Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell Review

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a heart-jerker of a book. It’s a book so poignant and enjoyable that I had to invent a word for it. Right from the beginning, I fell in love with this book and I read it like my life depended on it.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, ISBN 9781250012579, 328pp

Set in the 80s, it tells the story of two teenagers Eleanor and Park who sit together on the school bus each day and go from not acknowledging each other to bonding over comics and music and then something deeper.

But life is complicated for Eleanor as the new kid in school. She battles with a poor body image and her red hair, terrible clothes and weight makes her a target for bullies at school. Life at home is just as bad as she has an abusive stepfather and is living in poverty.

Park has a great family but battles with his identity and what it means to be half Korean. He is also the son of a Vietnam vet and struggles to measure up to his dad’s expectations.

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The Wintercombe Series by Pamela Belle Review

If you are looking for a great historical fiction series packed with intrigue, family issues and a little bit of romance, then I have the series for you. I first discovered the Wintercombe series by Pamela Belle about fifteen years ago. I picked up Wintercombe in a second-hand book store and then later its sequel Herald of Joy. I lost both books in a house move and then spent years trying to find them again. To my delight, I discovered that both books were available as ebooks this year and I bought them immediately. And I also discovered book three A Falling Star and book four Treason’s Gift.

Wintercombe is set during the English civil war in the 17th century and tells the story of its namesake, Wintercombe, a beautiful manor house in Somerset where Puritan Lady Silence St Barbe lives with her two step-children Rachael and Nathaniel and three children Tabitha, Deb and William. Her Parliamentarian husband is off fighting in the war. Silence is the perfect Puritan wife to her much older husband and lives a quiet, godly existence.

The English Civil war has been raging for two years when a detachment of Cavaliers is sent to garrison at this country house. Not having anywhere to take her children, and not wishing to let her house and beloved gardens be destroyed by the enemy in her absence, Silence elects to stay for the occupation.

Captain Nick Hellier is the second-in-command of the enemy Royalist soldiers and is, at first, not someone Silence is willing to trust. But compared to the brutish Lieutenant-Colonel Ridgeley who is evil incarnate, Captain Hellier is mild mannered. He soon becomes someone Silence can go to for help, despite being an enemy, as he does his best to protect her and the children from Ridgeley’s wrath. Amidst all the turmoil of war, Silence begins to break free from the constraints around her and allow music, laughter and love into her life in the form of Nick. Continue reading

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare: A Review

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare, Kindle edition, published August 2017, purchased from Amazon

This is a quickie review for a satisfying and entertaining historical romance ebook I read in under 24 hours. The Duchess Deal is the latest release from Tessa Dare, an author who I happily stumbled upon a couple of years ago. Since then I have read all her books. Yes, there are steamy sex scenes in The Duchess Deal as per this genre and there is also a feisty heroine and a physically and mentally scarred Duke, but there are also laughs, drama and romance which is what always keeps me coming back to this genre when I just want a fun read.

Set in London sometime after the Battle of Waterloo, The Duchess Deal tells the story of a brooding, scarred from battle, Duke of Ashbury (a kind of beast-like figure) who was cruelly abandoned by his fiancée due to his disfigurement and has become a recluse. He is not the nicest of men as a result and drives his servants crazy by being demanding, rude and never leaving the house. But Ashbury decides it is time he does his duty to the title and find a wife to impregnate and then send off to a house in the country once she is with child. Afterall, who could love a hideous beast like him? Continue reading

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns
The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns, ISBN 9781489241153, 432pp, pub Oct 2017

The Greatest Gift is the latest fiction release from Rachael Johns, an Australian author with a lot of fans in both the rural romance and women’s fiction (a phrase that bugs me, shouldn’t it just be fiction?) category. This book fits into the latter category. I picked this up because I was curious to see if I would like a new author and because the subject matter intrigued me.

The Greatest Gift is set in Sydney and the Hunter Valley in NSW and tells the story of two very different couples. Harper and Samuel Drummond are a career-driven married couple who don’t want children. Harper works as a successful radio host and Samuel is a lawyer who works long hours. Claire and Jasper Lombard are a married couple who run a hot air balloon business and would love a baby  but a bout of cancer as a child has left Claire infertile.

Harper begins to feel like something is missing in her life and when she interviews another couple who got pregnant after years of trying, thanks to an egg donor, she believes she’s found her purpose. She will give someone the greatest gift of all. Continue reading

The Break by Marian Keyes: A Review

The Break cover
The Break by Marian Keyes, Kindle edition, 568 pp

Reading a Marian Keyes novel is like having a cosy chat over a bottle of wine with a girlfriend you only see every few years. There are laughs, the occasional tear, secrets shared, milestones celebrated and losses commiserated. I’ve read every one of Marian’s novels over the years. They have taken me through my twenties and into my thirties and have never disappointed.

The Break is Marian Keyes’s latest novel. Set in Dublin and London, it tells the story of Amy O’Connell, a 44 year old mother of two girls (and carer of a niece) who works in PR and is married to the dependable Hugh. She is part of a large, nosey family, has a ‘portfolio of friends’, and is on her second marriage. Suddenly Hugh decides he needs to take a break by himself in the form of a six month trip to South East Asia. But he doesn’t just want a break from Ireland. He wants a break from his marriage. What follows is the before, during and after effects of this decision on their marriage and family.

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Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (ISBN 9780575096622, 352pp, May 2013)
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (ISBN 9780575096622, 352pp, May 2013)

It’s all over. OVER! After years of dedicated reading, I’ve just finished the final Sookie Stackhouse book. Thirteen books and it’s finally done. Without wanting to spoil it for others, I know the ending I wanted and it is not the ending I got. But it was the ending that I knew was coming. It’s the ending that makes the most sense, but the ending that seems to have sent people on goodreads into the depths of despair.

I loved this series but only loyalty had me reading the last few books. The story seemed to lose its way in its quest to stretch out to thirteen installments. Still, I will remember all the great writing that had me eagerly anticipating each installment. Who would have thought that a waitress called Sookie Stackhouse with telepathic powers and a love of tanning could make such fantastic reading? Add in vampires, werewolves, fairies, maenads, witches, shapeshifters, werepanthers, weretigers, demons and zealots and it was a recipe for a whole lot of fun.

Thank goodness I still have the TrueBlood HBO series to watch or else I would be distraught about saying good-bye to Sookie.

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes Review

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Kindle edition, 516 pages, pub Dec 2011)
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Kindle edition, 516 pages, pub Dec 2011)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a very misleading book. The title suggests a light, fluffy romance, which is backed up by a pink cover that gives nothing away. Nor does the book’s blurb. Lou Clark is a twenty-something woman who just lost her job at The Buttered Bun tea shop in a sleepy English town she has lived in all her life. She is about to meet Will Traynor – a man whose motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. Cue a mismatched pair ala Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy and wait for the sparks to fly. Well, that’s what the book’s packaging seemed to indicate.

But what I got instead was very different. Yes, there are still the elements of two very different people meeting and not getting on. There is growing understanding over time. But what you don’t know until you are reading this book is that the character Will Traynor is a quadriplegic. And though you hope for some miracle to occur and for him to get up and walk, this book is far more realistic than that.

Lou Clark gets a job as his carer although she has no qualifications. All she can do for him is make cups of tea and give his flat a clean, whilst trying to stay out of the way of his bad temper. Before becoming a quadriplegic, Will was a lawyer and an adrenalin junkie with a zest for jumping out of planes and climbing mountains. His accident made him lose everything, including his model girlfriend. He sees nothing good about his life.

Lou finds out that she got the job because Will has scared away all his other carers. And his mother wants him to be watched at all times because he has previously attempted suicide. Then Lou learns by accident that Will has gotten his parents to agree that in six months time they will take him to Switzerland where there is assisted suicide. Though sworn to secrecy by Will’s mother, Lou makes it her personal mission to try to make Will change his mind.

So as you can see, this is not the formula for a typical chick lit book and the publishers of this book may have done it a disservice trying to market it that way. I read this book in a day. I just couldn’t put it down. In the course of reading it, I learnt so much about what people who are quadriplegic go through. They have countless medical problems. Not to mention the mental anguish of going from able-bodied to life in a wheelchair. Even the problems they have going places when in a wheelchair and how they are treated by family, friends and wider society.

But this story is not all about Lou trying to change Will. It’s also about Will trying to encourage a young woman who has no goals, has never gone outside her town, and is with a fitness mad boyfriend who doesn’t get her, to branch out in life – and live.

This book surprised me  greatly. I got so much more than I thought I was going to get. It was not quite the light read I was after, but definitely worth reading. Now to look up some of the other books by Jojo Moyes …

Jane Eyre Laid Bare: A Review

Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve SInclair
Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair (e-book) 336 pages, pub Oct 2012

I don’t really know what made me choose Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair to read. I saw it when scrolling through a list of e-books on Amazon and bought it on impulse because I love the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and wanted to see what the “naughty” version of it was like. I thought it could be interesting. I thought wrong. But I can’t say I wasn’t warned. A quick look at reviews posted on goodreads showed that those who disliked it did so with a passion bordering on venomous. Still, I thought I would give it a go.

Basically, this book is the fantastic classic Jane Eyre with random sex thrown in – and not even good sex. It was cringe-worthy. The parts I liked best were the parts closest to passages from the original book. I flicked quickly through this book just so I could get it over and done with. And don’t even get me started on the terrible ending …

I’ve come to the conclusion that classics are classics for a reason – because they are pretty much the perfect read in their original form. To cut them up, and inject gratuitous raunchiness into them that in no way enhances the original story, could be seen as a form of sacrilege. It just made me appreciate how much more passionate the original Jane Eyre story was because of what it hinted at but didn’t say. Less truly is more and it was more powerful for me when the passion between Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre was implied rather than outlined in kinky detail. Was it really necessary to learn that Jane and the other girls at the orphanage she grew up in were “very close” friends?

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte then perhaps give this a read – but if you have read the classic then this may really, really annoy you. Its probably best not to bother with this version that adds sex parties, sex toys from Japan and servants going at it like rabbits to a classic. What next Fifty Shades of Darcy? Sensual and Sensuality? Whipping Heights? Alice gets it on in wonderland? Kinkyrella? Pokemehontas? Hmm … on second thought maybe I should jump on the bandwagon and write me an e-book!