Guest Review: A Royal Visit To Victory Street – Pam Howes

A Royal Visit to Victory Street

(The Bryant Sisters #5)

Pam Howes

 Bookouture

ISBN:9781800197930

Description;

From Amazon charts bestseller Pam Howes comes an emotional and uplifting saga about the power of family and a community trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible war that nearly destroyed everything…

1956, Liverpool. With the shadow of the war looming over them and bomb craters littering the surrounding streets, hope feels far away for the residents of Victory Street. When they learn that the Queen has chosen to visit them on a tour of Liverpool, the delighted neighbours bring back the wartime spirit. Can they possibly get the street ready in time?

Even a royal visit cannot take away Bella Harrison’s worries. Her son, fourteen-year-old Levi, has just told her he wants to move to America to join the rest of his father’s family. The news has so shocked Bella that she’s not sure she’ll be able to sing for the Queen, jeopardising all their plans for the big day.

Life has been hard for Levi, growing up as a mixed-race boy in Liverpool, but he’s the light of Bella’s life. The thought of losing him brings back the terrible memories of losing her father and sister during the war. If everyone pulls together make the Queen’s visit an unforgettable celebration, perhaps she can persuade Levi that Victory Street is where he belongs.

But when Levi receives heartbreaking news from America and his move becomes uncertain, Bella starts to wonder if all her efforts to keep him in Liverpool have been for the right reasons. Can Bella find it in herself to sing for the big celebration, and make the right choice for her beloved son?

A totally unputdownable, heart-wrenching historical novel, packed with family secrets, perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Diney Costeloe and Nancy Revell.

Brenda’s View:
It was 1956 in Liverpool when Mary learned the plans of Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when they were going to visit Victory Street, during their tour of Liverpool. Mary took charge of the organisation to have Victory Street tidied up, making it fit for the royal visit. Lizzie, Mary’s small granddaughter, was going to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen, and rehearsal for her was going well. Lizzie was deaf but she and all those around her knew signing, so she communicated well.

Bella and the other two Bryant Sisters would perform, as they had during the war, as well as her eldest son, Levi, and his two friends. Levi was keen to become a singer and his small band was having success with the concerts they joined in. The admiration Levi held for the new bands from the US as well as locally, with John Lennon doing well saw him anxious not to go on with schooling. He wanted to work to earn money and make his dreams come true. Would they manage to get Victory Street ready in the short time they had? Would their plans be successful?

A Royal Visit to Victory Street is the 5th in The Bryant Sisters series by Pam Howes (and perfect timing after current events) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to catch up with Bella and the girls, learn more about Levi, Earl, Bobby and their integrated family, as well as the strong, determined and stalwart Mary, matriarch of the family. I love this author’s work and I have no hesitation in highly recommending A Royal Visit to Victory Street (along with the series).

Note: The blurb is misleading, as from the second paragraph down, it’s pretty much all wrong.

With thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

A 5 star read!

Review- Marlo – Jay Carmichael

Marlo

Jay Carmichael

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925713695

RRP$24.99

Description:

A novel of two men, love, and aching loneliness.

It’s the 1950s in conservative Australia, and Christopher, a young gay man, moves to ‘the City’ to escape the repressive atmosphere of his tiny hometown. Once there, however, he finds that it is just as censorial and punitive, in its own way.

Then Christopher meets Morgan, an Aboriginal man, and the two fall in love — a love that breathes truth back into Christopher’s stifled life. But the society around them remains rigid and unchanging, and what begins as a refuge for both men inevitably buckles under the intensity of navigating a world that wants them to refuse what they are.

In reviving a time that is still so recent yet so vastly different from now, Jay Carmichael has drawn on archival material, snippets of newspaper articles, and photos to create the claustrophobic environment in which these two men lived and tried to love. Told with Carmichael’s ear for sparse, poetic beauty, Marlo takes us into the heartbreaking landscape of a relationship defined as much by what is said and shared as by what has to remain unsaid, and unlived.

My View:

I have mixed feelings about this book. I guess my biggest issue was inconsistency. Some of the writing is absolutely beautiful. But somewhere along the way it got a little lost, disjointed ( I got lost) the narrative was evocative, reads like a creative memoir – a “diary” of a time in the recent past that is largely missing from our (Australian) history books and for that point alone is worth reading.

#FridayFreebie : Finding Eadie – Caroline Beecham

Finding Eadie

Caroline Beecham

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760529642

 

Description:

London 1943: War and dwindling resources are taking their toll on the staff of Partridge Press. The pressure is on to create new books to distract readers from the grim realities of the war, but Partridge’s rising star, Alice Cotton, leaves abruptly and cannot be found.

Alice’s secret absence is to birth her child, and although her baby’s father remains unnamed, Alice’s mother promises to help her raise her tiny granddaughter, Eadie. Instead, she takes a shocking action.

Theo Bloom is employed by the American office of Partridge. When he is tasked with helping the British publisher overcome their challenges, Theo has his own trials to face before he can return to New York to marry his fiancee.

Inspired by real events during the Second World War, Finding Eadie is a story about the triumph of three friendships bound by hope, love, secrets and the belief that books have the power to change lives.

PRAISE FOR ELEANOR’S SECRET
‘Fans of Natasha Lester and Kate Morton will very much enjoy this new release and the dual time zones mean the book will appeal to a broader audience.’ Debbishdotcom

PRAISE FOR MAGGIE’S KITCHEN
‘Extremely engaging . . . reads like the work of a veteran storyteller.’

 

 

Thanks to the generous people at Allen & Unwin Australia I have 3 copies of Finding Eadie to giveaway to residents of Australia. It’s easy to enter – simply answer this question in the comments before 10/7/020: name the publishing company Alice worded for.  Winners will be randomly selected from all entries.  Good luck and thanks for entering.

 

 

**check your emails – winners have been notified.**

Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish – Josephine Moon

The Cake Maker’s Wish

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN:  9780143792017

 

Description:

Life in the village isn’t always sweet and simple . . .

 

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

 

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

 

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

 

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options, she didn’t even know she was craving.

 

An uplifting and heart-warming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.

 

 

My View:

If you are anything like me at the moment you appreciate a piece of heart-warming escapism in your reading choice and this book based on cake making is the perfect, temporary antidote to the ills of the time.

 

I love the ideas of the “Renaissance Project”  and the narrative successfully transports us to modern day English village lifestyle and times, the trials and tribulations of being an “outsider” and demonstrates how to mend bridges by simply showing an interest and caring about those around us.

 

This book is packed with “themes” for you to unlock and consider, and a love story or two and a bit of history/mystery for you to ponder.

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: The Orange Grove – Kate Murdoch

The Orange Grove

Kate Murdoch

Regal House Publishing

ISBN: 9781947548220

 

Description:

Blois, 1705. The château of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies. The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in love and domestic politics strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The Duc Hugo d’Amboise had a wife, the Duchesse Charlotte and several mistresses who all lived together in his chateau which was surrounded by beautiful gardens and the orange grove. It was 1705 in Blois, France and the politics of the household was rife with petty jealousies, anger and enemies. When a new mistress arrived, the young and beautiful Letitia, Charlotte was intensely jealous. The duc wanted a son; Charlotte was unable to produce one therefore the duc’s mistresses felt the pressure to give him what he wanted. The problem was, the duc’s affections for Letitia overtook his affections for anyone else, including his wife.

Henriette and her daughter Solange lived quietly in the chateau, with Henriette high up in the realm of mistresses. But that was to change when she befriended Letitia. Charlotte was bitter and angry, looking for anything that would remove Letitia from her husband’s affections. What would happen in the chateau as tensions escalated and rivalries flared? And how was tarot card reader, Romain de Villiers involved?

The Orange Grove by Aussie author Kate Murdoch is set in France in the early 1700s where it was normal for men to have mistresses, for wives to know and even approve in some cases. What a horrible time to bring up your children! As a woman, you’d need to be on your toes, fully aware of what could – and probably would – go wrong any time, day or night. And as a young woman, to be sold to ease your family’s financial woes, to a duke who was willing to pay money for a pretty young face and body – I’m glad I wasn’t born back then! Filled with intrigue, The Orange Grove is one I recommend. 4 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Viennese Girl – Jenny Lecoat

 

The Viennese Girl

Jenny Lecoat

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760877927

 

Description:

Inspired by the true story of a young Jewish girl – Hedy Bercu – who fled to Jersey from Vienna only to find herself trapped on the island during the German occupation.

In June 1940, the horror-struck inhabitants of Jersey watch as the German army unopposed takes possession of their island. Now only a short way from the English coast, the Germans plan their invasion.

Hedy Bercu, a young Jewish girl from Vienna who fled to the isolation and safety of Jersey two years earlier to escape the Nazis, finds herself once more trapped, but this time with no way of escape.

Hiding her racial status, Hedy is employed by the German authorities and secretly embarks on small acts of resistance. But most dangerously of all, she falls in love with German lieutenant Kurt Neumann — a relationship on which her life will soon depend.

A remarkable novel of finding hope and love when all seems at its darkest.

 

Brenda’s Review:

When her employers escaped the island of Jersey, Hedy Bercu decided to stay put. Her parents and siblings were still in Vienna and she hoped that Jersey wouldn’t be occupied. But two years after her escape from Vienna, the Nazis arrived on the island and gradually took over, using their power to dominate and terrify the inhabitants.

Hedy was Jewish but kept it to herself. Her best friend Anton and his new girlfriend Dorothea kept her secret, but the hunger and deprivation caused Hedy to take a risk, gaining herself a job as a translator for the Germans. She was only earning a little, but the food coupons helped stave off starvation. Falling for the German lieutenant, Kurt Neumann wasn’t part of her plan, but soon it became apparent he felt the same way. Hedy’s acts of resistance were dangerous and could mean the end of her life, but still she continued. What would happen to Hedy in the months and years which followed?

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat is based on the true story of a young Jewish girl, Hedwig Bercu, and what happened to her during the German occupation. Heartfelt, heartbreaking but also filled with hope, the determination of Hedy was phenomenal. Starving, thin and weak, she gritted her teeth and kept on going. What an amazing young woman. Jenny Lecoat has written an excellent historical fiction novel of one more aspect of World War II and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Mammoth – Chris Flynn

 

 

Mammoth

Chris Flynn

University of Queensland Press

ISBN: 9780702262746

 

Description:

Narrated by a 13,000-year-old extinct American mastodon, Mammoth is the (mostly) true story of how the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy and the narrator himself came to be on sale at a 2007 natural history auction in Manhattan.

 

Ranging from the Pleistocene Epoch to nineteenth-century America and beyond, including detours to Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, Mammoth illuminates a period of history when ideas about science and religion underwent significant change. By tracing how and when the fossils were unearthed, Mammoth traverses time and place to reveal humanity’s role in the inexorable destruction of the natural world.

 

My View:

This is not my usual sort of read – in fact it is probably unlike anything I have read before or will read again😊. The narrator is the voice of an extinct mammoth – one with a very droll sense of humour and a melodious story telling style. Simply put, I felt like I was a child, snuggled in a chair (or bed) being told a rambling bedtime story about the world as it was and how the hominids wreaked havoc and destruction on the environment.

 

The book is full of thought provoking and enlightening anecdotes, one that is a standout is the mammoth’s reflection on ownership. “Ownership is a strange, uniquely human notion. The bipeds are obsessed with staking their claim over places, people and things. I cannot understand it. No beast of air, land or sea ever asserted the right of possession over another creature, except to devour it. The hominids don’t even eat each other anymore.” p37.  Such a simply stated yet relevant observation, Mammoth is such a brilliant observer.

 

To complete this unusual read is a cast of curious (deceased, extinct, mummified or fossilised) creatures; the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, the severed hand of an Egyptian mummy. I particularly liked the irreverent voice of the Tyrannosaurus bataar.

 

This unusual book is the perfect read for these unusual times

 

 

 

Review: The Banksia Bay Beach Shack – Sandie Docker

The Banksia Bay Beach Shack
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House
Michael Joseph
ISBN: 9781760890353
RRP $32.99

Description:
A year is a long time in the memory of a small town. Stories get twisted, truths become warped, history is rewritten.

MYSTERIES

When Laura discovers an old photo of her grandmother, Lillian, with an intriguing inscription on the back, she heads to the sleepy seaside town of Banksia Bay to learn the truth of Lillian’s past. But when she arrives, Laura finds a community where everyone seems to be hiding something.

SECRETS

Virginia, owner of the iconic Beach Shack café, has kept her past buried for sixty years. As Laura slowly uncovers the tragic fragments of that summer so long ago, Virginia must decide whether to hold on to her secrets or set the truth free.

LIES

Young Gigi and Lily come from different worlds but forge an unbreakable bond – the ‘Sisters of Summer’. But in 1961 a chain of events is set off that reaches far into the future. One lie told. One lie to set someone free. One lie that changes the course of so many lives.

Welcome to the Banksia Bay Beach Shack, where first love is found and last chances are taken.

A moving and heartfelt story by the bestselling author of The Kookaburra Creek Café and The Cottage At Rosella Cove.

Praise for Sandie Docker:
‘Docker soars from the absolute heart’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘The best of the best of heart-wrenching yarns.’ Woman’s Day

 

My View:
A tender, bittersweet dual time lined narrative that is a big chunk of mystery with a dash romance, that subtlety puts the spotlight on sexism, misogyny and racism in the 60’s whilst it considers if some secrets really are worth revealing.

It is interesting to step back in time to the small coastal town of Banksia Bay and examine the lifestyles and life choices of some of its inhabitants and the impact those choices made in their lives sixty years later from this distance. Have we progressed? Have we changed very much? I think some of the issues spotlighted have just been dressed in contemporary clothes.

Sandie Docker paints with a vibrant palette; her small-town settings are warm, inviting and picturesque, I could clearly envisage the beach, the surf, the scent of Australian summer. Her characters are finely drawn; you will recognise features and mannerisms of people you may know. The way this small community supports each other is times of adversity will warm your heart.

A delightful, bittersweet read.

Guest Review: Cotter – Richard Begbie

Cotter

Richard Begbie

Longhand Press

ISBN: 9780975232958

 

Description:

Early in 1822 an illiterate nineteen year-old peasant in County Cork took part in a ‘Whiteboy’ action in the hope of fairer rent and more land for his struggling family. Instead, he was transported to NSW for life.

The story that follows will subvert popular notions of the convict experience. Cotter’s alliance with a fierce Aboriginal leader conspired with his second ‘crime’ to introduce him to a world understood by few Europeans.

The novel points to a haunting moment in Australia’s story, when white humility and aboriginal knowledge might have combined to produce a kinder stewardship across the ancient land. Few invaders experienced that fleeting possibility as intimately as Garrett Cotter.

This is a story of power and exploitation, of betrayal and uncertain redemption. It offers a vivid reimagining of real events in the far wilds of a high country ‘beyond the limits’.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Irishman Garrett Cotter was only nineteen years old in 1822 when he was caught with a group of “Whiteboy” rebels (so called because of the white shirts they all wore when protesting) and although initially sentenced to hanging, it was changed to transportation to New South Wales for the duration of his natural life. His journey with other male prisoners on the “Mangles” was long and arduous, but because of a kindly doctor who oversaw the men, they were reasonably healthy on their arrival in Sydney Cove.

After a period of a few years with a farmer near Parramatta, Cotter was then moved to new land on Weereewa (Lake George) where the land was lush with plenty of feed for the cattle. It was there that Cotter proved himself a hard worker and a dab hand with animals, especially horses. And it was also where he had his first encounter with the Aboriginal leader Onyong. Cotter and Onyong formed an alliance – at first uneasy – that would last many, many years, with Onyong helping Cotter find fertile land for cattle; their friendship meant he also met Onyong’s family and learned many Aboriginal ways.

Cotter received his ticket of leave, which was then revoked after an incident. His days with the darkness inside fortunately were less than the contented and happy days. His life wasn’t easy, but he was a well respected and liked man – by most. His use of land which Onyong referred to as “my country” was a privilege that Cotter appreciated; the men who didn’t understand the Aboriginal people were many and it saddened Cotter.

Cotter by Aussie author Richard Begbie is outstanding – up there with my favourite books for 2019. Although a fictional recounting, it’s heavily based on fact and with the Cotter Dam and Cotter River in Canberra, and many places mentioned in the book – Queanbeyan, Murrumbidgee River (the lifeblood of the country), Yass, Goulburn and many others – it felt familiar and was easy to visualize. The harshness of those early days in the colony was well told; the hatred by some whites of the Aboriginals; the exploitation and betrayal by many – Cotter was a likeable Irishman, smart and compassionate (he loved his dog Jimmy), and Cotter is a book well worth reading. And I wouldn’t have found it, let alone read it, if I hadn’t needed one for a challenge, which was set in Australia’s capital. A great win for me! Highly recommended. 5 stars.

Guest Review: The Stationmaster’s Cottage – Phillipa Nefri Clark

The Stationmaster’s Cottage

Phillipa Nefri Clark

Self Published

ISBN: 9780648013815

Description:

“There are secrets in that cottage. Questions needing answers.”

Those words gave Christie Ryan a reason to stay in River’s End, when she should have gone home after Gran’s funeral.

Inheriting a rundown cottage, far from her jet-setting life, she is drawn into a fifty-year-old mystery.

Who wrote the letters hidden in the attic, an outpouring of love to a woman Christie suspects she is related to? What is the significance of a damaged painting kept by Gran but clearly painted in this seaside town?

Local artist Martin Blake may have the answers she seeks, but refuses to help. His dog adores Christie, but Martin keeps his feelings locked away.

As Christie faces difficult decisions about her own future, will the consequences of righting old wrongs be too high a price to pay?

 

Brenda’s Review:

The death of Christie Ryan’s grandmother was the beginning of a profound change in her life. As she headed to the small country town of River’s End to meet Angus, Gran’s long-time employee, it was much against her fiancé Derek’s wishes. He was scornful of her need to go to the funeral, and Christie’s heart broke a little at his words. But she needed to do this; Derek would have to wait.

River’s End was only a few hours from Melbourne, but Christie had never heard of the place. She and her Gran had never been close; a seemingly hard-hearted woman, Christie was about to learn a lot of things about secrets from her Gran’s past – about her family’s past. The stationmaster’s cottage in River’s End was now hers, having been left to Christie. It was run down and in a bad way, but it had a certain charm and Christie knew almost immediately that she wouldn’t sell it. The ocean was near, the peace and tranquility perfect.

But as Christie cleaned the cottage, she came across letters in the attic, a painting, a diary and more. Who were the people involved? Was it a long lost relative or a total stranger? Written fifty years prior, Christie could feel the need to solve the puzzle; to help if she could. Her own life was up in the air; should she investigate the past, or sort out what was happening here and now?

And I have just discovered another author to love! The Stationmaster’s Cottage is my first by Aussie author Phillipa Nefri Clark; it’s also her debut, plus first in the Christie Ryan series. Wow what a debut! I loved the story of Christie, her Gran, Martha and Thomas, Martin and of course Randall. The Stationmaster’s Cottage is filled with rich characters, even the side players; the scenery overlooking the ocean; the small country town and the friendliness of the locals – all makes this a heartwarming and heartbreaking historical fiction novel which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. 5 stars.