Review: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

 

Title: The Passengers

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: March 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

In Eleanor Limprecht’s captivating novel, The Passengers, a young woman is accompanying her grandmother from America to Australia after an absence of 68 years.

The narrative shifts smoothly between the present day, as the women journey on the cruise ship, and the past, as Sarah reminisces about her life.

“But Sydney isn’t home, love. Never was. Home is the farm we lost when I was sixteen.”

Hannah is fascinated by Sarah’s candid stories of her childhood on a dairy farm, her move to Sydney, her whirlwind romance with an American soldier during World War II, her journey in 1945 as a nineteen year old war bride on the USS Mariposa, and then her life in the US. Sarah shares her experiences both good and bad, of love and loss, and long held secrets. I was very invested in Sarah’s story which is beautifully told by Limprecht, and I was particularly interested in her experiences as a war bride, which I haven’t read a lot about.

“I wanted you close. I guess I hoped you’d want to talk about it, one day. I suppose it’s why I wanted to tell you about Roy. About the secrets I kept.”

While Hannah is ostensibly accompanying her 87 year old grandmother as a helpmate, Sarah hopes that by revealing her secrets on the journey that Hannah might do the same. I thought some of Hannah’s issues contrasted well with Sarah’s experiences, though her primary affliction was not one I found particularly effective in the context of this story.

Though it has its flaws, I thought The Passengers was a moving tale of joy, heartbreak, loss and adventure. I read it without pausing, and I will be looking for more by Eleanor Limprecht.

++++++

 

Available from Allen & Unwin

or from your preferred retailer via Booko

Also by Eleanor Limprecht reviewed at Book’d Out

6BEC9805-2571-41BF-9709-256727777305

Review: Running Against the Tide by Amanda Ortlepp

 

Title: Running Against the Tide

Author: Amanda Ortlepp

Published: March 1st 2016, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read March 2016 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

Running Against the Tides is a story of suspense in which Amana Ortlepp explores themes such as displacement, addiction, bias, obsession, and betrayal.

Needing to make a fresh start after the breakdown of her marriage, Erin Travers is drawn to Mallee Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. She has fond childhood memories of the small coastal town, and hopes it will be a place that she and her two teenage sons, Mike and Ryan, can make a home.

It’s not the most auspicious of starts, their rental home is poky and unloved, but while Erin and nineteen year old Mike are determined to make the best of the situation, and soon begin to find their feet, fifteen year old Ryan refuses to make any effort, becoming increasingly antisocial.

Told from the perspectives of Erin, Ryan and Jono, the family’s new neighbour, Ortlepp builds the tension as things at home, and in the town begin to go awry. Erin is annoyed when a cheque goes missing, disturbed when her home is vandalised, and increasingly frightened as she receives a series of anonymous threatening notes. Meanwhile, a spate of thefts from the local oyster farms, including that which belongs to neighbour, and Mike’s new employer, has the locals frustrated and on edge.

Though I found the pace a little slow, I did appreciate the way in which Ortlepp crafted the story to build suspicion around several characters, and eventually both situations come to head with a dramatic, and somewhat surprising, conclusion.

++++++

Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or your preferred retailer via Booko

Also by Amanda Ortlepp reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: The Land Girls by Victoria Purman

Title: The Land Girls

Author Victoria Purman

Published: April 23rd 2019, HQ Fiction Au

Status: Read May 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In Victoria Purman’s historical fiction novel, The Land Girls, It’s 1942 and World War II has spread from Europe across the Pacific. As fathers, brothers, husbands and sons fight on the frontlines against the Germans, Italians and Japanese, the women left behind are asked to do more than just tend their victory gardens, knit socks, and roll bandages. While some women heed the call and join auxiliary services like the WRANS or the WAAF, or take up positions in factories and shipyards, workers are also desperately needed to ensure Australia’s agricultural industry doesn’t collapse and thus, The Australian Women’s Land Army was founded.

Flora, a 30 year old under-appreciated secretary, volunteers because while one of her brothers is serving overseas, the other cannot, and she is determined that no one will be able to accuse their family of not doing enough.

Betty, not quite 18, leaves her job as a Woolworth’s counter girl when her best friend, Michael, enlists, wanting to prove that she too can make a difference beyond selling cosmetics.

Lily chooses to join the Land Girls when her new husband must report for duty to the Airforce the day after their wedding, despite the displeasure of her ‘society’ parents who would prefer their daughter assist the war effort in a more seemly manner.

With warmth, humour and honesty, The Land Girls follows the journey of these three women from when, for meals, board, a brand new uniform, and thirty shillings a week, they are given their first assignments. It explores not only the challenges the women are faced with as they work long hours, largely unaccustomed to such intense physical labour, in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, but also the emotional challenges of being separated from family, and their fears for their loved ones serving overseas. There are gains and losses, joy and heartbreak. All three of these women will be changed by their experiences as Land Girls, and the vagaries of war.

Well researched, The Land Girls is a wonderful tribute to the 6000 women who participated in the war effort as a member of The Australian Women’s Land Army between 1942 and 1945. It shamefully took more than fifty years for the Australian government to recognise the value of their contribution. I’m thankful Victoria Purman has shone a light on this admirable facet of history.

The Land Girls is a charming, edifying and poignant novel of Australian women in wartime and the important role they played on the home front, a story of resilience, tragedy and hope.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available to Purchase from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

The It’s Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at BookDate

I’m also linking to The Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer

And the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

 

Life…

It’s been a quiet week on the home front. I finished binge watching Grace & Frankie, and Lucifer, caught up with a few other shows and have started Dead to Me.

Our federal elections were this weekend, and the results were disappointing.

I’ve knocked a few more books off that Netgalley backlog I accrued during my hiatus, I’m down to five, but I’ve added more (of course). However Netgalley seems to think close enough is good enough, my feedback rating is at 100%

This week my oldest daughter will turn 23, the same age I was when she was born! She still lives at home and has requested pizza and a funfetti cake to celebrate on Tuesday night, and invited a bunch of her friends over for pre drinks on Saturday night, as a precursor to heading out to a club.

Here she is, aged 1

 

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

The Land Girls by Victoria Purman

The Police Women’s Bureau by Edward Conlon

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

Cake at Midnight by Jessie L Star

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a **** by Gill Sims

 

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New Posts

 

Review: When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Review: The Accusation by Wendy James

Review: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

Stuff on SundaysBookshelf Bounty

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

{Click on the cover to add the book to your shelf on Goodreads}

 

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the stunning events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

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You never know what life will throw at you. You just need to know who to turn to for help.

One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy. 

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

++++++

A thoughtful, uplifting and magical story of childhood, family and finding ways to change the inevitable . . .
Meet Willa Waters, aged 8 . . . 33 . . . and 93.
On one impossible day in.
1965, eight-year-old Willa Waters receives a mysterious box containing a jar of water and the instruction: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’ So she does – and somehow creates an extraordinary time-slip that allows her to visit her future selves.
On one impossible day in .
1990, Willa is 33 and a mother-of-two when her childhood self magically appears in her backyard. But she’s also a woman haunted by memories of her dark past – and is on the brink of a decision that will have tragic repercussions . . .
On one impossible day in .
2050 Willa is a silver-haired, gumboot-loving 93-year-old whose memory is fading fast. Yet she knows there’s something she has to remember, a warning she must give her past selves about a terrible event in 1990 . . . If only she could recall what it was.
Can the three Willas come together, to heal their past and save their future . . . before it’s too late?

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Every story one day comes to an end.

As roommates, they met for the first time in college. Two of the brightest minds ever to graduate from Stamford Psychology University.

As adversaries, they met again in Quantico, Virginia. Robert Hunter had become the head of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. Lucien Folter had become the most prolific and dangerous serial killer the FBI had ever encountered.

Now, after spending three and a half years locked in solitary confinement, Lucien has finally managed to break free. And he’s angry.

For the past three and a half years, Lucien has thought of nothing else but vengeance.

The person responsible for locking him away has to pay, he has to suffer.

That person … is Robert Hunter.

And now it is finally time to execute the plan.

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Lost letters have only one hope for survival…The Dead Letters Depot.

Inside the walls of a former tea factory, letter detectives work to solve mysteries: missing zip codes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names—these are the twists of fate behind missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

But when letters arrive addressed simply to “My Great Love,” one longtime letter detective with face his greatest mystery yet, as his quest to follow the clues becomes a life-changing journey of love, hope and courage.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Bookshelf Bounty

Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

i’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves, a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review (print)
(My thanks to the respective publishers)

For Review (Electronic)
(My thanks to the respective publishers)

 

Acquired by other means

 

 

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

 

Title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife

Author: Barbara Toner

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse AU

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My Thoughts:

Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife is the sequel to Barbara Toner’s novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband.

In the intervening decade, Pearl McLeary has become a married mother of four, Adelaide Nightingale has been widowed, Maggie O’Connell is unhappily married, and not one of them is happy about the return of Louisa Worthington to Prospect.

Perhaps if I had read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband previously, I would have been more invested in the characters, and hence the story. But unfortunately I have to admit I mostly found this quite hard going, though I did read to the end as I wanted to know how the four women resolved their issues.

I expect that those readers who enjoyed Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband, will also enjoy this.

Read an Extract

++++++

Purchase from Penguin Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

 

Title: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: February 23rd 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read May 2019, won via BetterReading.com.au

++++++

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to win a signed copy of Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga to gift to my mother for Mother’s Day thanks to BetterReading.com.au. However I couldn’t pass it on without reading it first.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is the story of Todd Alexander’s mid life tree change with his partner, Jeff, abandoning inner city living and highly paid careers, for a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B.

Todd has dreams of channeling his inner Maggie Beer…cooking delicious meals from their own produce, sipping their own labeled wine, enjoying the spectacular views over their property, with Jeff by his side. After all, Todd is wont to say, how hard can it be?

It’s certainly not any where near as easy as Todd hopes. What do two gay city boys know about slashing acres of grass, empty water tanks, broken irrigation systems, eggbound chickens, and desuckering 12,000 grapevines? Not a lot as it turns out, but they are willing to learn, and determined to succeed.

There are failures and successes, mistakes and lucky breaks, all of which Todd shares with honesty and humour. I don’t envy them the years of renovation and building (though the results are stunning), or the back breaking work required to both maintain and grow a farm. But I enjoyed his anecdotes about both the joys and challenges of farm life, and particularly the affectionate descriptions of the couples beloved pets, like the titular Helga the pig.

Todd also shares information of a more personal nature, touching on his relationship with his children who are regular visitors to the farm, and I was moved by his support of his mother as she battled bowel cancer. He also discusses how his experiences as a farmer have resulted in him becoming vegan, and provides a dozen or so of his favourite recipes.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is an entertaining and charming memoir, and might just inspire your own dreams for a new life, or at least for a nice glass of Semillon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or to purchase via Booko

 

Linking to #NonFictionFriday @ DoingDeweyDecimal

Review: The Accusation by Wendy James

 

Title: The Accusation

Author: Wendy James

Published: May 20th 2019, HarperCollins AU

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

The Accusation is author Wendy James’ contemporary take on the Canning Affair, an eighteenth-century criminal case that titillated the Victorian public, a compelling story of trust and betrayal, guilt and innocence.

Susannah Wells, a high school drama teacher, has been living with her mother in the small rural community of Enfield Wash for a just a few months. It’s a quiet life, her mothers dementia driven outbursts aside, in contrast with the years she spent as a young starlet on a popular TV soap.

Susannah, like the rest of the residents in Enfield Wash, expresses her shock when news breaks that a frail, bedraggled young woman has been found on the outskirts of town, claiming to have been abducted, drugged and chained to a bed for more than a month. When presented with the initial results of the police investigation, Ellie tearfully confirms the identity of her captors- Susannah Wells, and her mother, Mary.

Susannah vehemently denies the accusation, but with her arrest, her friends, even her closest friend, her colleagues, the townspeople, and the public at large, judge her guilty. Only her lover, Chip, is willing to believe in Susannah’s innocence, but even his faith begins to waiver as seemingly irrefutable evidence against Susannah builds.

If Susannah is innocent, why was evidence of Ellie’s ordeal found in her home? If Susannah is innocent, what possible motive could a stranger, especially a beautiful and bright young woman like Ellie, have to accuse her? If Susannah is innocent, who is guilty?

I raced through The Accusation, utterly engrossed by the question of Susannah’s guilt or innocence. James skilfully keeps the reader guessing, even while probing the possibilities of truth and deceit.

The story is structured in three parts, covering a period of about 12 months, for the most part progressing linearly, with the occasional slip backward and forward in time. Primarily the narrative unfolds from the perspectives of Susannah, and Honor, Ellie’s PR representative, with brief excerpts from a documentary produced about the case, after its resolution.

Of particular interest is the way in which James explores the role of ‘spin’ and social media in contributing to Ellie’s new found celebrity status, and Susannah’s public vilification. It’s an all too real scenario that demonstrates how easily the public can be manipulated, and how easily truth is dismissed.

The Accusation is provocative and gripping, a contemporary psychological thriller that should be moved to the top of your reading list.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

 

Available to purchase from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko

Also reviewed at Book’d Out by Wendy James

Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

 

Title: The Summer Before the War

Author: Helen Simonson

Published: March 24th 2016, Bloomsbury UK

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Bloomsbury/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Summer Before the War is a winsome and poignant historical novel by Helen Simonson.

After the death of her beloved father, aspiring spinster Beatrice Nash is grateful to find a position as the Latin instructor in the village of Rye, East Sussex. It is the summer of 1914 and not everyone believes a young single woman is capable of teaching Latin, but with the support of society matron Agatha Kent, and her visiting nephews, surgeon-in-training Hugh and carefree poet Daniel, and Beatrice hopes to make Rye her home.

A quintessential turn-of-the-century village, Rye is a tight knit community, home to a cross section of English society, where everyone knows their place. Simonson wonderfully depicts the petty feuds, scandals and luncheon parties that occupy the town’s aristocracy, the traveling gypsies that camp on the outskirts of the village each summer, the largely uninterested, and unwashed, boys of Beatrice’s class, and the townsfolk and servants going about their everyday business.

But it’s 1914 and impending war heralds change for Rye and it’s inhabitants. Simonson skilfully contrasts the innocence of that summer with the changes to come. War is an abstract concept for most of the villagers, and almost all are convinced that it will be over in weeks, if not days. Even the arrival of refugees from Belgium, billeted amongst the eager wealthy families who want to be seen to be doing their duty, fails to communicate the gravity of the situation, as the mayor’s wife’s ill judged parade stunt proves. It’s only as rationing begins, as the men of the village leave and fail to return, or return broken, that reality begins to puncture the seaside idyll.

The themes of The Summer Before the War focus on the the Edwardian structure of gender and class, exploring Beatrice’s desire for independence, and a bright young gypsy boy’s wish for further education, amongst other circumstances, both directly and obliquely. Simonson also explores notions of duty, to oneself, to family, to others, and to the country in a time of war. And there is love, a slow-burning romance that takes two characters by surprise.

The pace is languid, reflecting the long days of summer, quickening as Simonson takes us to war. At over 500 pages some seem to find the story drags, but I was invested in the characters, and enjoying the subtle wit and rhythm of the language, so I didn’t really notice.

Engaging and endearing The Summer Before the War is a novel to enjoy at a leisurely pace on a warm spring afternoon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Bloomsbury UK

Or your preferred retailer via Booko or  Indiebound

Alternate covers

Review: When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

 

Title: When It All Went to Custard

Author: Danielle Hawkins

Published: April 15th 2019, HarperCollins

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy HarperCollins AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“…what’s yellow and very dangerous?….Shark-infested custard “

Having enjoyed Dinner at Roses and Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Danielle Hawkins fourth novel, When It All Went to Custard.

Learning of her husband’s affair with their neighbours wife, Jenny Reynolds is surprised to realise that the end of her marriage will be a relief. In the wake of the separation her priorities are ensuring the happiness of her two young children, and figuring out how to keep the family farm she loves.

Between her ex-husband’s attempts at emotional blackmail, nonsensical knock knock jokes, a lazy farmhand, a lonely old man plying her with chokos, a demanding sister, a high-strung dog, her part time job as a building control officer, and an attractive, and now single, neighbour, Jenny tries to hold it all together and find her footing.

Hawkins has a talent for creating charming and relatable characters, her personal experience of the joys and hardships of farming provide authenticity to the setting, and her skill with genuine dialogue results in great pacing.

Laden with warmth, honesty and humour, When It All Went to Custard is an engaging contemporary story of family, farming and romance in rural New Zealand.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Purchase from HarperCollins Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

Also available via HarperCollins US

 

Also by Danielle Hawkins on Book’d Out 

 

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