book club, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

Determined to enjoy her imminent retirement, Adele invites her fellow bibliophiles to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains. It’s a tantalising opportunity to spend a month walking in the fresh air, napping by the fire and, of course, reading and talking about books.

But these aren’t just any books: each member has been asked to choose a book which will teach the others more about her. And with each woman facing a crossroads in her life, it turns out there’s a lot for them to learn, not just about their fellow book-clubbers, but also about themselves.

Liz Byrski has written a beautiful novel about the joy and comfort reading a good book can bring to us all.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The four women; Ros from Sydney, Adele from Adelaide, Judy from Mandurah near Perth, and Simone from Tasmania have had their weekly book club meetings via Skype, always online, never having met one another. The group had been larger but had dwindled over the years; the four were friends but in saying that, hardly knew one another. When a friend of Adele’s asked her to house-sit in the Blue Mountains – take some friends if she wanted – Adele immediately thought of the book club ladies. Her trepidation at sending the email to them all was unwarranted, as all three gave a resoundingly positive yes!

Each member was to choose a book that had meaning to them; to bring four copies and when it was that person’s turn, hand out the copy leaving a week to read it. Then come Sunday, it was discussion time. As the days moved forward, in among the brisk walks in the sunshine; the sharing of the beauty of the area; and of course, the joy of having Ros’ dog Clooney to fuss over – everyone realized that these women in their sixties and seventies, had a past which had affected their current lives, and themselves. They were at the stage of needing to learn why they were as they were, and whether it was possible to let the past remain in the past – to make peace with it.

Would those very special books, chosen with love by the four book club women, help in defining them? And would four women, previously unknown to each other, other than an online presence, manage to get on for four weeks in the same house?

A Month of Sundays by Aussie author Liz Byrski is an exceptional, emotional and brilliant read! I can’t fault the writing, the story, the fabulous women – and of course being about books, I’m going to look up each and every book they read for their book club get together each Sunday (and I won’t say what they are here as it’ll spoil the element of surprise for a new reader). I want to be taught yoga by Simone – I identified so much with Adele – I felt a deep empathy for Ros; and loved Clooney – and wanted to give Judy a big hug. Such an excellent read – Ms Byrski doesn’t disappoint. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read and review.

Guest Review: True Blue – Sasha Wasley

When this wonderful Australian author (from Perth Western Australia) called in for a cuppa the other day – we talked books, art and family.  (More on that later today – watch out for my next post.)

Sasha Wasley’s trilogy is based on the lives of three sisters (book 3 to be published in the near future), this series has garnered many great reviews and

I thought I would share another with you – thanks for the contribution Brenda.


True Blue

Brenda’s Review:
When Freya (Free) Paterson was stopped on the way to the hen’s night by the local police, she wasn’t sure what she’d done wrong – as it turned out, it was nothing; but she met Constable Finn Kelly for the first time and she liked what she saw.
Free was an artist and landing a job at the local high school in Mount Clair teaching the year eleven students art was a dream come true. The only unwelcome intrusion at her new workplace was a colleague who gave Free the creeps. Ignoring him was easy. Her students were a wonderful group of dedicated, upcoming artists.
Free and her family had lived on the Paterson property for decades – farming was in her blood. Her two sisters, Beth and Willow, along with her father loved the land and the Herne River which bordered their property. The recent decision to dam the river was something no one wanted – it would cause heartache and havoc for the farms along the river’s edge.

Meanwhile Free couldn’t get the new constable out of her mind. Finn was a kind and gentle Irishman, but the negative vibes he sent toward Free were confusing. Why did he only want to be friends?

Second in the Paterson Sisters trilogy, True Blue by Aussie author Sasha Wasley tells the second sister’s story. The first in the trilogy, Dear Banjo, featured Willow, and the third (when published) will feature Beth. Set in the beautiful Kimberley region of Western Australia, the vast and rugged landscape comes to life under Wasley’s pen. Towards the end of the novel there was a section which made me laugh; made me cry and felt wonderful! I’m not a romance/romance reader – I like some suspense and intrigue mixed in, and True Blue fits the bill, while being an excellent novel; I’m very much looking forward to Beth’s story. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read and review.

Guest Review: The Art of Friendship – Lisa Ireland

 

The Art Of Friendship

The Art of Friendship

Lisa Ireland

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781760552268

 

Description:

We all expect our friendships from childhood to last forever…

Libby and Kit have been best friends ever since the day 11-year-old Kit bounded up to Libby’s bedroom window. They’ve seen each other through first kisses, bad break-ups and everything in-between. It’s almost 20 years since Libby moved to Sydney, but they’ve remained close, despite the distance and the different paths their lives have taken.

So when Libby announces she’s moving back to Melbourne, Kit is overjoyed. They’re best friends – practically family – so it doesn’t matter that she and Libby now have different …well, different everything, actually, or so it seems when they’re finally living in the same city again.

Or does it?

Brenda’s Review:

Eleven-year-old Libby and her parents had had to sell their farm and move into the city. Woodvale in Melbourne was nothing like the family was used to, but it didn’t take Libby long to make friends. Kit lived over the road from Libby, and the very first day she had spotted Libby at her bedroom window, Kit declared they would be best friends forever. As they moved through school together, first primary then high school, their friendship didn’t falter. It was when Kit was in London that Libby met Cameron, married him and moved to Sydney.

Through letters, emails and long phone calls, the two friends remained close – it was twenty years later when both Libby and Kit were in their late thirties, and Libby’s son Harry was thirteen, that Cam announced he’d procured a top job in Melbourne. They were returning home.

Kit was ecstatic as was Libby. But would their friendship be the same? Kit was Harry’s godmother and thought the world of him, as he did her. But Libby’s life went a different way when she, Cam and Harry moved into Arcadia Lakes; a new, elite subdivision with elegant housing and much more. Keeping up with the wives of the executives was something which scared Libby half to death, but she would do it. But at what cost? Would Kit and Libby remain friends? Would their lifetime of friendship sustain any issues that might arise?

The Art of Friendship by Aussie author Lisa Ireland is a look at how people grow; how they change and how they remain the same. The difference between childhood friendships, and adult friendships is vast – that person you befriended as a child might not be one you’d befriend as an adult. But what happens when that friendship goes from childhood through to adulthood; when two people turn out to be vastly different from each other? The complexity of our lives – from being parents, to careers, basically to choices we make – is real and emotional. Lisa Ireland has tackled all issues in The Art of Friendship with sensitivity and she makes it very realistic. Highly recommended – 4 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for my ARC to read and review.

Two Reviews in One! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart: Holly Ringland

This book is so amazing it gets two reviews! 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holy Ringland

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9781460754337

 

Description:

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

 

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

 

 

My View:

This is a very very, very special read– unique; the sense of place, the credible, flawed characters (I have come across people who share some of the characteristics portrayed here), a narrative of such sadness juxtaposed against the overarching optimism of the prose, the way unique Indigenous stories and culture are woven into the narrative…I could continue to rave and rave.  But I won’t, this is a book you must read for yourself, with no spoilers and no hints of what awaits Alice’s life.

 READ IT.

 One more thing – the cover art is award winning!

 

Brenda’s Review:

The days when her father wasn’t home were the best of all for young Alice Hart. She and her mother would tend the garden together, finding a calm and peace that was never around when he was there. Alice adored her mother and was terrified of her father. But at nine years of age, a tragedy meant Alice had to live with her grandmother – a woman she had never met – on a flower farm a long way from the seaside that was the only home Alice had known.

Gradually Alice came to love the flowers and their meanings. The way they spoke when words were too hard. Learning the language of flowers created a peace within Alice – until her peace was shattered. With her heart broken, she fled the farm and all it had meant to her, driving without knowing where she was headed. Alice’s unexpected destination was deep in the Australian desert where the Sturt’s desert pea was prolific and filled with meaning.

Haunting and dangerous – that was her time in the middle of Australia. But would Alice ever find solace? Could she make peace with her past and finally look forward to the future?

Enchanting; heartbreaking; divine! Stunning; spectacular; poignant! What a debut! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is all that and more, by an Australian author I’ll be keeping an eye out for from now on! Holly Ringland’s debut novel is full of depth and emotion; the story of a young girl who had to find the strength to live a life which was so different from the one she had envisioned. The cover of the book is beautiful – I was drawn to it – the beginning of each chapter with the type of Australian native flower and its meaning adds more to the story. Holly Ringland has captured the essence of Australia, and I have no hesitation in recommending The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart highly. 5+ stars!

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read and review.

 

Guest Review: The Jade Lily – Kirsty Manning

The Jade Lily

The Jade Lily

Kirsty Manning

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760294793

Description:

In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century.

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself.

A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

 

Brenda’s Review:

It was 1938 and Romy Bernfeld was forced to flee Vienna with her parents after the Nazis began rounding up Jewish residents. Shanghai was a different city completely – bewildered and afraid, Romy found friendship with a neighbour, Li and her brother, while Romy’s mother was shattered and depressed. Her father, a doctor, began working at the local hospital. Gradually Romy found her way around the French Concession where they lived. But with the Japanese invasion, everything changed once again.

Alexandra Laird had returned to Melbourne, Australia to be with her Opa who was dying. It was 2016, and the thought of losing him devastated her – he and Oma (Wilhelm and Romy) had been there for her for as long as she could remember. Alexandra had no idea how she would cope when he was gone. Her transfer to Shanghai with work felt fortuitous – she could research her grandparents’ past while there. Oma had told her very little of what had happened during the war years.

But what would Alexandra find? Her search was frustrating, but as secrets came to light, she found more questions than answers…

The Jade Lily by Aussie author Kirsty Manning is my first by this author, and it won’t be my last! A thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction novel which was set mainly in Shanghai, with the narration in two timelines by both a young Romy and Alexandra; I couldn’t put it down. Heartbreaking, filled with hope, a lifetime of friendship, and masses of courage, The Jade Lily is one I highly recommend – 5 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof to read and review.