Monday, 18 November 2019

Book Review: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang #BRPreview

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
Jung Chang

Three Woman at the heart of Twentieth-Century China

Imprint: Jonathon Cape
Publication date: 15th October 2019 
Genre: Biography / Historical
Pages: 400
RRP: $35.00 AUD
Format read: Uncorrected proof paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Bettter Reading


The best-known modern Chinese fairy tale is the story of three sisters from Shanghai, who for most of the twentieth century were at the centre of power in China. It was sometimes said that ‘One loved money, one loved power and one loved her country’, but there was far more to the Soong sisters than these caricatures. As China battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, each sister played an important, sometimes critical role, and left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married Sun Yat-sen, founding father of the Chinese republic, and later became Mao’s vice-chair. Little Sister, May-ling, was Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of the pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right. Big Sister, Ei-ling, was Chiang’s unofficial main adviser. She made herself one of China’s richest women – and her husband Chiang’s prime minister. All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant attacks and mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. The relationship between them was highly charged emotionally, especially once they had embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ world.


Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is the biography of the amazing Soong sisters who together made a huge impact on history.
The three sisters became a modern Chinese fairytale. They were much talked about and fanciful gossip about them was often passed around.

“In China there were three sisters. One loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country.”

Charlie Soong being very forward thinking sent each of his daughters to an American boarding school at a young age. He made influential friends who were then introduced to his daughters. The sisters were very intelligent and interested in the politics of their country. They also believed that women should be man’s equal and the three sisters all rose to positions of influence.

Jung Chang divides the book into five parts spanning the years 1866 – 2003. It features the rise of Sun Yat-Sen and the overthrow of the Chinese monarchy to May-Ling’s marriage to Chiang Kai-Shek.

I’m not normally a great fan of non-fiction, especially political tales, however this riveting biography is so well written it at no time becomes weighed down. The three sisters, their lives and loves, make for some fascinating reading. Moving from grand parties in Shanghai to penthouses in New York, from exiles’ quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meetings in Moscow we read about power struggles, godfather style assassinations, secret talks and bribes making this a book that is compulsive reading.

Jung Chang is the internationally bestselling author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China; Mao: The Unknown Story (with Jon Halliday); and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China. Her books have been translated into over 40 languages and sold more than 15 million copies outside Mainland China where they are banned. She was born in China in 1952, and came to Britain in 1978. She lives in London.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Book Review: The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

The Christmas Party
Karen Swan

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Imprint: Macmillan
Publication date: 29th October 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Romance
Pages: 400
RRP: $29.99 AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 


When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible - made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?

The Christmas Party, set in south-west Ireland, tells the story of the Lorne family living in the 700 year old Lorne Castle. Declan Lorne, the last living knight in Ireland, his wife Serena and their three grown daughters Ottie, Pip and Willow may be the end of the Lorne legacy. With no male heir and an ever mounting amount of costly repairs required on the ageing castle it looks like Lorne Castle will need to be sold.

The Christmas Party is a story of family, heritage and the massive financial burden of keeping an ageing castle intact. Swan also highlights the guilt felt when a century old family legacy can no longer be upheld.
This is a character driven novel told through the eyes of the three strong but very different Lorne sisters. Ottie loved Lorne Castle and spent her days helping her father run the estate. She also held a secret that caused her to become withdrawn. Pip is stubborn, a tom-boy and nuts about her horses but a long held grudge could cost her her life. Willow, the youngest Lorne, had fled to Dublin three years earlier with a devastating secret of her own.
Now all back together, after their father’s sudden death, the girls must work out their differences, trust each other, and decide how to move forward.

Each year I eagerly look forward to Karen Swan’s new Christmas title and The Christmas Party didn’t disappoint.
The story was totally engrossing with just the right amount of mystery running through the plot. The three Lorne sisters were strong women but they each made mistakes in life and had feelings of failure they needed to overcome.

Karen Swan has written another unforgettable novel with enough tension, mystery, romance and heart-break to keep you turning the pages.

This is one book that needs to be on your Christmas list. 


My rating 5/5

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of other Karen Swan titles. 

Karen Swan is the Sunday Times top three bestselling author of sixteen books and her novels sell all over the world. She writes two books each year - one for the summer period and one for the Christmas season. Previous winter titles include Christmas at Tiffanys, The Christmas Secret, The Christmas Lights, and for summer, The Rome Affair, The Greek Escape and The Spanish Promise.

Her books are known for their evocative locations and Karen sees travel as vital research for each story. She loves to set deep, complicated love stories within twisty plots, sometimes telling two stories in the same book.



Saturday, 9 November 2019

Book Bingo - Round 23 #BookBingo

Book Bingo is a reading challenge hosted by Theresa Smith Writes , Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse. Every second Saturday, book bingo participants reveal which bingo category they have read and what book they chose. 

This week I have chosen the category ''Book by an author with the same initials as you"
and as we have had to do a few double up weeks to fit all the categories in I am also doing "A book set in the Australian mountains".

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

For this category I did a quick search on Amazon to find an eBook I could read and came across Victoria James. What a great find! She has a whole swag of novels in the romance genre and I picked Christmas with the Sheriff the first book in her Shadow Creek, Montana series. 
I absolutely loved this best friends to lovers story. It's such a well worn trope but who doesn't love a happily ever after ending.
Julia is shattered after the death of her husband and son and flees her home town to live in the city. She returns five years later to spend Christmas with her in-laws. When she runs into best friend, now town sheriff, Chase, sparks begin to fly. But Julia is not ready to open her heart to loss again.
Victoria James knows how to bring out the emotion with themes of child neglect, loss and deep seated wounds but the story also has uplifting themes of family, community and second chances. 

My second category is:

A book set in the Australian Mountains:

I searched my shelves for a book to fit this category and came across this cute chapter book I purchased through Big Sky Publishing.
The Pink Snowman by Alan Horsfield is set in the Blue Mountains. 

It's snowing in the Blue Mountains and Krystal is bored...but not for long.
After a disasterous attempt to build a snowman, Krystal and her friend Jasper find themselves with a puzzling problem.
Not only has their snowman come alive, now he's turning pink, and he's not happy about it! 

This was a fun little chapter book with a couple of facts about snow and a few dad jokes thrown in and a touch of magical realism. 



Friday, 8 November 2019

Book Club Book Review: Taking Tom Murray Home by Tim Slee

Taking Tom Murray Home
Tim Slee

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia 
Publication date: 22 July 2019
RRP: $32.99 AUD
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format Read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Beauty and Lace 


Bankrupt dairy farmer Tom Murray decides he'd rather sell off his herd and burn down his own house than hand them over to the bank. But something goes tragically wrong, and Tom dies in the blaze. His wife, Dawn, doesn't want him to have died for nothing and decides to hold a funeral procession for Tom as a protest, driving 350km from Yardley in country Victoria to bury him in Melbourne where he was born. To make a bigger impact she agrees with some neighbours to put his coffin on a horse and cart and take it slow - real slow.
But on the night of their departure, someone burns down the local bank. And as the motley funeral procession passes through Victoria, there are more mysterious arson attacks. Dawn has five days to get to Melbourne. Five days, five more towns, and a state ready to explode in flames...

Told with a laconic, deadpan wit, Taking Tom Murray Home is a timely, thought-provoking, heart-warming, quintessentially Australian story like no other. It's a novel about grief, pain, anger and loss, yes, but it's also about hope - and how community, friends and love trump pain and anger, every time.


Taking Tom Murray Home has a true Australian feel. The small farming community of Yardley bands together after Tom Murray is accidentally killed whilst burning down his own home. This was Tom’s act of defiance when the bank threatened to foreclose on his mortgage.
Narrated through 13 year old Jack Murray the story is heart-felt as Jack tries to understand his father’s death in his own way. We quite often get jack’s somewhat naive look on events.
Dawn Murray decides to pack Tom’s coffin on a milk cart drawn by a draft horse and take the trip to Melbourne, a journey of six days, where he will be buried. They garner much support along the way and with the inclusion of media and police Dawn has to remind everyone this is a funeral procession not a protest.
I quite enjoyed this story about people coming together to support each other but I’m not sure they achieved much. Told through the eyes of a thirteen year old the story is slow going and there isn’t much description of the surrounds. The inclusion of the condition of Analgesia was well plotted and believable. I don’t think I’ve come across this in a book before.

 My rating  4/5 
This review is from the Beauty & Lace Book Club 
@beautyandlacemag #beautyandlacebookclub 
Tim Slee is an Australian journalist with a wanderlust. Born in Papua New Guinea to Australian parents who sprang from sheep country in the Mid-North and Far North of South Australia, he worked for several years for the Stock Journal in Adelaide before moving to Canberra and then Sydney where he worked for the Attorney General's Department. Since then he has lived in Denmark, Canada, Australia and is currently on contract in Denmark again with a multinational pharmaceutical company. Although, according to his favourite airline, he has been around the world with them 22 times and visited 54 countries, Australia is still his physical and emotional home base. Taking Tom Murray Home is his first novel, and the winner of the inaugural Banjo Prize