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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Review: Clean – Juno Dawson

Clean by Juno Dawson cover art

Clean

Juno Dawson

Hachette Children’s Books

Quercus

ISBN: 9781786540362

 

Description:

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter … it’s liquid gold.

 

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

 

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

 

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

 

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all…

 

It’s a dirty business getting clean…

 

 

My View:

The perfect read for YA and adult readers; issues that connect and resonate, flawed characters with redeeming features, a narrative that illuminates many contemporary social and mental health issues that you do not need to live a life of excess to appreciate.

 

And I should add – THE BEST cover art this year! I love the rose gold shimmer…the hypodermic needle punctuating the cover, leaving a drop of red blood. Such a great image. And a wonderful tactile experience holding this glossy, liquid gold book in your hand.

 

This is engaging reading taking you on a journey I hope you never need to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

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: 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.

 

Guest Review:The Kookaburra Creek Cafe – Sandie Docker

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House AU
ISBN: 9780143789192

Description:
Welcome to the Kookaburra Creek Cafe.

THE PAST
For Hattie, the cafe has been her refuge for the last fifty years – her second chance at a happy ending after her dreams of being a star were shattered. But will the ghosts of her past succeed in destroying everything she’s worked so hard to build?
THE PRESENT
For Alice, the cafe is her livelihood. After Hattie took her in as a teenager, Alice has slowly forged a quiet life as the cafe’s manager (and chief cupcake baker). But with so many tragedies behind her, is it too late for Alice’s story to have a happy ending?
THE FUTURE
For Becca, a teenager in trouble, the cafe could be the new start she yearns for. That is, if she can be persuaded to stop running from her secrets. Can Becca find a way to believe in the kindness of strangers, and accept that this small town could be the place where she finally belongs?
One small town. Three lost women. And a lifetime of secrets.

Brenda’s Review:
Alice and Louise had been best friends from the age of eleven. Alice was happy when she was with Louise, and she went to school to get away from her home. When tragedy struck, Alice drove away in the old beat up car that was her Dad’s – just drove until she could go no further. She was tired, hungry and grieving when Hattie found her and took her under her wing; Alice was sure she wouldn’t stay. But gradually Hattie, the Kookaburra Creek Café, and the community became home to her. And Alice discovered she could bake cupcakes – the best cupcakes in town.
Hattie had had a similar experience fifty years prior and Kookaburra Creek had been her saviour. Now Hattie knew Alice needed a second chance, just as she had. Gently and with care, Alice blossomed. But could Alice retain her peace and happiness?

And when a frightened young teenager turned up on the Café’s doorstep, Alice felt the past come back. Was Becca’s arrival a coincidence? Alice could see Becca was fragile and held many secrets close to her chest. Would Kookaburra Creek and the café give Becca the chance she needed?

The Kookaburra Creek Café is the debut novel by Aussie author Sandie Docker, and wow! What an excellent first novel! Initially, I was drawn to the cover – absolutely love it. Then the story drew me in and captivated me. Hattie, Alice and Becca’s stories are told gradually, with an easy to follow back-and-forth narration which set the tone of the book. Three wonderful characters in Hattie, Alice and Becca, and many excellent side characters make The Kookaburra Creek Café everything I wanted and more. Well done on an excellent debut Ms Docker! Highly recommended – 5 stars.

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

 

Guest Review: The Paris Seamstress – Natasha Lester

The Paris Seamstress

The Paris Seamstress

Natasha Lester

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9781760293963

Description:

How much will a young Parisian seamstress sacrifice to make her mark in the male-dominated world of 1940s New York fashion? From the bestselling author of A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD and HER MOTHER’S SECRET

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

Crossing generations, society’s boundaries and international turmoil, THE PARIS SEAMSTRESS is the beguiling, transporting story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Estella Bissette was a seamstress, working with her mother at the atelier in Paris. It was all she had known, having grown up with a needle in her hand and her mother’s fashion by her side. But Germany’s approach on France in 1940 saw Estella flee the only home she’d known, heading to Manhattan on the SS Washington – the last American ship to leave French waters.

When Fabienne Bissette arrived in Manhattan from Sydney for the Gala of her grandmother, Estella’s work in 2015, she was once again shocked at how her grandmother had aged. Ninety-seven years of age, she was frail – but her strength of mind and love for her granddaughter shone through.

But the recent death of her father had made Fabienne realise there were things she didn’t know about her family history – about her grandmother’s past. Would Estella explain it all to Fabienne? Or was it destined to remain in the past?

The Paris Seamstress by Aussie author Natasha Lester is, in my humble opinion, this author’s best novel to date. Based on fact (some of the characters existed, as do the buildings, some of which are central to the story); I feel at a loss to voice my thoughts…

‘When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.’

What can I say? This is a deeply emotional book which is heartbreaking, while being filled with courage and love; of secrets that were necessary during the German occupation of France – I don’t think I have ever read a book so profound and which made me feel so much. An outstanding novel which just makes me say to the author – Bravo! A 5 star recommendation.

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