Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Audiobook Reviews: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty and Leaving Home by Jodi Picoult

Title: The Last Anniversary
Author: Liane Moriarty
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 3rd March 2014 (1st published 2005)
Time: 14hrs 55mins
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Book Source: Library borrow - Borrow Box

Synopsis: "I'll tell you something, something important. Love is a decision. Not a feeling. That's what you young people don't realise. That's why you're always off divorcing each other. No offence, dear."

So decrees the formidable Connie Thrum of Scribbly Gum Island. She is the chief decision-maker of a rather unconventional family and her word is law. It's been over 70 years since Connie and her sister Rose visited their neighbours and found the kettle boiling and a baby waking for her feed, but no sign of her parents. The 'Munro Baby Mystery' still hasn't been solved and tourists can visit the abandoned home, exactly as it was found in 1932.

But now Connie has passed away and the island residents ponder her legacy. Sophie Honeywell is looking down the barrel of her 40th birthday and still hoping for that fairytale ending. Her beautiful new friend Grace, the Munro Baby's grand daughter, can't tell anyone what she hopes for. It would be too shocking.

Meanwhile, a frumpy housewife makes a pact with a stranger, an old lady starts making her own decisions and a family secret finally explodes on an extraordinary night of mulled wine, fire-eating, and face-painting -  The Last Anniversary.

My Thoughts:
The Husband's Secret was a favourite read in 2013, I also really enjoyed What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies, but The Last Anniversary ... not so much. Liane Moriarty is a fave Australian author so believe me I really wanted to like this one more. I think being one of her earlier novels it fell short in comparison to her newer work and my high expectations.  

I figured out the Munro Baby 'mystery' fairly early which didn't really bother me as I thought I'd be pulled in to the lives and relationships of this eccentric extended 'family'. Sadly, few held my interest. I normally find eccentric, odd, quirky quite endearing but many of the characters felt two dimensional and some were just plain horrid. 

What I did like was Moriarty's addressing of post natal depression and the crushing actions some inflict on those they purportedly love. 

As always, Caroline Lee does a wonderful job with narration but it pains me to say that just wasn't enough to get this one over the line. 

Don't let me put you off, from a quick look at reviews on Goodreads you either love or loathe The Last Anniversary and it won't put me off reading more of Moriarty's backlist while I wait for a new book to hit shelves. 

Title: Leaving Home
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Non-Fiction/Short Story
Publication Date: 18th October 2011 
Time: 1hr 25mins
Narrator: Jodi Picoult
Book Source: Library borrow - Borrow Box

Synopsis: Leaving Home brings together three, previously published short pieces, each dealing with a variation on the theme of leaving home.

The first, "Weights and Measures," deals with the tragic loss of a child; the second is a non-fiction letter Picoult wrote to her eldest son as he left for college; and, "Ritz" tells the story of a mother who takes the vacation all mothers need sometime.

Jodi Picoult has the remarkable ability to portray an event's key moments and feelings in a potent narration that tugs at the heartstrings.

Leaving Home's three emotionally charged stories deal with a gamut of pain, regret, unconditional love, memory, motherhood, and friendship that the author renders almost palpably. 

My Thoughts:
Leaving Home packs a big emotional punch for such a small package. Three short pieces on the theme of leaving home in one way or another. At just 1hr and 25mins, it's a super quick listen beautifully narrated by the author.   

Weights and Measures: opens with "The loudest sound in the world is the absence of a child." This could not be more true. Parents grieving the loss of their child, there is no worse pain. I was in tears for much of this story, the loss of my daughter forever changed me. I thought the symbolism of growing from or being reduced by loss, interesting but with or without it, the pain resonated. 

Jodi Picoult's letter to her son as he left home for college was beautiful and very touching ... I shed a few more tears. She recalls his arrival in the world, her love, fears, hopes and dreams for him, advice and life lessons. You raise a child to send them off into the world but I don't think I was quite so brave when my youngest son moved out of home.  

Ritz: the story of a mother who runs away from home takes a vacation on her own, told from the perspective of her 15 year old daughter. I understood the overwhelmed, unappreciated feeling, wanting to escape responsibilities but the way this mother just upped and left was not a 'vacation' it was a little cruel. Everyone needs 'me' time and yes the family coped with her unplanned absence but for me the end didn't justify the means. And the father mentioned things that had me thinking there was more going on but the length of the story prevented exploration of it. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. 

On the home front: 
Last week was a busy one, the usual stuff and still making a birthday present for youngest son's 21st, a lovely midweek catch up with friend and author Sherryl Caulfied (Iceberg Trilogy) which involved a 5km walk and yummy breakfast. Reviews and blog visits were thin on the ground but I did get a couple of reviews scheduled for this week ... and if I stop reading for another week I might actually get caught up HA

I finally had the nerve conduction tests on my hands but have to wait until later in the week for results. Still hanging in there with the gluten-free thing until I get those results. My gorgeous granddaughter came for her regular sleepover and we had a lovely couple of hours at the park.

what a joy this little sweetpea is

watch out nonna, I'll be running soon

Tomorrow it's been 7 years since mum passed away from Nodular Melanoma so I'm heading back to Toowoomba to take her some flowers and then catch up with a friend of 25 years. As usual around mum's anniversary I'm on my soapbox to say please please get your skin checked, including your scalp. The Melanoma awareness campaign is huge but many people are still unaware of the relatively innocent looking but very dangerous Nodular Melanoma (mum's was pink and on her scalp so it looked very much like a pimple. She didn't get much time and was sadly in the 2% that die from a stage I melanoma) 
Skin checks peeps xx


Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans ~ loved it, took me straight to Scotland


Finished last week:

absolutely nothing 


This Week's Reading List: 

Same as last week . Maybe I'll get through an audiobook while driving?

A DESPERATE FORTUNE by Susanna Kearsley ~ 15% done

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity #2) ~ audiobook


Reviews Coming:

LEAVING HOME by Jodi Picoult (audiobook) ~ three short pieces on the subject of leaving home. Review Wed

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) ~ review Wed

CONSPIRACY GIRL by Sarah Alderson ~ my first Sarah Alderson and I really enjoyed it. 

GREAT-GRANDMA'S GIFTS by Marianne Jones ~ sweet little children's story

TELL THE TRUTH by Katherine Howell (Ella Marconi #8) ~ great installment, sad it's the last in the Ella Marconi series ... for now. I'm not ready for goodbye! 

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand (audiobook) ~ a departure from Cynthia Hand's usual, very moving. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#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 :) 

Huge day on Wednesday with a long walk with friend and author Sherryl Caulfield (Iceberg Trilogy), a long walk with Bella and stress walking while on the phone to Optus (the more frustrated I got the faster I walked lol a far better alternative to ripping someone's head off.) On Thursday everything ached.

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 13,146 steps 
Tue: 6226 steps
Wed: 23,210 steps ~ 5km walk with friend, walk with Bella
Thurs: 9613 steps 
Fri: 8960 steps 
Sat: 5199 steps ~ short walk with granddaughter to the park
Sun: 4500 steps

standing on her own 9 1/2 months ... won't be long & she'll be running

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

Title: Wild Wood
Author: Posie Graeme-Evans
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 1st April 2015
Pages: 454
Book Source: Simon & Schuster AU

Synopsis: Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in 1981, all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motorbike.

In a London hospital, temporarily unable to speak, she uses her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never seen, people from another time—a castle, a man in medieval armour. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, one that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord and passed down to the noble Dieudonn√© family, a clan honored and burdened with the task of protecting England’s dangerous northern border in the fourteenth century. Jesse holds the key to the castle’s many secrets and its connection to the mystical legend of the Lady of the Forest.

Somehow Hundredfield, with its history of darkness and light, of bloody battles won and lost, will help Jesse find her true lineage. In a world where the tales of old are just a heartbeat away, there are no accidents. There is only fate.

My Thoughts:
I fell in love with Posie Graeme-Evans' writing almost 10 years ago after reading her War of the Roses trilogy. The cover of Wild Wood called my name, blessed by the cover fairies with what looks to me like Eilean Donan Castle. Then of course I noticed the author's name and when I finally read the synopsis, I was sold. And not disappointed ... this Australian author's writing has evolved over the years and Wild Wood is a beautifully refined story, compelling and evocative. 

"The past bleeds into the present."

A dual narrative, separated by centuries, distinct but slowly merging as the threads of past and present unlock long-held secrets ...

1321 in the borderlands, the story unfolds at the Norman stronghold Hundredfield, held by Godefroi, eldest of the three Dieudonn√© brothers. The story is narrated by the youngest, Bayard. I loved his character; battle-hardened knight, his strength, compassion and sensitivity endearing traits. 

1981 Jesse Mayard's world is rocked when she learns she is adopted and leaves her home in Sydney, Australia determined to discover the truth, and herself. Heading for Jedburgh in Scotland, fate intervenes bringing Jesse and Alicia and her neurologist friend Rory Brandon together, setting Jesse on the path to Hundredfield.

In a dual time line story I normally find one story appeals more than the other but with Wild Wood I was equally intrigued by both. I was immediately hooked on Bayard's narration, page-turning, breath-holding reading, the setting and times, violent, harsh and unforgiving. Jesse's narration was a quieter pulling, until Hundredfield exerted its influence. 

Wild Wood has its faults but maybe visiting Scotland gave the story and Hundredfield a whole lot more 'feel' ... history literally seeps from the walls of these ancient castles and ruins, it can be quite emotionally overwhelming. It was lovely to revisit that feeling with Wild Wood. 

History, dark secrets, legend and superstition create a haunting tale. And now I look forward to the author's new writing venture ... The Outer Sea. Write faster Posie :)

Cover: I'm in love.

Eilean Donan ~ photos taken Nov 2014

Connect with Posie Graeme-Evans

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila!

Keeping Sheila and her family in my thoughts and prayers. Sending hugs across the miles xx

On the home front: 
I posted a few reviews last week. I'm by no means caught up but hey I posted. And I'm not adding much to my reading list this week as time will be limited. Another busy week with appointments and getting stuff done for my son's 21st. 

My reward for being good ... I'm off to watch Game of Thrones and then Outlander and then ... that's it, I haven't been that good. 

#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 :) 

Step average was on target but I didn't take Bella for any walks and she is not happy about that!  

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 6103 steps
Tue:  14,295 steps
Wed:  9568 steps
Thurs: 6033 steps 
Fri:  13,724 steps 
Sat: 5491 steps 
Sun: 5133 steps 


Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran ~ review and giveaway

INSIDE THE O'BRIEN'S by Lisa Genova ~ education and awareness gently wrapped in humour and heart. 

LAST CALL by Alice Clayton (Cocktail #5) ~ short & sweet guest review by Karen


Finished last week:

CONSPIRACY GIRL by Sarah Alderson ~ my first Sarah Alderson and I really enjoyed it. 



This Week's Reading List: 

A DESPERATE FORTUNE by Susanna Kearsley

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity #2) ~ audiobook


Reviews Coming:

WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans ~ great time slip novel

GREAT-GRANDMA'S GIFTS by Marianne Jones ~ sweet little children's story

LEAVING HOME by Jodi Picoult (audiobook) ~ three short pieces on the subject of leaving home. 

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty (audiobook)

TELL THE TRUTH by Katherine Howell (Ella Marconi #8) ~ great installment, sad it's the last in the Ella Marconi series ... for now. I'm not ready for goodbye! 

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand (audiobook) ~ a departure from Cynthia Hand's usual, very moving. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran ~ Review & Giveaway

Title: Scent of Triumph: A Novel of Perfume and Passion
Author: Jan Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 31st March 2015
Pages: 384
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Synopsis: When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.

Through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

My Thoughts:
The story opens as England declares itself at war with Germany. The WWII setting is what initially appealed to me, England, France, Poland but Scent of Triumph is actually more sweeping family drama and one woman's determination to provide and care for her remaining family after facing great tragedy. 

Danielle is a fiercely determined, clever, hard-working, resilient woman and I admired that about her but I didn't always feel an emotional connection with her. I'm not sure how to explain it, it might be that I wasn't quite so enamored once Danielle was living in Los Angeles. Despite tragic losses she seemed so cool and removed and focused, I actually felt the distance but when Danielle was immersed in creating a perfume she came alive to me. 

I thought parts of the story were a little predictable and I'll also be honest and say I found the ending disingenuous. Despite these points there was much to love. 

I loved Danielle's mother-in-law Sophia and her small but significant, and lasting part, her courage really touched me. I liked Jon, and Jon and Danielle together, it was so frustratingly obvious they were meant for each other and I wanted to shake both of them for the misunderstandings. 

I loved the artistry, history and tradition of perfumery, I felt Danielle's love for the creative process, the trial and error composition and design of a new perfume. I loved Moran's descriptions of the Bretancourt family perfumery gardens in Grasse, so beautiful I want to visit. I loved how Moran's writing appealed to my senses, I could smell what she was describing, my mouth actually watered at the "sweet, buttery scent of the boulangerie in Grasse where they bought croissants ..." and the perfume aspect gave the book a very sensual feel. 

"She waved blotter strips of paper under her nose, then made notes in her journal. Too much bergamot in this one, too tart; no depth in this one; bring forward the orange blossom in another."

"She inhaled again, going farther, detecting the bouquet of jasmine and rose, rich and silky, entwined with a spicy note of carnation, adding verve and vitality, robust brilliance. It needs a splash of complexity here, a sprig of basil there, an accent of clove."

Overall, Scent of Triumph was a little different from what I was expecting but a lovely, entertaining read. 

Cover: cover fairy worked on this one ... it's beautiful!  

Follow Tour Schedule 
Twitter Hashtag: #ScentofTriumphBlogTour

Connect with Jan Moran

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Tour Wide Giveaway:
To enter to win a signed copy of Scent of Triumph, please complete the giveaway form below.

Giveaway starts on April 1st at 12:01am EST and ends at 11:59pm EST on April 17th.
Giveaway is open to residents in the US only and you must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 18th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Review: Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Title: Inside the O'Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 7th April 2015
Pages: 352
Book Source: Simon & Schuster AU

Synopsis: Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

My Thoughts:
I thought Still Alice was brilliant, it affected me deeply and when I saw Inside the O'Brien's was about Huntington's Disease I had to read it. 

Towards the end of my nursing training, a friend and housemate faced the nightmare of Huntington's Disease when her father was diagnosed. She was one of ten children. I lost touch with her when she moved away physically and emotionally but her family has often been in my thoughts and over the years as I've belatedly come across funeral notices for her father and 3 siblings my heart aches that I didn't try harder.   

Once again Lisa Genova writes what she knows with great heart. I'd almost say head and heart is trademark Lisa Genova. And maybe I'd add in humour and hope because despite the evil bastard that is Huntington's Disease, Genova's message in this fatal hereditary neurodegenerative disease is ultimately one of hope. 

The O'Brien's are an Irish Catholic family in Boston. 44 year old police officer Joe, his wife Rosie and their four adult children, Patrick, JJ, Meghan, and Katie. Inside the O'Briens is so much more than Huntington's Disease, it's an ordinary family making extraordinary decisions, facing something with extraordinary courage. It's about hopes and dreams, coming together in adversity and in celebration, life, love, faith, laughs, flaws, weaknesses, pain, loss, guilt, happiness, suffering, joy; all the ordinary things that make a family. It truly is about ... a million other things that have nothing to do with HD.

Thoughts running through my head ...

a 50/50 chance ... beyond terrifying. could I live "at risk" or would I want to know?

ignoring it, accepting it, denying it, worrying it to death wouldn't make the 50/50 any less or more ... it is what it is, regardless. 

the dread and fear would eat me up, making me 100% miserable. That's not living.

I'd have to know

"We're going to learn how to live and die with HD from you, Dad" *sob* what a horrific disease. HD really is an evil monster

I admire Joe's approach to HD "Stay in the Fight ... Stay in the Pose" 

I keep thinking about another book I've read about this disease, Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger ... I cried buckets, I understood the choice made. That story has stayed with me over the years.  

Inside the O'Briens is education and awareness gently wrapped in humour and heart.  

Connect with Lisa Genova