Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's Sunday/Monday: Check-In Time



Linking up with The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and It's Monday! What are You Reading? hosted by Sheila from Book JourneyIn Sheila's absence, share your Monday post on twitter #IMWAYR.

On the home front:
You might have noticed I've been MIA the last few weeks. Between my own appointments and the last 10 days with my little granddaughter very sick the days have been filled with doctors, hospital visits and helping out. What started out as strep throat turned out to be Influenza A for poor little Mia. My daughter-in-law is also sick and unfortunately timing being what it is, my son was doing a 3 week work swing to make up for his time off with illness ... tough all round. 

My blog had to take a back seat for a while but I'm looking forward to catch up visits and commenting. Fingers crossed things are a little less chaotic this coming week.  

Scrapbook retreat seems like so long ago now, but I'll post some photos of layouts next week.  

#FitReaders Weekly Check-In


 
#FitReaders co-hosted by Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and Jen @ That’s What I’m Talking AboutFitReaders is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and it's more fun having bloggy friends to check in with. If you also have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :)  

Even though I've hardly checked in this month I've been doing ok with the step goals and I'm in again for September ... full steam ahead.  

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 16,615 steps 
Tue: 7145 steps
Wed: 5125 steps
Thurs: 11,355 steps ~ walk
Fri: 6105 steps
Sat: 8155 steps ~ walk
Sun: 11,011 steps ~ long walk

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Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

THE BEAST'S GARDEN by Kate Forsyth ~ Kate's storytelling is a rare gift. Loved this one. Thanks Kate for your lovely email and understanding when I was unable to post my review on time.

BLACK-EYED SUSANS by Julia Heaberlin ~ OMG 5 star psychological thriller. Favourite this year!!

WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh ~ crushing on this author!

THE COLOR OF LIGHT by Emilie Richards (Goddesses Anonymous #4) ~ I adore this series.

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Finished last week: (the last 3 weeks)

IF YOU ONLY KNEW by Kristan Higgins ~ loved it!

THE SECRET YEARS by Barbara Hannay ~ wonderful historical/contemp fiction

THE LITTLE FLOWER SHOP BY THE SEA by Ali McNamara (audiobook) ~ great listen

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This Week's Reading List: 



THE PARIS KEY by Juliet Blackwell ~ page 75

THE DANCE BEGINS by Diane Chamberlain ~ short story prequel to Pretending to Dance


LONE STAR by Paullina Simons (audibook)

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Reviews Coming: 

ALMOST FRENCH by Sarah Turnball (audiobook) ~ loved it

ON RUE TATIN: LIVING AND COOKING IN A FRENCH TOWN by Susan Herrmann Loomis ~ wonderful for anyone dreaming of living in France

THE PRECIOUS ONE by Marisa de los Santos (audiobook) ~ messy family stuff at its best!

THE WATER DIVINER by Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios (audiobook) ~ I bawled my eyes out! 



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Beast's Garden
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 3rd August 2015
Pages: 512
Book Source:  Author, Random House AU & NetGalley

Synopsis: It's August 1939 in Germany, and Ava's world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler's spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.

Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him. 

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo's hang in the balance. 

Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast's Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers' 'Beauty and The Beast', is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

My Thoughts: 
Kate Forsyth is one of my 'keeper' authors, a favourite author whose storytelling is a rare gift. Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl will always have my heart but The Beast's Garden was another beautiful addition to her repertoire. 

The Beast's Garden is a retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark, a Grimm Brothers' variant of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. I love fairy tales, and I adore retellings ... they keep our love of fairy tales alive for generations to come, inspiring us to share both the traditional and re-imagined with our children and grandchildren. 

The Beast's Garden had a slightly different feel to previous works, the historical story line extensively researched, as always, but the fairytale re-imagining, more subtle, delicately woven.

The main characters and their families are fictional but the rest of the cast are actual historical figures. 

The story opens on Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass and young German woman Ava Falkenhorst races to aid close family friends, the Feidels. Ava encounters Leo von Löwenstein, an officer in the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service and their story begins ...

Kate is very respectful of the history; the terrible atrocities committed against the Jewish population and I really appreciated the fresh perspective and focus on the many Germans who were part of the resistance, actively working to bring down Hitler and the Nazi regime. Admiral Canaris, chief of the Abwehr and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra resistance group, to name just a few. 

This tale of love, courage and resistance was everything I expected ... and more.


Wonderful blog post from Kate ... insight into the birth of The Beast's Garden.


Connect with Kate Forsyth:


Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: 26th August 2015
Pages: 368
Book Source: Penguin Australia & NetGalley


Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars - or so she thought.

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa's bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.

Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter's safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it's too late?

My Thoughts:
HOLY guacamole this was BRILLIANT, a 2015 favourite read. It's intelligent, edgy and tight ... the very best kind of psychological thriller. Even the title and cover art is creepy good. 

Tessa is the only surviving victim of the Black-Eyed Susans serial killer. The story moves seamlessly between past and present, teenage Tessie and adult Tessa almost 2 decades on, with a teenage daughter of her own. 

Tessa's fragmented memories and growing desperation added wings to my own anxiety and as the murderer's execution loomed the sense of urgency grew. Was he wrongfully convicted?

Black-Eyed Susans had my skin crawling with dread, there's no graphic violence but the suspense almost killed me. My thoughts were jumping as erratically as my heart. So true about the sense of smell and memories. Such visceral reactions to Heaberlin's writing ... LOVE that. 

I had my suspicions and I was correct (to a point) but the author's skill with misdirection. Wow, talk about amping the suspense. I was all over the place. 

What more could you ask for? ... superb characterisation, gorgeous writing, the forensic science/DNA, psychological and legal aspect all fascinating, obviously well researched and executed brilliantly. 

I'd laughed, something close to the way I used to, and imagined it drifting out under the bedroom door, smoothing out a tight wrinkle in my father's face. 

I can't wait to read more from Julia Heaberlin!

Recommend: an unputdownable read


Connect with Julia Heaberlin

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Title: We Never Asked for Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 18th August 2015
Pages: 320
Book Source: Random House Publishing & NetGalley

Synopsis: For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty's parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
 
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she's worked for and her family's fragile hopes for the future.
 
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My Thoughts:
It must be a daunting task to follow on from the success of a first novel like The Language of Flowers (which I adored beyond words.) Blood, sweat and tears were obviously poured into this story, you can feel it. Wings may not have quite the same charm as flowers but it's quirky with Diffenbaugh's trademark beautiful prose and take, on timely social issues. I couldn't put it down.

When Letty's undocumented parents abruptly return to Mexico, 33 year old Letty Espinosa finally steps up to 'mother' her 15 year old son Alex, and 6 year old Luna, a precocious child who would have even the Mother-Theresa-of-mothers, tearing her hair out.  

The story alternates between Letty's perspective and Alex's. I cared about all the characters. The burden of responsibility on Alex's young shoulders made my heart ache. Letty isn't an easy character to like, she's hardened with a long history of poor choices and when those poor choices involved her children, I really didn't think I'd connect with her. But Diffenbaugh writes flawed characters with truth and compassion ... I was drawn in, I began to understand and empathise rather than judge. And then I cheered as she chose a new path and made changes. 

"Migrating birds reorient themselves at sunset. The exact reason is unknown, but at twilight, just when the sun drops beyond the horizon line, birds flying in the wrong direction correct their paths all at once". 

I liked the parallel between migrating birds and people correcting mistakes and their paths. And I loved the science and memory in feathers (who'd have thought) ... being a little cryptic here as you just have to read this yourself.

We Never Asked For Wings highlights not only the struggles for undocumented immigrants but the differences between the haves and the have-nots, poverty, education and housing opportunities, bullying. But, it also illustrates the innate goodness of people, the kind of goodness that restores your faith and ignites that little spark of hope.  

It's a story about family and choices and finding your true place. Mistakes don't have to define you. Choosing a new path takes courage but brings hope for a different future.

“'I love it,' Letty said, kissing Luna's cherry lips and wondering how a half-eaten lollipop could somehow taste like a reason to stay.”

I think the ending would have benefited from a few more pages but I'm seriously crushing on Vanessa Diffenbaugh's writing. 

Connect with Vanessa Diffenbaugh











Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: The Color of Light by Emilie Richards

Title: The Color of Light
Author: Emilie Richards
Genre: Women's Fiction
Series: Goddesses Anonymous #4
Publication Date: 28th July 2015
Pages: 496
Book Source: Harlequin Mira & NetGalley

Synopsis: The deeper the darkness, the brighter the light 

For more than a decade minister Analiese Wagner has felt privileged to lead her parishioners along a well-lit path. Her commitment has never been seriously tested until the frigid night she encounters a homeless family huddling in the churchyard. Offering them shelter in a vacant parish house apartment and taking teenage Shiloh Fowler—a girl desperate to rescue her parents—under her wing, she tests the loyalty and faith of her congregation. 

Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor and the man she secretly longed for, understands her struggles only too well. At a crossroads, he's suddenly reappeared in her life, torn between his priesthood and his growing desire for a future with Analiese. 

Divided between love and vows they've taken, both must face the possibilities of living very different lives or continuing to serve their communities. With a defeated family's trust and her own happiness on the line, Analiese must define for herself where darkness ends and light begins.

My Thoughts:
This is one of my favourite series, Emilie Richards' signature poignant style hasn't disappointed and The Color of Light is no exception. 

I loved seeing Reverend Analiese 'Ana' Wagner get her own story, she's been there from the beginning of the series providing wise counsel to previous main characters. Obviously given her calling, The Color of Light is quite spiritual but it's not preachy, which I appreciated. 

Emilie Richards highlights the demands, rewards and struggles of a minister dealing with the many personalities in a congregation, some not so christian attitudes, juggling work and private life. 

Enter Isaiah, a Catholic Jesuit priest, Analeise's former mentor and old friend. Richards explores their relationship with sensitivity and respect as they wrestle with issues of faith and heart. 

Homelessness is at the core of The Color of Light and the fate of the Fowler family Reverend Ana has invited to stay in the parish apartment. The relationship between Ana and 14 year old Shiloh was really special and highlighted Ana's realness as well as her sense of humour. 

Reverend Ana's gift is compassion; providing assistance and support to those in need while encouraging self respect and independence. But seeing her very human side was such a delight ... her frustration as she urges the committee to put people before church. I liked seeing her 'fire up' ... showing not only her compassion which she has in spades, but her passion. 


"I will help the Fowlers pitch their tent in the churchyard again, right where I found them the first time. Hopefully there will be a huge star shining in the sky, even if we can't count on a single wise man."


If I was part of a church I'd want the minister to be Reverend Ana.

Warmth and compassion dance on the page. 
Thank you Emilie Richards for another beautiful instalment.

One Mountain Away ~ 5 star sobfest
Somewhere Between Luck and Trust ~ 4.5 star
No River Too Wide ~ 4.5



Connect with Emilie Richards









Monday, August 10, 2015

It's Sunday/Monday: Check-In Time



Linking up with The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and It's Monday! What are You Reading? hosted by Sheila from Book JourneyIn Sheila's absence, share your Monday post on twitter #IMWAYR.

On the home front:
Great week for awesome reads and family stuff, not so great on the sleeping or blogging side of things. I walked to keep my mind off pain (sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't.) Shame the extra hours awake didn't translate into reviews nailed but I like to leave myself room for improvement ;)

Back to the specialist this week, hope he's got something else in his bag of tricks because what he's offered up lately sucks.  And yay scrapbook camp at the end of the week, hoping my hands play nice, I'd like to exercise something other than my mouth! I don't have anything organised so maybe I won't be reading lol.

We had a fun day at the Ekka (QLD Royal Show) with DIL and granddaughter. She loved the huge animal nursery, I think it's my favourite part of the show too. As a little thing I grew up on a farm and I still love feeding the baby animals :)


 I don't go on these spinning rides any more but I love to take photos of the pretty ones and this vintage chairswing is just gorgeous


 clowns normally creep me out. this one, not so much :)










my favourite food at the Ekka is the Strawberry Sundae. To-die-for icecream. All profits go to the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation so it's a good excuse to eat more than one 


#FitReaders Weekly Check-In


 
#FitReaders co-hosted by Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and Jen @ That’s What I’m Talking AboutFitReaders is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and it's more fun having bloggy friends to check in with. If you also have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :)  

Great week for me, 10,000 steps over target and Bella was doing a happy dance :)

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 11,020 steps ~ walk with Bella
Tue: 11,002 steps ~ walk with Bella
Wed: 7080 steps 
Thurs: 9040 steps ~ walk with Bella
Fri: 12,022 steps ~ walk at the Ekka 
Sat: 7082 steps ~ walk with Bella
Sun: 9177 steps ~ walk with Bella

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Giveaway:

Winners of HEART OF THE COUNTRY by Tricia Stringer


Australia - Mary Preston
         - Joyful Jo
International - Mystica

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Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE'S SORRY by Erik Backman ~ a treasure chest of life lessons wrapped up in imagination, warmth and humour. 

PARIS IN JULY WRAP UP ~ Merci Beaucoup Tamara

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Finished last week:

Gee I love weeks like this ... all 4.5 and 5 stars

THE BEAST'S GARDEN by Kate Forsyth ~ I love Kate Forsyth, beautiful and heartwrenching. Blog tour review 25th Aug

BLACK-EYED SUSANS by Julia Heaberlin ~ OMG 5 star thriller!!

ALMOST FRENCH by Sarah Turnball (audiobook) ~ loved it :)

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This Week's Reading List: 


THE SECRET YEARS by Barbara Hannay

IF YOU ONLY KNEW by Kristan Higgins

THE LITTLE FLOWER SHOP BY THE SEA by Ali McNamara (audiobook)

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Reviews Coming: 

THE COLOR OF LIGHT by Emilie Richards (Goddesses Anonymous #4) ~ I adore this series.

WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh ~ crushing on this author!

ON RUE TATIN: LIVING AND COOKING IN A FRENCH TOWN by Susan Herrmann Loomis ~ wonderful for anyone dreaming of living in France

THE PRECIOUS ONE by Marisa de los Santos (audiobook) ~ messy family stuff at its best!

THE CANTERBURY SISTERS by Kim Wright 

THE WATER DIVINER by Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios (audiobook) ~ I bawled my eyes out!