Review: “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

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For some reason this book has been on my To-Be-Read list for 5 years (according to the trusty source that is Goodreads). I can’t even remember why I put it on my TBR list to begin with, since it’s more or less a romance novel set in England during World War 2.

I’ve tried to stay away from novels about World War 2 because it’s just too close for my likingMy grandparents were both from different sides of England and were serving respectively in the ATS and Royal Navy when they met and fell in love during World War 2. They just happened to be at the same pub in Liverpool (again, not where either of them were from) and the rest, as they say, is history. So growing up I had always heard things about World War 2 and as a reflex, my eyes would start rolling out of my head.

Now that I’m older and a lot more aware about the pretty shitty things going on in the world, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much the War meant to my grandparents and their generation. Now it makes perfect sense to me that they would constantly bring it up. It was a pretty big deal and “The Night Watch” really gave me a sense of the fear and uncertainty of that time.

I think that my recent trip to the UK (my second one ever) has also renewed my interest in the War. I spent a lot of time walking the streets randomly, just observing the different styles of architecture, and noticed how there were big scars running through sections of the city. I don’t mean that any part of London that I saw was ugly. I just noticed the bits where bombs had clearly dropped and new buildings were built or old buildings were repaired but not quite blended in with the original structure. For an architecture AND archaeological nerd like myself, I found it a great way to immerse myself in the city’s history.

Back to “The Night Watch”… I was actually quite surprised at the homosexual element of the story. I don’t actively look for novels with lesbians as the central characters and I guess it just surprised me because I’m so biased towards World War 2 novels set in England to begin with. When I think “English wartime novels”, I think of very stereotyped gender roles with perhaps some feminist undertones peeking through (but of course nothing to wild because, you know, they’re English) .Quite frankly, I assumed this would be a novel my grandmother would happily sit down and read on a Sunday afternoon… but I’m not too sure I would give this one to her. She may have a heart attack *touch wood*.

I’m glad I was surprised by this novel though. It’s probably the reason why I kept reading it. The only drawback about it was the structure. I didn’t quite understand why the 3 separate parts were in reverse chronological order and I really think the last bit could have been chopped out altogether. Also, I found myself skimming the parts relating to the only central male character named Duncan. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about him.

So Reader, have there been any novels you have found yourself really surprised by recently? Do you have certain topics/periods in history you just can’t bring yourself to read about? Let me know in the comments!

I hope this week has treated you well.

A x

 

 

Review: “Wynn in Doubt” by Emily Hemmer

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From Goodreads:

The memory of a stolen kiss ten years ago stirs up an adventure eighty years in the making.

Wynn Jeffries has wanderlust. Unfortunately, her life stalled somewhere between graduating college and slinging drinks at the local dive bar. Stuck in a one-room apartment with no career, no boyfriend, no…life, she dreams of something more. Something amazing. Something like Oliver Reeve’s, her high school crush, whose back in town and reminding Wynn of the way she used to want things.

When a forgotten news-clipping about two prohibition moonshiners falls out of a book belonging to Wynn’s grandmother, a well-kept family secret is finally revealed. Is Wynn’s gypsy spirit the result of an overactive imagination or did she inherit it from a woman so determined to live a big life she gave up everything to have it?

The choices we make now shape our future. It’s the fear of making the wrong ones that give us doubt. So the question is: how much are we willing to sacrifice to have the life we want?

I must be really drawn to the “let’s find out about my long lost relative” stories right now. In a way, this book had some similarities with “The Dress”, which I really enjoyed. I would say that I enjoyed both books equally. I suppose I find myself drawn to characters that are quite similar to myself and I felt that Wynn was eerily relatable. I feel like a lot of young women that have read this book would get what I mean when I say that. I also suppose that many people, of all ages and sections of society, would relate to that feeling of wanting to do something, to be something and not just go through the motions of life and feel like you are wasting your life and potential.

I thought some aspects of the story weren’t believable (I dunno, maybe there were certain parts that I felt needed to be fleshed out more and the pace could have been better). The likelihood of having a rock star come back “home” for you and stumbling across your ancestor’s diary in the same week seem pretty slim to me, but I guess IT’S A BOOK and NOT REAL LIFE. Ugh. See, if a book has little cracks and makes me think about real life, it gets me down.

Over all though, I would recommend this book to Young Adult readers and fans of chick-lit.

Review: “The Dress” by Kate Kerrigan

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From Goodreads:

Lily Fitzpatrick loves vintage clothes – made all the more precious because they were once owned and loved by another woman. Thousands follow her vintage fashion blog and her daily Instagram feed. But this passion for the beautiful clothes of the past is about to have unforeseen consequences, when Lily stumbles upon the story of a 1950s New York beauty, who was not only everything Lily longs to be, but also shares Lily’s surname.

Joy Fitzpatrick was a legend. But what was the famous dress which she once commissioned – said to be so original that nothing in couture would ever match it again? What happened to it – and why did Joy suddenly disappear from New York high society?

Kate Kerrigan’s enthralling novel interweaves the dramatic story of Joy, the beautiful but tortured socialite and that of Lily – determined to uncover the truth and, if possible, bring back to life the legendary dress itself.

I love, love, LOVE intergenerational stories. The more generations of the family, the better. I think that’s why I love genealogy and historical fiction so much. I like being able to see how traits have been passed down from one generation to the next and how a family secret or trauma can have a butterfly effect for the rest of the bloodline.

I’ve never had much interest in how clothes are made, but I can appreciate a vintage 1950’s frock. I’m not obsessed enough to start a blog about the fashion, as Lily did in the book, but I have been known to be quite impartial to a Review dress or two… (Nope, this post isn’t sponsored – I just think everyone should appreciate these pretty dresses).

I read this book quite quickly – I would firmly put this in the chick lit genre. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just can’t really imagine any men picking up this book and finishing it. It has everything you would want in a great chick lit novel – romance, comedy, heartbreak and story lines that are nice and complete by the end of it (don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything for you).

I tend to get easily frustrated by some books that change time periods/locations every other chapter, but Kate Kerrigan really did a fantastic job with making these transitions seamless. I knew that I was going to like this book quite early on because each time I finished a chapter, I wanted to keep reading on. The story was unravelled perfectly and if I was talented with sewing, I would want to attempt to make The Dress myself. I sort of want this book to be adapted into a film, just so I can look at a “real” version of The Dress.

A recommended read, especially for younger women looking for something that is pure fun (although this book also has its heavy “adult moments”) and an easy, gripping read.

I received an advanced reader’s copy courtesy of Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia. Thanks for the great read!

The Bookish Week in Review 27/09/2015

I’ve trawled the internet for interesting bookish news stories, so you don’t have to!

  1. When I was a little girl, my grandparents ordered the Reader’s Digest books and fed my love of reading. I’m living proof that this story about grandparents helping their children love reading is spot on.
  2. I almost jumped out of my chair when I read that Amy Schumer signed a massive book deal. Will it be even better than Tina Fey’s Bossypants? The excitement is real in this one.
  3. I don’t know what to think with this story, on one hand it’s great that McDonalds are trying to encourage kids to read by giving them a book with their happy meal… on the other, this isn’t helping the child obesity and diabetes crisis in the UK (which is starting to sound very similar in Australia).
  4. I love a good Shakespeare mystery, even better when it’s to do with the Great Plague. I guess I could be thankful that the plague happened, otherwise my favourite play Hamlet wouldn’t have been written? (So morbid. I know.)
  5. This is probably the funniest story I’ve come across all week. The model giving Fabio a run for his money – he’s been on 414 romance novel covers. The interview is HILARIOUS.
  6. It wouldn’t be TBWiR if I didn’t mention Harry Potter. A fan has created Lily and James comics from questions asked on Tumblr. 
  7. Still on Harry Potter… Pottermore has been re-vamped (I’m in Ravenclaw) and J. K. Rowling has published yet more back story, this time on the Potter family. Her Majesty has also confirmed that Harry Potterand The Cursed Child will be in TWO parts.
  8. How cool are these Games of Thrones inspired tattoos?

Do you have any tattoos inspired by literature? Let me know in the comments below and if they’re appropriate for the internet, I would love to see photographic proof!

Review: “HRTBRK Survival Guide: A Guide to Surviving Heartbreak” by Melissa Giovanna and Cristian Vittorio

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From Amazon and from the HRTBRK survival website:

Once you have picked up this book you will automatically move from being a passive victim of heartbreak to a strong-willed, active Soldier ready to fight on in the name of autonomy.

Within a page of reading, you will become acquainted with The General. Be warned, The General throws around a cuss or two; however this does not make for any less of a heartache mentor. The General mixes a few psychological principles with grief work, while challenging the ‘common wisdom’ and wives tales about coping through a break-up. The General puts forward 15 rules (called Survival Tenants) to help you move on and these rules are coupled with therapeutic activities that double as a chance for creativity and leisure. Towards the end of the guide, the General tests your adherence to these tenants with 14 Military Operations.

Be mindful that this is not your run of the mill, feel-good, cliché break-up guide. It does not encourage passive coping or reactive behaviours. This guide takes a proactive, conscious healing approach because contrary to popular belief, time (alone) will not heal all. Despite what you may think, your greatest enemy is not The Heartbreaker, whose rifle is but a click away. Depression, anxiety, self-sabotaging behaviours, unhelpful thoughts and maladaptive beliefs – these are your true enemies. To survive them you will need the weapons of knowledge (aka strategies and techniques in this book).

This book is your care package; it is your supply drop. Use it all, or drop what you don’t need and keep on.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had my heart broken. Looking back, especially after reading The HRTBRK Survival Guide, I really wish I had something like this book to help me through that time. The memory is hazy, but I remember it being very difficult and it took a really long time for me to feel like ME again. It would have been a little easier and a lot quicker if I had just had some help from The HRTBRK Survival Guide.

I loved the style of this book. I’m not one for clichés and the light and fluffy bullshit, which is great because The General is a bit of a ball buster. We could all do with having The General in our lives, especially when it comes to getting over your ex, or “The Heartbreaker” as they will be referred to forevermore because of this book. Unlike other break-up books on the market, this one isn’t specifically for heterosexual women getting over a man. Yes, The HRTBRK Survival Guide is for everyone and in fact, from the very first page the authors point out that the book doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or sexual orientation. This makes sense – love doesn’t discriminate, so why should heartbreak?

The next time I have a friend going through a break-up, I will listen patiently and empathetically while they sob into a wine glass or tub of ice cream. I will smile and nod when they start to list every single thing that went wrong in their relationship with The Heartbreaker. Once I’ve done my duty as a friend/amateur counsellor, I will then hand it over to The General and discretely download a copy of The HRTBRK Survival Guide to every electronic device that they have because – while heartbreak sucks and we all have to go through it – a little bit of help can go a long way. With The HRTBRK Survival Guide, you won’t just survive the heartbreak – you’ll kick its butt and make it your bitch.

Waiting on Wednesday – 23/09/2015

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week I am lusting over the first book in Nora Roberts’ “The Guardian” trilogy, “Stars of Fortune”. I’m a fan of Nora Roberts’ The Circle Trilogy and The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy. I suppose what has first pulls me towards these trilogies is the fantasy aspect, but I also like that she has some strong female characters that could probably do without a man, but find a drop dead gorgeous hunk anyway.

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From Goodreads:

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.

Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.

But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars…

What’s on your “Waiting on Wednesday” list? Let me know in the comments!

Review: “The Lake House” by Marci Nault

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From Goodreads:

VICTORIA ROSE. Fifty years before, a group of teenage friends promised each other never to leave their idyllic lakeside town. But the call of Hollywood and a bigger life was too strong for Victoria . . . and she alone broke that pledge. Now she has come home, intent on making peace with her demons, even if her former friends shut her out. Haunted by tragedy, she longs to find solace with her childhood sweetheart, but even this tender man may be unable to forgive and forget.

HEATHER BREGMAN. At twenty-eight, after years as a globe-trotting columnist, she’s abandoned her controlling fiancé and their glamorous city life to build one on her own terms. Lulled by a Victorian house and a gorgeous locale, she’s determined to make the little community her home. But the residents, fearful of change and outsiders, will stop at nothing to sabotage her dreams of lakeside tranquility.

As Victoria and Heather become unlikely friends, their mutual struggle to find acceptance—with their neighbors and in their own hearts—explores the chance events that shape a community and offer the opportunity to start again.

I was going through my stash of old e-ARC’s on my Kindle for a light read and came across this title. I honestly didn’t expect much and I was pleasantly surprised. It was not long since I had read “Elizabeth is Missing”, but I knew that these retiree’s were definitely a different kettle of fish. (There was one member of the group suffering from dementia. But that’s to be expected, statistically.)

I’m sure that we could all pick one of our own grandparents from the Nagog gang – there’s a particular gentleman that has many stories about World War II and I found this very familiar territory because my late grandfather used to talk about the war whenever he could.

This book had me hooked – I think I really kept reading because I wanted to find out what had happened to Anna. I’m glad that this book tied up all of the story lines nicely.

I would recommend this book to anyone needing a light read. Just a warning: don’t read this book on an empty stomach – the image of Molly’s baked goods in my mind was enough to make me drool a little bit on the train ride home one afternoon!