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 Year the Maps Changed – Danielle Binks

 

The Year the Maps Changed

Danielle Binks

Hachette Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734419712

 

Description:

‘I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that’s another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.’

Sorrento, Victoria – 1999

Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.

A middle-grade coming-of-age story about the bonds of family and the power of compassion for fans of The Bone Sparrow, Wolf Hollow and The Thing About Jellyfish.

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Winifred was eleven and living with her adoptive father Luca – a policeman – and until recently her Pop. But then Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son Sam moved in and suddenly Winifred (who was called Fred, Freddo and Winnie) felt her house was crowded. She’d lost her mother Maria when she was six and still missed her terribly and didn’t want Sam or Anika in her house. Pop was at a Rehabilitation Centre recovering from the fall he’d had, and Winifred visited him every weekend, and Wednesdays after school.

Winifred had a few friends at school and was close to Jed who lived next door. Aiden was another friend and soon Sam joined the group. Their teacher, Mr Khouri taught geography and maps which Winifred was fascinated by, and he always told them “Not all those who wander are lost” which stuck in Winifred’s mind. But more was to take their interest when they found out 400 refugees were to be arriving and housed in a “safe haven” nearby. As events changed around them, Winifred felt cut adrift. But she felt inside that she had a purpose and when a particular person made an impact on her life, she went with what she felt was right. What would be the result of the year that changed everything for Winifred?

The Year the Maps Changed by Aussie author Danielle Binks is set in the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and gives us a look at one turbulent year in a young girl’s life in which things change, family merges, sadness and tragedy occurs, and she begins to mature. A story of family, love, compassion and right from wrong, The Year the Maps Changed is a powerful middle grade novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended. 5 stars

 

With thanks to Hachette Children’s Books AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fool Me Once – Karly Lane

Fool Me Once

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529246

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Karly Lane has a wonderful way of creating a sense of place – These are books I know I can fall into and be transported.’ – Noveltea Corner on Return to Stringybark Creek

 

Farmer, Georgie Henderson manages a cattle farm in the New England region of NSW, but her dream has always been to buy back her family property, Tamban. Her every waking hour for years, has revolved around planning to make this dream become a reality.

 

When an unlikely meeting with Michael Delacourt at a rowdy B&S Ball sends them on a whirlwind romance, Georgie can’t believe it’s possible for life to be this good and her dream of buying back Tamban has, for the first time, taken a backseat to happiness.

 

But her world shatters when she discovers the shocking secret Michael has been trying to keep from her.

 

Can Michael convince her they still have a future? And after having her heart so thoroughly broken, can Georgie ever trust anyone again?

 

 

My View:

If you are looking for a read that will take you away from the everyday, from the covid -19 isolation stress, then this book is for you. This is the perfect escapist read.

 

I was drawn to the small-town settings, the B & S ball (I went to something similar when I was on school holidays staying at a friends in the country), the farm stay tourist venture…it all seemed very credible to me. This is the book that will transport you to outback Australia, the dust and the cattle, the windmills and water pumps…and the dramas that beset this small-town woman.

This is a very easy read and by that, I mean you turn the pages quickly; the characters leap off the page and into your imagination, the settings are vivid, the narrative is fast moving and dramatic, the resolution satisfying. This is armchair travelling at its best.

 

 

 

 

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: I’m Staying At Richard’s – Bernadette Agius

I’m Staying at Richard’s: Raising the Exceptional Son I Never Expected
Bernadette Agius
Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501174568

 

Description:
This inspiring, heartfelt, and powerful memoir by a mother of a child with Down syndrome explores the incredible blessings and challenges of raising a child with disabilities.

When Bernadette Agius—an ambitious career-focused woman—became pregnant, she imagined her unborn child attending the best schools and dazzling everyone with his impressive wit, charm, and intelligence. But when the doctors placed her baby boy in her arms and told Bernadette he had Down syndrome, those dreams instantly disappeared.

While her first impulse was to fight against this new reality, she soon found the strength to become the champion her son, Richard, would need and deserved. With the help of her husband and a newfound village of professionals, Bernadette forged a new life, discovering along the way that everyone has a different version of normal. Ultimately Richard, now thirty, was able to defy expectation and become an independent adult.

Grounded in love, offering a message of hope, and told with humor and honesty, I’m Staying at Richard’s shines a light on the fierce, unwavering love of a mother for her son.

 

My View:
This is a very powerful story of unconditional love. Reading this memoir felt a lot like stepping into somebody else’s shoes and for that insight I am grateful.

If you want a powerful, heartening, optimistic and joyful (mostly) story about finding your path and yourself when life throws the totally unexpected at you, read this poignant story.

Review: Phosphorescence – Julia Baird

Phosphorescence
Julia Baird
Harper Collins Australia
Fourth Estate
ISBN: 9781460710890

Description:
A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?

And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?

Absorbing, achingly beautiful, inspiring and deeply moving, Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times.

My View:

A deeply personal yet universal message of optimism and self-reflection on what is important in our busy modern lives. Trauma is something that the author has experienced first-hand – loss, and her recent health issues have awakened a desire to reconnect with her community and nature; the beach, swimming, the comradery of her fellow swimmers, those enjoying a coffee together afterwards, chatting…the connection of a shared experience and her personal mission to explore what brings her awe and joy.

Awe and joy – what a wonderful state to be in and what sublime timing – in this world of Corona Virus pandemic never has the power of awe been more necessary. Julia Baird is in awe of the natural phenomena, phosphorescence. Have you ever experienced/observed it it? “Living Light…glow worms, ghost mushrooms, fireflies, flashlight fish, vampire squid…glowing missionaries of wonder, emissaries of awe.”
(prelude) What do you find awe inspiring?

Phosphorescence, discover this read and reignite your own passion and joy of life.

 

PS I love the cover art.

 

 

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.

Review: Wild Fearless Chests – Mandy Beaumont

Wild Fearless Chests
Mandy Beaumont
Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9780733643033
RRP $ 28.99

Description:
She is the explosion, the clamour, the thunder. She is the beat, the rage. She is every piece of violence imagined on the skin. She is the near miss. She is the woman you once were, the woman you could be, the woman you are. She is a triumph of our shared history, is every one of you, is your wild and screaming voice on street corners, is the madwoman you fear you may become. She loves you.
As women’s voices begin to rise together, Mandy Beaumont’s brutal and uncompromising stories are a compelling reminder of the ways in which women have fallen, been dismissed, hurt, hated and loved from afar.
These are the stories we have always known, have always heard about and are perhaps just short moments away from. They are yours, ours, mine. They are booming anger. They are wild love. They are the distorted and the decided, the imagined and the wanted. They are the shaking ground beneath our feet. A powerful call to arms. They compel us to stand tall. To break free. To defy the gaze. To claim our space.
Wild, Fearless Chests is the sound of a certain revolution.

‘”Drowning in Thick Air” is shocking … It is not like anything I have read in recent years and takes me to a place I have never been in my life or imagination or in fiction.’ Frank Moorhouse

My View:
This was an interesting read – a mixed bag of subject matter/themes, a collection of short stories is hard to review as a body of work, but in this collection you will find some stories that will infuriate you – because of the unfairness, the prejudice, the underserved attitudes of entitlement/privilege. Some stories will break your heart for many of the same reasons. Some will raise a smile, albeit generally a small one, some will have you in tears of frustration and sadness. Occasionally you will find a story that has you cheering form the sidelines.

Altogether this is a powerful, emotional, challenging, confronting, raw and often, brutal read. I am sure there is something here that will make you think.

Review: The M Word – Dr Ginni Mansberg

The M Word
How to Thrive in Menopause
Dr Ginni Mansberg
Murdoch Books
ISBN: 9781760524876
RRP $32.99

Description:
A handbook for understanding, embracing and (even) enjoying the rite of passage that is peri-menopause and menopause; outlines the experience, the medical science, treatment options and home remedies; written by a practicing GP and media doctor who has just turned 50 herself.
Night sweats, hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, itchy skin, low libido, painful sex … Ninety per cent of women experience these symptoms some time between the ages of 40 and 60.
Menopause and perimenopause (the hormonal rollercoaster years leading up to a woman’s last period) are among our last taboo subjects. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – once widely prescribed as the magical secret of youth – has been shunned by women and their doctors for two decades. Dr Ginni Mansberg, one of Australia’s most trusted health and wellbeing experts, is here to work through the evidence and bust the taboos out of the water. The M Word is all about you and your choices. Are you being offered the best solutions for your menopause issues? Because there are great solutions to help you thrive in this new stage of life.

Author bio:
Dr Ginni Mansberg has been a GP for nearly 30 years, specialising in women’s and children’s health. She is a sought-after speaker and an authority on everything from sleep to wellness, life balance to beating stress. Dr Ginni is host of SBS’s eight-part show Medicine or Myth? and Foxtel’s Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, as well as the resident GP on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. She is mother to a blended family of six children and lives and works in Sydney. drginni.com.au (https://www.murdochbooks.com.au/browse/books/health-fitness/health-fitness-1/The-M-Word-Dr-Ginni-Mansberg-9781760524876)

 

My View:
“Menopause is a first world problem” said one female GP that I will l never go back to again. I was at my local doctors’ surgery for something inconsequential and unmemorable…maybe a check-up…and I asked my GP “what can I expect from menopause? How will it affect me? How will I know I am in menopause (silly me – I now realise that this question is obsolete – you WILL know) 😊

I cannot understand this reaction.

Menopause is not often spoken about, why? Surely information/knowledge is power? Dr Ginni Mansberg in her book The M Word – How to Thrive in Menopause – has undone all the harm my ex GP exacted. This book is full of really helpful information in a language that is to digest, that empowers you to take control of your own health and I highly recommend it.

Dr Mansberg: “This is a book that is all about you and your choices.
I have written a book to give you access to the best information we have available today; to answer as many questions as possible, to give you agency over your menopause journey, including the options of HRT. I am not saying you have to take it: I have covered the lifestyle, mind-based, complementary and home remedies out there and a whole lot else, too. Many of these have terrific evidence, and others have a good amount of anecdotal evidence. Some are shockers.” (p.5)

A book for all adults to read.

Read, absorb, take agency of your own health.

 

Review: Beautiful Eggs – Alice Lindstrom

 

Beautiful Eggs
Illustrated by Alice Lindstrom
Scribble
ISBN: 9781925849783
RRP $16.99

Description:
Eggs decorated with leaves, lace, or even string.

Wrap them up in a cloth and dip them into colourful dye.

Unwrap for a beautiful surprise.

Decorated eggs are found all over the world in many different countries. They are a wonderful celebration of family, culture, and tradition.

Complete with a stencil incorporated into the design, this book will encourage children to create their own beautiful eggs.

A large-format board book for Easter that celebrates traditions of egg-decorating from around the world with exquisite cut-paper illustrations.

My View:
This book is a great resource for teachers, parents and care givers and is much better treat for your pre-schooler than chocolates at Easter 😊. This board book is easy for little hands to hold and use, the bright, colourful designs are mesmerising… and the narrative is a simple and engaging way to introduce your little ones to the tradition of egg decorating – the book provides examples from around the world.

And what I love best (after the fact this is a perfect Easter gift) is the template at the back that allows your child to draw their own eggs and colour, paint, stamp, glue and decorate to their hearts content. Within minutes of showing this to my grandson we were drawing eggs and gathering up crayons to start decorating. A book that entertains and encourages creativity – what a great find! Published today – check it out.