Sunday, 17 June 2018

Book Review: The Jade Lily (Popular Fiction)

Title: The Jade Lily
Author: Kirsty Manning
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 
Publication Date: 1st May 2018
Pages: 437
RRP: $29.99 AUD
Format Read: Paperback (uncorrected proof)
Source: Publisher  supplied


 In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century.

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the 'Paris of the East': beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city's glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li's loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents' past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family - and herself.

A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

My thoughts

The Jade Lily is a dual time-line narrative.

1938 Vienna, Austria – 11 year old Romy and her parents flee to Shanghai after one of her brothers is shot by German soldiers and the other is herded away with other young Jewish men. On the three month trip to Shanghai by boat, Romy meets Nina and they become firm friends. Their lives take very different paths but bonded by the unspeakable events of war they remain firm friends for life.

2016 Melbourne, Australia – 36 year old Alexandra has rushed home from England to be by her dying grandfather’s side, leaving behind a broken romance. Her Grandmother, Romy, is stoic and strong and with lifelong friend Nina by her side she goes about her business without a fuss. This stoic, strong attitude is so endearing and understandable from the women that have been through countless injustices throughout their life and have learned to keep going and do whatever you can to survive through these adversities with no complaint.

Alexandra’s parents died in a car accident when she was young and she was brought up by her grandparents. She knows that her mother Sophia was adopted by Romy and Wilhelm. There is much secrecy around Sophia’s adoption and whenever Alexandra brought it up with her grandparents she could see they were genuinely distressed, so she let the matter drop. Alexandra’s story is one of trying to find out who she is, what makes her the way she is, her ancestry. Armed with nothing but an old photo, her mother’s adoption certificate, an old diary and a jade necklace she accepts a job offer in Shanghai and starts to ask questions.
When Alexandra visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and saw her great grandparents’ and grandmother’s names engraved on the wall I could almost feel the goosebumps myself. How surreal this moment must have been!

The Jade Lily is an atmospheric tale of the atrocities of war and the stoic, strong women that endured it.
Manning has written a heart-felt historical fiction detailing the hardships endured by the displaced and the unfailing spirit of these people to keep going when all seems lost.
A large focus throughout the story is the blending of cultures as refugees from different countries introduce their cultures and foods into Shanghai. Traditional Chinese medicine is also explored with the healing power and well-being benefits of different blends of herbs and acupuncture.
Shanghai was the star of this story! The people, the food, the customs, the countryside, the refugees and the architecture all feature prominently, then and now.

” this swirling metropolis where decadence and depravity skipped hand in hand and it seemed rules were meant to be broken”

The Jade Lily is an intensively researched story that conveys the shocking cruelties endured by the displaced during the war and one woman’s journey of strength and love as she comes of age during these trying times. The vivid descriptions are a sensual feast of odours, flavours, sounds and sights from the streets of Shanghai.

If you read Historical Fiction this is one book you must add to your shelf.

My rating 4/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Content: the horrors of war.

*I received an uncorrected proof copy from the publisher

About the author

 Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales. She has degrees in literature and communications and worked as an editor and publishing manager in book publishing for over a decade. A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia. Kirsty’s journalism and photography specialising in lifestyle and travel regularly appear in magazines, newspapers and online.
In 2005, Kirsty and her husband, with two toddlers and a baby in tow, built a house in an old chestnut grove in the Macedon Ranges. Together, they planted an orchard and veggie patch, created large herbal ‘walks’ brimming with sage and rosemary, wove borders from chestnuts branches and constructed far too many stone walls by hand.
Kirsty loves cooking with her kids and has several large heirloom copper pots that do not fit anywhere easily, but are perfect for making (and occasionally burning) jams, chutneys and soups. With husband Alex Wilcox, Kirsty is a partner in the award-winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne.

You can connect with the author at the following sites.

And book #15 in the Australian Women Writers challenge


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Spotlight on other books I've read this month - May

Every Note Played
by Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published by Simon & Schuster

My thoughts

 ‘I’m not a cryer,’I say as I’m trying to stop the tears welling.
Here they come again, ‘But I’m really not a cryer.’
‘Ok, you’ve got me Lisa Genova. I’m a blubbering mess now.’

Every Note Played is an emotional and well researched story on the degenerative disease ALS. When Richard, a concert pianist, is diagnosed with ALS he is at first in denial but as the degeneration of his muscles progresses he must face a life without his beloved piano. Richard is a person who has a single minded love of playing piano that is at obsession level. the notes and tune are all he thinks of during his waking hours.
"He is no longer playing the music. The music is playing him." "Without the piano, how can he live?"

Genova describes the symptoms and the progress of the disease in a poetic and personally touching voice laced with overwhelming compassion. The characters' inner feelings are expressed with clarity and sensitivity.

Richard and his wife are divorced after a bitter buildup of blame on both sides. The accusations and hurt had still not been resolved and as it burned away in both of them neither knew how to start the repair. 

Genova focuses on relationships and forgiveness, the all consuming job of caring for a terminally ill loved one and the wonderful job done by home help workers. As devastating as the disease is the advances in technology to aid the sufferers and their carers is amazing to read about.
A recommended read. The emotion is real and not over dramatised
*I received a review copy from the publisher

Ill Will
by Michael Stewart

genre: Historical Fiction
published by HQ Fiction

My thoughts

 Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights, and is traveling across the moors to Liverpool in search of his past.
Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, from a whipping, and the pair journey on together.

I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Stewart's take on the three years Heathcliff was missing from Wuthering Heights. I haven't read Wuthering Heights so I had no preconceived ideas of what he should be like.
The prologue gave me a good idea of Heathcliff's need for vengeance against Hindley and Cathy. Stewart's descriptive prose and superb characterization kept me enthralled throughout the entire tale.
Stewart includes many issues from the time such as the discontent of miners, prejudice, slave trading, the large gap between the rich and the poor, the low value of a human life.
Ten year old Emily's potty mouth gave me a few laughs. She was an old head on young shoulders. She had been through much and seen much in her few years and quite often it was her advice that Heathcliff needed to heed to survive their journey.

Once you get past the over use of offensive language in the first few dozen pages, it does settle. The graphic violence may not be for everyone.
*I received a review copy from the publisher

If Kisses Cured Cancer
by T. S. Hawken

Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary Fiction
Published by Seahawk Press

My thoughts

Matt Pearce is depressed, working an uninspiring job and lacking any prospect of dragging his life out of mediocrity. That is until he meets Joy: a cancer survivor who lives beyond the rules of normal people.

Matt's dream was to become a writer but after too many rejections he had given up on it. When he is sacked from his call centre job, for being too customer oriented, Matt claws himself back from the depths of depression and decides now is the time to try writing again. Really do something.
Whilst out shopping he sees a woman taking someones full trolley then proceeds to the checkout and pays for it and leaves. Fascinated by this girl Matt follows her and confronts her. She tells him she does this to save time. They soon become firm friends. Joy was very much a free thinker, she helped Matt to open up and see a different side to life. To live the life he imagined.
If Kisses Cured cancer is filled with raw emotion and using personal experiences as inspiration Hawken has written a touching story filled with moments of humour to lighten the story but still give the subject the reverence it deserves.

 If Kisses Cured Cancer is a quirky look at finding love in unlikely places. It is about the importance of connecting with those around you, enjoying every moment and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest. It will have you in tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of laughter.
*I received a review copy from the author

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Review: The Toad Who Loved Tea (Children's)

Title: The Toad Who Loved Tea
Author: Faiz Kermani
Illustrator: Korey Scott 
Publisher: Matador
Publication Date: 28th January 2018
Pages: 48
Format read: Paperback
Source: Author supplied

 "The crowd clapped as Tungtang sipped the tea elegantly from a tiny porcelain cup. They sighed as she gently swirled the tea in her mouth. They applauded as she rolled her eyes, and they cheered as she rocked from side to side, trilling "Why, this is toad-ily tea-licious!" What happens when you brew together a toad who likes tea, a cruel crow, snobby customers and an ancient prediction?

A strong, fragrant story full of unexpected adventures that will take you and Tungtang, the tea-loving toad, from a muddy pond to Queen Catherine's Olde English Tea Shoppe for a real clash of cultures. Tungtang's story of her discovery of tea and humanity will change her (and the way you look at tea) forever. The Toad Who Loved Tea is the hilarious tale of a tea-loving toad's unconventional journey from a muddy pond to an elegant tea shop.

My thoughts

Tungtang always thought of herself as an adventurous toad until one day a nasty crow laughs at her stories of adventure and tells her real adventure is going far away to somewhere you have never been. Tungtang decides that if she is going to be a real adventurer she needs to something different, something unheard of. She is going into the town!
Grandpa Nutbelch tells her about Dustysox the Great and his prophecy about a toad that goes on a journey and achieves great fame among the humans. Tungtang believes she is the one to fulfill the prophecy.

Once she gets to the town she takes up residence in a tea shop. She loves the smell and taste of all the different tea blends. She causes quite a lot of trouble in the shop during the day, stealing buns and upsetting tea cups but she always manages to escape detection. All this disruption is causing problems for the tea shop owners and the shop may have to be closed down. Will Tungtang be caught? Will the shop be closed down? How will Tungtang fulfill the prophecy?

This was a fun book to read and Tungtang was such a cheeky toad stealing sticky buns by day and hiding in the storeroom and rolling in the tea at night. Names like Lady Lobsterpants, Dustysox and Muddybum are sure to elicit a few giggles. Tungtang’s observations of humans and their ways was also quite amusing.
The illustrations by Korey Scott were colourful and brought the story to life.

The Toad Who Loved Tea is a wonderful story about adventure and discovering your true talent quite often lies in the things you love doing.
Written as a first introduction to chapter books with full page illustrations it is best recommended for ages 3 -7 years

About the author


In his free time, Faiz loves writing funny children's books, especially frog-themed ones (frog-friendly fiction).

These include My Alien Penfriend, Golbo the Spider's Amazing Vacuum Cleaner Adventure, The Frog Who Loved Mathematics, The Frog in the Skyscraper, The Frog Who Was Blue and The Toad Who Loved Tea.

His books have won awards in the US and UK and have been translated into French, German, Spanish and Russian. He is involved in various literacy projects with schools and is always happy to hear from anyone on ideas for educational collaborations.

You can read my review of The Frog Who was Blue here

You can connect with the author at the following sites.

Website  |    Twitter  |    Goodreads