Friday, 24 January 2020

Book Review: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel #BRPreview

The Paris Model
Alexandra Joel

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia 
Publication date: 20th January 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Pages: 352
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback ARC
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading

Sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself ... A stunning novel of love, betrayal and family secrets for all fans of Fiona McIntosh and Natasha Lester.
After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris in order to find her true identity.
While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world's newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats and politicians.
But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn't know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe's dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins - and that her life is in peril.

Alexandra Joel takes her readers from the serenity and isolation of the Australian outback to the catwalks of Christian Dior in Paris. The story then moves from Paris to the tranquility of the French countryside.

Through a young Grace Woods we experience the isolation of a country wheat and sheep farm. Grace loves the farm but she also loves her visits to Sydney to see close family friend Reuben. From a young age Grace has had an affinity with Reuben but little does she know what a major impact he will later have on her life.

When Grace’s whole future seems to be mapped out before her, marriage to her childhood sweetheart, then children and life on the farm, a chance visit by fashion designer Christian Dior to Sydney sees Grace landing a job as a mannequin and then flying to Paris where she is employed as a Dior model.

Grace was quite a flighty character and whenever she was confronted with any sort of conflict she would run rather than wait for an explanation. This trend to avoid conflict would first see her estranged from her mother and later running from love.

Joel includes events from WWII with Australians enlisting to fight in Britain and then the political unrest in France where Grace finds herself in a life and death situation.
With cameo appearances by Jacqueline Bouvier, Pablo Picasso, Francoise Gilot and Chef Julia Child I found the setting and the drama would be perfectly suited to the big screen.

The Paris Model is fast paced and Joel packs a lot of story into this book so it’s never boring and although some of the plot may be a little too convenient I was swept away by Grace’s story and taken to any place and another time.


My rating  4/5

Alexandra Joel is the former editor of Harper's Bazaar and of Portfolio, Australia's first magazine for working women. She has also been a regular contributor to The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine. She is also the author of Rosetta, a biography of her great-grandmother – the scandalous Australian who enchanted British society – and Parade: the Story of Fashion in Australia, a social history detailing the development of fashion, style and national identity. 
 More recently, Alexandra has been a practising counsellor and psychotherapist. She is an honours graduate from the University of Sydney and has a Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology. She has two children and lives in Sydney with her husband. She is a keen student of art, fashion, history and politics and is exceedingly fond of Paris.


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Books and Bites Bingo - Category 2 #BooksandBitesBingo2020

This bingo challenge is with Facebook group Books and Bites with Monique Mulligan

It's still early days in my reading year but I was lucky enough to read a fabulous book that fit perfectly with this challenge.

This week I will be completing the 'A book with a door on the cover' category.

A book with a door on the cover

For this category I have chosen "Saving Missy".  

I initially thought this would be a hard one to fill. How often do you see doors on the cover of books! But here we have a book with several doors. It was a fabulous read as well.

Saving Missy teaches us it is never too late to change, grow and make new friends.

You can read my full review here 


Monday, 20 January 2020

Book Review: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey #BRPreview

Saving Missy
Beth Morrey

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia
Imprint: HarperCollins -  GB
Publication date: 20th January 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Uncorrected paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading

The world has changed around Missy Carmichael. At seventy-nine, she's estranged from her daughter, her son and only grandson live across the world in Australia, and her great love is gone. Missy spends her days with a sip of sherry, scrubbing the kitchen in her big empty house and reliving her past--though it's her mistakes, and secrets, that she allows to shine brightest. The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. Filled with wry laughter and deep insights into the stories we tell ourselves, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael shows us it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It's never too late to love

Missy Carmichael is an elderly widow feeling the desolate loneliness of a large empty house now that her husband is no longer with her and her two children have moved on with their lives. Son Alistair is living in Australia and keeps in touch via email but Missy is finding it hard to have anything interesting to email about. Whilst her daughter, Melanie, lives closer their relationship is strained after an argument and they very rarely have contact.

There are flashbacks of a young Missy and the high profile life she had with her college professor husband. There are also hints of a terrible secret that Missy has been burdened with throughout her life.

I immediately felt sympathetic towards Missy’s situation but as you get to know her you can see she is quite a negative person with words like impostor, fraud, fuddy-duddy often peppering her thoughts. She had a habit of judging people by their appearance and I think she thought other people were judging her as she was frequently humiliated, embarrassed or mortified in public.

When Missy meets the exuberant Angela and her young son Otis I was sure Angela was only looking for a babysitter. She then introduces Missy to designer and fellow dog-walker Sylvie who soon makes her way into Missy’s home and life. It was easy at the start to think the worst of these two bossy and extrovert characters but meeting them proved to be the best thing that happened to Missy.
Maggie and Sylvie take Missy in hand and show her that life is to be lived.

Saving Missy is a beautifully written, heart-felt story about friendship, opening yourself up to new experiences and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
I really enjoyed the way Missy slowly opened up and changed, proving you are never too old to change, grow and make new friends.


My rating  5/5

Beth Morrey was inspired to write her debut novel, Saving Missy, while pushing a pram around her local park during maternity leave. Getting to know the community of dog owners, joggers, neighbours and families, she began to sow the seeds of a novel about a woman saved by the people around her, strangers who became friends.Previously Creative Director at RDF Television, Beth now writes full time. She was previously shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter award, and had her work published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies while at university.Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons and a dog named Polly. 



Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner #BRPreview

The Daughter of Victory Lights
Kerri Turner

Publisher: Harlequin Australia 
Imprint: HQ Fiction
Publication date: 20th January 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback proof copy
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading


1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risqu� and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.

At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too do the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night ...

1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?

Told in two parts, Turner weaves a tragic and heartfelt story. She first brings the reader right into the midst of the war when Evelyn Bell, wishing to do her part for the war effort, signs up to an all-female search light regiment, a job that needs precision and nerves of steel as the lights search out enemy planes. The story moves on to post war dramas of PTSD, disconnection and unemployment. After the war Evelyn feels she could never settle for a life as someone’s wife and using her skills in lighting finds work aboard The Victory, a showboat featuring an eclectic array of performers, part cabaret, part burlesque, and part water ballet. Turner’s descriptions of the shows they preformed were spectacular and breathtaking. Evelyn changes her name to Evie, falls in love with Flynn and their story on board The Victory begins.

In the second part of the novel we are introduced to Lucy, a young girl, who is adopted by a family of ex performers. With themes of family and secrets this is a beautiful story of the magical healing power of a child’s love and acceptance. An underlying mystery of what happened to Evie runs through the second part of the book.

I found The Daughter of Victory Lights to be an exquisite story, thoroughly researched and vividly described. Turner’s characters are strong passionate and delightfully interesting.

I love Historical Fiction and it is such a thrill to find something unique and original. The Daughter of Victory Lights is wonderfully immersive.


My  rating  5/5

Photo Credit: HaperCollins Aus

Kerri Turner is a historical fiction author who lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and miniature schnauzer. She trained from a young age to become a ballerina, but life had other ideas for her. After gaining an Associate Degree (Dance) and Diploma of Publishing (Editing, Proofreading and Publishing), she combined her love of ballet, history and books to discover a passion for writing which far outweighed anything she'd done before. She still dances, passing on the joy of ballet to those who never got the chance to experience it—or thought their dancing years were behind them—by teaching adults-only and over-55s classes.
She loves to share details about her writing process, and the books she is reading, and can be found doing so on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodreadsPinterest and Litsy. For book updates and other material visit her website

This review is part of the  Australian Women Writers challenge #AWW2020
the Booklover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and Passages to the Past Historical Fiction Challenge #2020HFReadingChallenge

Friday, 17 January 2020

Life According to Literature Tag

I saw this fun tag on Theresa Smith Writes  and  Claire's Reads and Reviews  and thought it would be fun to join in.

THE RULES: Using only books you have read during the year (2019), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know below, if you’ve joined in too.

Describe yourself: The Giver of Stars 
How do you feel: Without a Doubt 
Describe Where you currently live: In a Great Southern Land 
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Butterfly Room 
Your favourite form of transportation: The Invention of Wings 
Your best friend is: The Ex 
You and your friends are: The Lost Girls 
What's the weather like: Home Fires 
You Fear: A Lifetime of Impossible Days 
What is the best advice you have to give: Don't Drink the Pink 
Thought for the Day: Wish You Were Here 
How would I like to die:  Making Trouble
My soul's present condition: Airborne

If you want to join in I would love to read your answers. Let me know in the comments.

The New Year Book Tag

I  first saw this tag on Caffeinated Fae  and couldn't resist giving it a try. Check out her blog to see her answers.

How many books are you planning on reading in 2020?

I have set my 2020 Goodreads goal at 70 books. I deliberately set it low so there is no pressure. I usually increase throughout the year.

Name five books you didn't get to read in 2019 but want to make a priority in 2020?

Charlottes Pass by Christine Lee
Blurred Vision by Steve Harrison
Esme's Gift by Elizabeth Foster
The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins
The Wolf Hour by Sarah Myles

Name a genre you want to read more of in 2020? 

A new challenge for me this year is the Historical Fiction challenge so I will be trying to read more Historical Fiction.

Three non-book related goals for 2020?

1. More coffees with friends.
2. Become more organised so I can have more coffees with friends.
3. Stress less about the small stuff and enjoy more time with friends.

What's a book that you've had forever that you still need to read?

I have about 800 books on my shelves that I have had forever and still need to read.

One word that you're hoping 2020 will be?



If you think this looks like fun and would like to join in I'm tagging you! 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Book Review: Buckley's Chance by Garry Linnell #BRPreview

Buckley's Chance
Garry Linnell
The greatest Australian story never told - until now.
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Imprint: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 1st October 2019
Genre: History / Society & Culture
Pages: 368
RRP: $34.99AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading

He fought Napoleon’s army and survived.
He was sent to the gallows and escaped the noose.
Now he is in chains and on his way to the other side of the world. What happens next will become one of the most remarkable survival stories in history.
The 19th century has just begun. The world is at war. England, ruled by a mad king, is exiling thousands of criminals to an old land that has become its newest dumping ground.
One of those prisoners is William Buckley, barely 21, a former soldier sentenced to life for stealing two small pieces of cloth. He’s a giant for his times. But it’s not just his towering frame that sets him apart. It’s his desire for freedom that will make his story so unique - even in an era famous for outrageous acts of bravery and heroism.
On a moonlit night Buckley escapes and disappears into the Australian bush. Discovered and adopted by an aboriginal tribe who regard him as a ghost, he is initiated into their rich and complex culture. Given up for dead by his white captors, he will not be seen again for more than 30 years until he emerges one day...carrying a spear, dressed in animal skins and having forgotten the English language.
Buckley’s Chance is a profound journey into a turning point in history where cultures clash, bitter rivals go to war and the body count mounts.
It’s also the story of a man who refuses to be held down.
A man prepared to defy all odds and take a chance.
Buckley’s chance.

In Buckley’s Chance Linnell has written a thorough and true account of Australia’s settlement. The events are not glossed over or reinvented to be politically correct.

We follow William Buckley through his army days to being convicted of stealing and instead of a death sentence a lenient judge has him transported to Australia.

Enduring a long and harrowing journey to Australia by ship Buckley escapes first chance he gets. After weeks on the run he is found, near death, and taken in by an aboriginal family. He goes on to spend 30 years with the indigenous people.

Linnell’s impeccably researched novel is heavy on the politics of early Port Phillip and Hobart. It includes the feud between John Fawkner and John Batman and the slaughter of unknown numbers of aboriginals.

The novel is delivered in second person narration as if the narrator is telling Buckley’s story to Buckley himself. I’ve never been keen on second person narration and I felt that the story kept going off on tangents. It didn’t have a straight timeline and kept jumping back and forward in time which left me a bit lost at times.

Linnell has written an excellent novel on the early history of Australia but for me I would have preferred a bit more drama and more on the perils and hardships of everyday life on the run in this arid land.


4 stars for content – 3 stars for delivery.

Garry Linnell is one of Australia's most experienced journalists.
A Walkley Award winner for feature writing, he has been editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, editor of The Daily Telegraph, director of new and current affairs for the nine network and editorial director of Fairfax. He spent four years as co-host of the Breakfast Show on 2UE and is also the author of three previous books - Football Ltd: the inside story of the AFL, Raelene: Sometimes Beaten, Never Conquered, and Playing God: The Rise and Fall of Gary Ablet.

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie Author Challenge 
and part of the NonFiction reader challenge Category: History