Review: Nightingale by Fiona McIntosh

 

Title: Nightingale

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin October 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from October 23 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

As Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren collapses under the weight of his badly injured mate slung over his shoulders onto the sands of Gallipoli, he imagines it is an angel he sees on the beach amongst the carnage of war. Claire Nightingale, briefly permitted on shore to assist with triaging patients, is stunned by the sight of the muddy and bloody man who, ignoring sniper fire and his own wounds, carried his friend down the treacherous escarpment in search of medical help. For the young South Australian farmer and lonely British nurse it is love at first sight, and though their time together is brief, they make promises they have every intention of keeping, if only they can survive the war.

From the trenches of Gallipoli to the bustling cities of Cairo, Istanbul and London, Fiona McIntosh takes us on a journey of love, faith, heartbreak and hope in her latest romantic historical fiction novel, Nightingale.

The opening chapters with their harrowing descriptions of life, and death, in Gallipoli are affecting, highlighting the everyday heroism and tragedy of the ANZAC assault. McIntosh captures the chaos of war, and the shocking circumstances in which soldiers, half starved, ill and injured, were forced to fight what was essentially a no-win battle, and reminds us of the brave work done by the nurses and doctors who volunteered to witness the carnage to save and care for the wounded.

“…she watched in silent horror as men, some of whose boots had barely left their print on damp Turkish sand fell, fatally injured. The mules were crazed with terror and the screams of injured animals joined the cacophony of explosions, gunfire… and the groaning, dying men…”

An integral part of storyline involves Jamie speaking with a young Turkish soldier, Açar Shahin, during the truce declared to clear No Man’s Land of the dead. During their brief meeting Shahin extracts a promise from Jamie to deliver a letter to his father when the war is over, convinced he won’t survive the trenches. This is a touching reminder that the ‘enemy’ were men just like ‘our boys’, and this is further underscored when Claire, honouring Jamie’s promise, meets Açar’s father.

“The momentousness of this hard-to-imagine truce after such cruel and vicious fighting began to tingle through his body as though forcing him to mark it. It would never come again, he was sure, and only the men experiencing this intimacy with the enemy would ever know this extraordinary sense of sharing and camaraderie.”

Jamie and Claire meet under horrific circumstances, when love is the furthermost thing from their minds, yet their instant bond is believable given the situation. Their separation is heartbreaking and when it seems likely these two lovers will never find each other again I felt a little breathless.

“And so he hadn’t been ready in this moment of hell- in this place of cruelty and blood, of sorrow and hurt – for an angel to materialise and touch him…”

The writing is of McIntosh’s usual high standard, though occasionally a little florid. The historical details and various settings feel authentic with vivid description evoking time and place. I was quickly invested in the emotion of this engaging novel, even though historical romance is not my favoured genre.

A captivating story of love and war from one of Australia’s best loved storytellers, Nightingale is wonderful read.

Available to purchase from

Penguin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

 

Review: A Fig at the Gate by Kate Llewellyn

 

Title: A Fig at the Gate

Author: Kate Llewellyn

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A distinguished Australian poet, Kate Llewellyn has published six books of poetry and is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. She is the author of nineteen books, including Lilies, Feathers & Frangipani on the Cook Islands and New Zealand; Angels and Dark Madonnas on India and Italy; and Gorillas, Tea & Coffee: An African Sketchbook.

A Fig at the Gate is written in the tradition of her bestseller titles The Waterlily: A Blue Mountains Journal and Playing With Water: A Story of a Garden. Now in her seventies, Kate has settled in Adelaide near where she was born and is establishing a new garden to nourish, sustain and delight.

Journal entries chart the evolution of Kate’s garden over three years, the planting of plum trees and cabbages, of wisteria, cumquats and rosemary, along with the addition of chickens and ducks.
Kate also shares her musings and learned wisdom on life, aging, family and friendship, her prose interspersed with her poetry.

A Fig at the Gate is warm, gracious and wise chronicle of nature, beauty and life.

*Please note I choose not to rate memoirs*

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

 

Review: Springtime by Michelle de Kretser

 

Title: Springtime: A Ghost Story

Author: Michelle de Kretser

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Picking up her pace, Frances saw a woman in the leaf-hung depths of the garden. She wore a long pink dress and a wide hat, and her skin was a creamy white. There came upon Frances a sensation that sometimes overtook her when she was looking at a painting: space was foreshortened, time stood still.

When Frances met Charlie at a party in Melbourne he was married with a young son.

Now she and Charlie live in Sydney with her rescue dog Rod and an unshakeable sense that they have tipped the world on its axis. They are still getting their bearings – of each other and of their adopted city. Everything is alien, unfamiliar, exotic: haunting, even.”

Status: Read on October 23, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

I requested this for review because though I own de Kretser’s award winning Questions of Travel I have yet to read it.

Springtime is an introspective little piece – a short story, (presented in hardcover, smaller than a mass paperback with largish type) rather than a novella.

It is a brief portrait of a woman facing the uncertainty and impermanence of change, time and fate. The tone is ethereal, the language graceful but it didn’t really speak to me beyond that.

 

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

Review: The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks

 

Title: The Brewer’s Tale

Author: Karen Brooks

Published: Harlequin MIRA October 2014

Status: Read from October 19 to 21, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

When Anneke Sheldrake’s father is lost at sea she is horrified to learn that she and her younger siblings have been left with nothing. Desperate to keep what remains of her family together, she strikes a bold bargain with her father’s employer and, armed with her late mother’s family recipes, daringly chooses to go into business as a brewer of ale. Despite being ostracised by most of her family and friends, and repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the local Abbot and his cronies whose monopoly of the ale trade is threatened, Anneke’s brew steadily wins favour amongst the community. Just as success seems within her reach, Anneke is targeted in a malicious attack that razes nearly everything she holds dear. Forced to flee for her life, Anneke is nevertheless determined to begin again and finds an unlikely ally in a London brothel owner. With courage and hard work, Anneke, taking the name Anna de Winter, slowly rebuilds her life and business, until the horrors of her past once again threaten to destroy her.

A saga of betrayal, love, tragedy, courage and triumph, The Brewer’s Tale is an ambitious historical drama by author, Karen Brooks.

Anneke is strong protagonist, with spirit and convictions uncommon for her time. Despite harrowing personal tragedy she finds the strength to rise above it and carry on, refusing to be cowed by her persecutors. Her courage, loyalty and determination are admirable qualities and ensure the reader is firmly on her side, willing her to triumph.
Anneke’s loyal cast including her sweet sister, Betje, the brash Alyson, and the dashing hero, Lord Leander Rainford, are eminently appealing. The villains, including Anneke’s spiteful cousin, a raft of spiritually corrupt monks, and her inescapable enemy are infuriating and often terrifying.

Though set in medieval England, the story begins in ‘The year of Our Lord 1405 in the sixth year of the reign of Henry IV’, I didn’t get a true sense of the period. It seemed not that much different from Georgian or Victorian times, though to be fair it mattered little as the details were consistent and the setting well grounded. I was surprised at how interested I was in the history of the brewery industry, and I finally discovered the difference between beer and ale. (I don’t drink either so had never thought about it before)

The writing is articulate and the first person perspective works well. The pacing was reasonable but I did feel the story, at well over 500 pages, was too long overall. I was tempted to skim at times, particularly as the plot was, though well thought out, generally predictable, with the second half of the story essentially mirroring the events of the first.

Nevertheless, The Brewer’s Tale was a satisfying read and I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy the drama and romance of sweeping historical fiction driven by a strong heroine.

 

The Brewer’s Tale is available to purchase from

Harlequin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

Review: Half the World in Winter by Maggie Joel

 

Title: Half the World in Winter

Author: Maggie Joel

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Read an extract

Status: Read from October 13 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A story of tragedy, grief, and redemption, Half The World in Winter centers around Lucas Jarmyn and his family who are mourning the grisly death of nine year old Sofia. As the household struggles with the loss of their beloved daughter and sister they turn away from each other, and their home, in which Lucas forbids a fire to be set, grows ever colder.
Hundreds of miles away a train accident claims the life of a young girl. Her grief stricken father, Thomas Brinkley, demands justice from the head of the railway, Lucas Jarmyn, and when it is not immediately forthcoming, seeks revenge on the man and his family.

Half the World in Winter is an exploration of the dynamics of a family in mourning, and the impact of death and grief in a period where tragedy was common. The Jarmyn family are not only struck by the death of Sofia, they lose a nephew to the Boer War, a cook to a chicken bone, a discarded maid to vice, and are burdened by the deaths of those souls killed on the railway.

“Inside 19 Cadogan Mews time had ceased. It no longer existed, it had no meaning. A silence had fallen that no one felt willing to break. Footsteps were muffled, and commands, if they were given at all, were given in muted whispers in the hallways and corridors. doors were kept closed and before entering hands hesitated on doorknobs and deep breaths were taken. An excuse not to enter at all was often found.”

Set in England during the 1880’s, the period detail is rich and meticulous, from the minutiae of the Jarmyn’s household to the physical and social context of Victorian England. I was surprisingly interested by the workings of the Victorian railway system, and intrigued by the elaborate rituals of mourning – for middle class Britons there were strict rules to be followed after a death, determining, for example, the type and colour of fabric worn, to the depth of the border on notepaper.

“Half an inch for the first three months of mourning certainly. After that the border decreases to one-third of an inch. At six months it decreases to a quarter of an inch, then in increments of a tenth of an inch over the succeeding six months depending on the nature of the loss and one’s relationship with the deceased”

I did struggle with the sombre and often bleak timbre of the narrative and the measured pace of the novel quickened only marginally near the end. The writing however is stylish and descriptive, and the portrayal of the period is vivid.

Half The World in Winter is a genteel historical drama,  but it was a little too slow and solemn for me to really enjoy

Half the World in Winter is available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James

 

Title: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead

Author: Rebecca James

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 13 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When Cooper Bartholomew’s broken body is found at the base of a cliff his death is declared a suicide but Libby, Cooper’s girlfriend, refuses to believe him capable of it. Desperate to understand what led him to the edge, Libby retraces Cooper’s last hours, eventually unraveling a tale of betrayal, jealousy, and shocking secrets.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Cooper, Libby, Sebastian and Claire, and shifts between ‘then’, detailing the events that led up to Cooper’s death, and ‘now’, exposing its aftermath.

Though well paced, the novel lacked much of the tension I had been expecting, this is more of a psychological drama than a thriller. I found the plot fairly predictable and while the circumstances surrounding Cooper’s death, when finally revealed, are emotionally powerful, they didn’t come as a surprise to me. However, I found the narrative very compelling, due in no small part to my investment in the characters.

All four protagonists felt genuine in ways to me that other characters in the New Adult genre have rarely done, I believed in their emotion, motivation and actions. The characters have distinct voices, which is important given the structure of the narrative, and are complex individuals. The relationship dynamics are also convincingly drawn.

An engaging read about friendship, first love, loss and lies, I really enjoyed Cooper Bartholomew is Dead. This is Rebecca James’ third novel following on from Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also available {Click for my reviews}

awwbadge_2014

Review: Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan

 

Title: Killing Adonis

Author: J.M. Donellan

Published: Pantera Press October 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from October 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

‘WANTED: NURSE (a proper one, not a silly male one) PRETTY (but not too pretty CLEVER (but not too clever) APPLICANTS WITH AN EXCESSIVELY CURIOUS AND INQUISITIVE NATURE ARE DISTINCTLY NOT WELCOME. LIGHT DUTIES. LARGE PAY. (ALL CASH. NO QUESTIONS ASKED OR ANSWERED)’

After several hours of swilling booze with best friend Callum, Freya Miller drunkenly emails her CV in response to an unusual ad passed on to her by her friend, Jane. Just hours later she is summoned to the home of the powerful, wealthy and eccentric Vincetti family and promptly hired to care for their revered comatose son, Elijah. Though forcefully warned that curiosity about her employers, their business, or her patient, will not be tolerated, Freya can’t resist unearthing their secrets, but is wholly unprepared for what she finds.

Killing Adonis is Brisbane writer J.M. Donellan’s debut adult fiction novel. With larger than life characters (including a cameo from Marilyn Munroe), a strange mystery and a surreal plot that teeters between farce and satire, it is a quirky and darkly comic story about corporate greed, obscene privilege, and murder.

Freya is an entertaining character, quick witted and bold, with a prodigious capacity for booze, an irrational fear of pineapple cutters and the ability to see music as colours (a synesthete). She blithely ignores her employers warnings as she begins to poke around the mansion uncovering, amongst other things, two identical baby’s rooms, one entirely pink, and one entirely blue, a room filled with boxes of tiny woollen jumpers (which she later learns are for the penguin victims of an oil spill), three billiard rooms, and Jack.
Jack, Elijah’s older brother, suffers from mild Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease), agoraphobia and writer’s block. He becomes Freya’s unlikely, and sometimes unwilling, ally in the hunt for the truth about his brother’s coma and his parent’s machinations.
As Elijah lies silently, a sculptured Adonis surrounded by ‘beepers’, Freya and Jack begin to investigate the enigma of Elijah’s coma, the mystery of the ‘Danger Room’, the death of a beloved maid and a string of corporate rivals, all to expose Evelyn and Harland Vincetti’s diabolical secrets.

For me, Killing Adonis was a surprising page turner. I was thoroughly entertained by the snappy writing, audacious characters, and gaudy plot. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend readers comfortable with something a little less mainstream give it a chance – no question.

Killing Adonis is available to purchase from

Pantera Press Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Review: Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Ghost {Bunyip Bay #3}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin Au October 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from October 03 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Outback Ghost is the third book in Rachael Johns’ loosely linked Bunyip Bay series, following on from Outback Dreams and Outback Blaze.

Readers familiar with the previous books will recall being introduced to Adam Burton, a former underwear model and third generation farmer, and the whispers about the unresolved disappearance of his seven year old sister when Adam was ten years old. Twenty years later, Adam’s mother is still mired in her grief, and his father suddenly announces he has had enough, leaving Adam to take care of their sheep and wheat property, and to welcome their new farm-stay guests.
Stella Reynolds, a waitress, author and single mother is looking forward to spending two months on the Burton farm with her seven year old daughter, eager for Heidi to experience the joys of country living that characterised her own idyllic childhood, before the estrangement with her parents caused by her teenage pregnancy. Within hours of their arrival, Heidi has charmed their landlords, the gorgeous Adam, and his wan mother, adopted a pregnant cat, and even made a new imaginary friend, whom she calls Lily-Blue. Stella should be delighted that her daughter has settled in so well but instead she feels slightly apprehensive about the weeks ahead. At first she attributes her anxiety to her undeniable attraction to Adam, Stella hasn’t had so much as a date since Heidi was born, but she is also spooked by the unexplained noises she sometimes hears in the cottage and her discovery that her daughter’s imaginary friend shares the same name as Adam’s missing sister.

While at its core Outback ghost is a contemporary rural romance featuring the development of the relationship between Adam and Stella, the plot includes an interesting element of mystery and a hint of the supernatural. It is a heartwarming story about love, family and belonging but with a bittersweet twist when it reveals the fate of Lily-Blue.

It’s a delight to revisit the community of Bunyip Bay, and glimpse familiar characters from previous stories. Johns protagonists are always well developed and I enjoyed getting to know Adam and Stella. Adam doesn’t flinch from the responsibility of the farm, and caring for his mother. He carries around a fair bit of guilt over his sister’s disappearance, and for the aftermath, yet he hasn’t let it consume him entirely. Stella is a likeable, capable and admirable heroine who deals with challenging circumstances with determination and grace. She is a little guarded, understandably so, so I really liked watching her open up to Adam and form tentative friendships with Frankie and Ruby. Heidi is a definite scene stealer, affectionate, sweet natured and lively, she is an adorable character. Few authors manage to portray child characters realistically but I think Johns does so perfectly here.

Outback Ghost is my favourite novel of the Bunyip Bay series, and was supposed to be last, however I believe Johns has decided to revisit the town eventually and give Frankie an opportunity to find love… I can’t wait.

Outback Ghost is available to purchase from

Harlequin Au Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

awwbadge_2014

Weekend Cooking: Cook Book by Matt Preston

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

**********************

Title: Cook Book

Author: Matt Preston

Published: Plum: Pan Macmillan October 2014

My Thoughts:

Matt Preston is a food critic and an editor for Taste Magazine but is best known as the chin stroking, cravat wearing co-host on the popular Australian television series of Master Chef.

The Cook Book is Matt’s second published recipe collection boasting ‘187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular’ and ‘Amazing cheats and food hacks’ with a centerfold to boot. It’s a large format softback with matte pages where the recipe faces an attractive full page colour photo of the dish.

Matt begins with a fairly standard introduction before offering advice on being a good guest, and a long list of rules for hosting the perfect dinner with friends. To be fair his guidance is sensible and useful including tips such as – ‘When you are planning the menu, serve as many things as possible that can be prepped ahead. You want to spend time with your guests, not alone in the kitchen.’ and ‘Don’t forget to put BBQ gas, booze and other drinks, too much ice and good toilet paper on the shopping list.’

Preston states that he has three firm rules when he writes a cookbook
1. The recipes must be simple
2. The ingredients in the vast majority must be available from a local supermarket
3. There can never be a pasta salad in the book.

The recipes are well presented with a short comment to introduce the dish, often offering a tip or two, a bolded list of ingredients and clear prep and cooking instructions. The Cook Book includes recipes for Breakfasts, Soups, Salads and Vegetables, Ubersalads, Snacks, Pasta, Seafood, Chicken and Duck, Meat, Desserts, and Afternoon Tea.

As promised, some recipes are very simple, for example Ice Cream Bread, Idiot Cake and Pizza Dough each have only two ingredients. Preston also builds on some of his basic recipes suggesting ‘4 ways with burgers’, ‘3 ways with flatbread’ ‘3 ways with kale’ and ’30 other things to do with chicken mince’.

Preston takes inspiration from a range of cultures for his presented dishes that include Middle Eastern Rice Pudding, Thai Pumpkin Soup, Spanakopita Filo Triangles, Blackened Lamb Backstraps with Turkish Muhammara and Ice Cream Peanut Butter Sandwiches. He also offers recipes for classic dishes such as Meatloaf, Potato Salad and Quiche Lorraine, with his own twist.

I’ve used his recipes to make Sticky Chicken Drummies and Thai Chicken Sausage Rolls {but I lost both photo’s with the iOS 8 upgrade}. They were, however, delicious and I still have a few recipes bookmarked to try including Chicken Loaf with Onion Jam, Pain Roules, Smoky Corn Macherony and Butternut Snap Tarts.

You can find a selection of recipes from Matt Preston – though not those found in this book, at Master Chef Australia and Taste.com.au

Cook Book is available to purchase from

Pan Macmilan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

and all good bookstores.

Review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

reluctantlycharmed

 

Title: Reluctantly Charmed

Author: Ellie O’Neill

Published: Simon and Schuster October 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from October 01 to October 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Reluctantly Charmed is a bewitching novel from debut author Ellie O’Neill.

Kate McDaid is curious when she is summoned on her 26th birthday to a lawyer’s office to hear the reading of a will written 130 years ago. The will, penned by Kate’s great-great-great-great aunt, requires her to agree to publish a series of letters over seven weeks in exchange for her inheritance. Kate, a modern Dubliner and junior copywriter, is bemused to discover the letters contain Seven Steps that her aunt, a self proclaimed witch, claims will reunite humanity with the near forgotten world of fairy. Not seeing the harm in fulfilling the eccentric request, Kate publishes the first letter online but within days her life is turned completely upside down.

Entertaining and light, Reluctantly Charmed is a fanciful story about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic, with appealing touches of humour, intrigue and romance.

An ordinary young woman, with a 9-5 job in advertising to which she rides her bike everyday, a crush on a gorgeous pub singer, and a tiny flat in Dublin, Kate is a likeable character who is easy to relate to. She is naturally skeptical of her aunt’s claim that she was a witch who communed with the fairies, and that Kate too has powers. Even as Kate instinctively offers ‘spells’ to her girlfriends to improve their love life or help their children sleep or chats with the flowers on her desk, she remains doubtful of the existence of magic, more concerned with attracting the attention of ‘rock god’ Jim, lining up ‘The Hoff’ to star in a client’s campaign and getting to the corner store without being accosted by the Anorak gang. Kate is astonished by the snowballing interest in the ‘Steps’, fueled by social media, which bestows on her an unwelcome celebrity status.

Ireland is an ideal setting for the novel, given the country’s traditional association with the ‘wee folk’. Despite the modern pace of Irish life, belief in fairy folklore still lingers and O’Neill’s story invites the reader to imagine the possibilities. The ‘Seven Steps’, which urges people to reconnect with nature and promise a revelatory reward, is an irresistible lure for those, from the earnest Simon the Anorak to the sinister journalist, Maura Ni Ghaora, looking for the potential of magic.

With well drawn, engaging characters, a delightful premise and effortless style, fans of magical realism are sure to be enchanted by the whimsy of Reluctantly Charmed.

Learn more about Ellie O’Neill and Reluctantly Charmed in her guest post for Book’d Out

Reluctantly Charmed is available to purchase from

Simon and Schuster Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Follow the Reluctantly Charmed tour…

Blog-Tour-2014-v4

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,729 other followers