Saturday, 30 January 2021

Book Review: The Women and the Girls by Laura Bloom

The Women and the Girls 
by
Laura Bloom
 

 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 19th January 2021 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction  
Pages: 344
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
Three friends. Three marriages left behind. Life begins in earnest.

It's 1977, and warm, bohemian Libby - stay-at-home mother, genius entertainer and gifted cook - is lonely. When she meets Carol, who has recently emigrated from London with her controlling husband and is feeling adrift, and Anna, who loves her career but not her marriage, the women form an unexpected bond.

Their husbands aren't happy about it, and neither are their daughters.

Set against a backdrop of inner-city grunge and 70s glamour, far-out parties and ABBA songs, The Women and The Girls is a funny, questioning and moving novel about love, friendship, work, family, and freedom.
 
My review
 
The Women and the Girls was everything it promised to be; A funny, probing and moving novel filled with the music, clothes, hair and food of the time, encapsulating everything that made the 70’s unforgettable. A truly nostalgic trip for those of an age to remember the era.
 
Three women all at a cross-roads in their lives, unhappy in their marriages for varying reasons come together to support each other when each decide to leave their husbands on the same night.
 
The Women and the Girls is not only a story about marriage and the importance of female friendships it also highlights the constraints on women during the 70’s and reveals it as a time of great social change for women and a step closer to equality.
 
Laura Bloom has created three very different women from different backgrounds and thrown them together by the fact that their daughters are in the same class at school. To begin with the women don’t even like each other. 
I loved how Bloom threw these women together into one house and left them to work through their differences. Add in one conniving husband bent on destroying the friendship and four tweenage girls, and lets see how the women deal with this.
 
Libby, Carol and Anna were strong women for their time. A time when women were just learning to be assertive and most could only dream of leaving a troubled marriage. I know this was meant to be a lighthearted look at women, marriage and the 70’s but I personally think it came across as a little too easy and convenient for the women to leave, having ready accommodation and babysitters.  
 
4½ / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
 
About the author
 
Photo: Goodreads
 Laura Bloom is the author of eight critically acclaimed novels for adults and children, including The Cleanskin, which was described in The Australian as 'a masterpiece of drama and characterisation'. Her novels have been shortlisted for many awards, including the NSW Premier's Awards. Laura is also an award-winning screenwriter, and many of her novels have been optioned for film and TV. She is based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.

 
 
 
 
 
Challenges entered: Australian Women Writers challenge #AWW2021
and Aussie Author Challenge #AussieAuthor21
 
Other books I've reviewed by Laura Bloom
 
 The Cleanskin

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Storybook Corner Book Review: I Know an Old Lady by Edward Miller

 I Know an Old Lady
Written & Illustrated 
by
Edward Miller




Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing
Publication date: 5th January 2021
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 20
RRP: $12.99AUD (Board Book)
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

About the book

An updated and slightly different take on a classic folk song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” with a new, kid-friendly ending, I Know an Old Lady is a humorous picture book for children featuring the iconic old lady that can’t stop eating the strangest things! With memorable lyrics, absurd illustrations, and die-cut elements that gradually build and build upon each other until the old lady’s stomach is filled with bizarre objects, from a small fly all the way up to a horse, this silly children’s book of a timeless tale will delight both kids and parents alike! 
 
My review
 
A new take on an old classic that many readers would have grown up listening to, or reciting themselves.
 
The images are colourful and wonderfully detailed in a cute cartoon style. I enjoyed the depiction of the old lady who always seems to have a cup of tea and a cupcake on the go.
 
With a conservative move away from the original verse of "perhaps she'll die" Miller ends each stanza with a different rhyming match to "fly" such as "It makes me cry" and  "I'd rather eat pie."

It is hard to get the full visual effect with an eBook as the hard copy board book has peek-through die cut holes that show the every increasing animals inside the old lady as you turn the page.

Reading this book was a treat for me as well as the children. The full spread illustrations had many elements to look at apart from the mounting collection of animals in the old lady's belly. I loved that the animal that was next to be eaten appeared on the page previous to it being mentioned and the children could speculate what was coming next. The repetitive nature of the rhyming is conducive of audience participation and it didn't take them long to start joining in.

I didn't particularly like the ending with it's veer away from "She died, of course." I really don't think children take their story books so literally that they think an old lady died. Do we really need to be so sensitive? However this is a good version if you have a child that is sensitive to these things.  Anyway, I liked it enough to seek out a hard copy to add to my home library. It was a lot of fun! 

My rating 4/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 
Dot & Ditto 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author


Edward Miller is the author of many nonfiction children's titles. A prolific graphic designer and longtime art director in children's publishing, Miller lives in New York City.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Book Review: The Skylark's Secret by Fiona Valpy

The Skylark's Secret
by
Fiona Valpy
 

 

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication date: 29th September 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 315
Format read: Kindle eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

About the book

Loch Ewe, 1940. When gamekeeper’s daughter Flora’s remote highland village finds itself the base for the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys, life in her close-knit community changes forever. In defiance of his disapproving father, the laird’s son falls in love with Flora, and as tensions build in their disrupted home, any chance of their happiness seems doomed.

Decades later, Flora’s daughter, singer Lexie Gordon, is forced to return to the village and to the tiny cottage where she grew up. Having long ago escaped to the bright lights of the West End, London still never truly felt like home. Now back, with a daughter of her own, Lexie learns that her mother—and the hostile-seeming village itself—have long been hiding secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew.

As she pieces together the fragments of her parents’ story, Lexie discovers the courageous, devastating sacrifices made in her name. It’s too late to rekindle her relationship with her mother, but can Lexie find it in her heart to forgive the past, to grieve for all that’s lost, and finally find her place in the world?
 
My review
 
Set in the beautiful Northwest Highlands of Scotland at Loch Ewe The Skylark's Secret is an evocative read. Fiona Valpy's poetic prose bring the setting and the characters alive.
 
Told in multiple time frames. In 1978 we have accomplished singer Lexie Gordon return home, her career in tatters and baby in tow. Lexie has many regrets and one is not visiting her mother more before she passed away. Now she is home she wants to find out more about her father but she worries the tight-knit community won't accept her back. In 1939 a young Flora Gordon lives with her father and brother. Here we see the affect the war has on the community with a naval base being set up on the shores of the Loch. Fiona Valpy highlights the life in these areas during the war years and the great toll on many families losing their sons to war. There are also themes of PTSD which was undiagnosed and untreated and the evacuation of children from London to board with families in country areas. 
 
I really enjoyed Flora's story, the day to day life of the small community and the class system that was relevant at the time. Flora and her friends were a fun lot, they did their part for the war effort but they also had fun flirting with the American sailors.
 
Fiona Valpy has created characters to love and characters to hate which makes for engaging and immersive reading. 
 
The Skylark's Secret is a story of love, loss, hope and new beginnings. 
 
4/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
About the author
 
Photo: Goodreads

Fiona is an acclaimed number 1 bestselling author, whose books have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of WWII. Her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.
 
Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she's written. 
 
 
Challenges entered: Historical Fiction Challenge #HistFicChallenge 
 
 

Monday, 25 January 2021

Mailbox Monday & Life This Week - 25th January

 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Life This Week is a meme created by Denyse Whelan Blogs where bloggers share snaps of what is currently happening in their lives.

Happy Monday!

I'm still in holiday mode so we have been enjoying lots of luncheons and picnics.

Lunch at the golf club

A picnic by the lake

 
 While the weather was still mild we enjoyed a bush walk

 
I've joined a walking group which encourages me to get out there and walk more

Morning tea in the city

The temperatures have now soared to the high 30s and low 40s so it will be all indoors this week.


Books I've received recently

Covers link to Goodreads:
 




I would love to hear what books you received in the mail recently! 


Saturday, 23 January 2021

Book Review: Blood Will Have Blood by Thomas H Carry

 Blood Will Have Blood
by
Thomas H. Carry



Publisher: Bad Alley Books
Publication date:  19th January 2021
Genre: Crime
Pages: 223
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of Smith Publicity Services
 
About the book
 
Seven years in New York, and that big break has yet to materialize for struggling actor and inveterate pothead Scott Russo. Performing in terrible, barely attended Off-Off Broadway productions, hopping from one soul-crushing job to the next, Scott slacks away in a pot-fueled haze and contemplates throwing in the towel on his anemic career. The only thing that keeps him going is the humiliation of returning home to Baltimore. That and his current theatrical gig: an idiotically bad production of Macbeth.

Broke and out of a job, Scott jumps at his friend’s offer to work for a pot delivery service, only to get caught in a web of brutal Irish gangsters, a charismatic psychopath, ruthless prosecutors, and clueless actors. As his theatrical and criminal worlds collide in mayhem, murder, and betrayal, Scott finds himself morphing into a bumbling and blood-stained Macbeth, on stage and off.

If he can just make it to opening night…
  

My review


I really enjoyed this gritty crime novel. My first book by Thomas H Carry.

Scott is a down and out actor, doped up on pot, wondering where his life is going but not having the motivation to really care. Scott has a disdain for the scrabble for big money. Basically he was lazy! However when friend and pot delivery guy Freddie suggests he join the postmen, a pot delivery service, Scott’s disdain for big money soon diminishes as he sees this as an easy way to make himself some big money.
 
Carry’s writing style is edgy with plenty of dark humour and the setting of New York City with its seedy underworld of territorial crime bosses and the grab for power was easily imagined.
 
What at first looks like easy money soon sees Scott complicit to murder and by the time he realises he needs to get out of this, everything conspires against him to wedge him deeper and deeper into the deadly game.
 
The story had me on the edge of my seat and had me eagerly reading with no idea where the plot would go or how Scott could possibly get out of this situation.

There is plenty of violence and it’s a bit gruesome but I feel it wasn’t overdone.
 
I enjoyed the connection between Scott’s real life dramas and his acting part as Macbeth and how the more his life unravelled the better his acting became.
 
Blood Will Have Blood is a cleverly plotted, gritty noir crime which will appeal to fans of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block and Lou Berney.
 
5/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
Meet the author
 

Thomas H. Carry's debut novel, Privilege (Koehler Books, 2020), was an Amazon bestseller in satire fiction and named one of the best 100 indie novels of 2020 by Kirkus Review. Carry holds a doctorate in literature and has worked as a professional actor, educator, consultant, and bouncer. He lives in Manhattan with his wife.
 
 

 

 

Challenges entered: Cloak and Dagger challenge

 
 

Friday, 22 January 2021

Storybook Corner Book Review: The Toad From Outer Space by Faiz Kermani

 
 
The Toad From Outer Space
by
Faiz Kermani
Illustrated by Korey Scott
 

Publisher: Children's Funny Books
Publication date: 3rd July 2020
Genre: Children / Picture storybook
Pages: 26
Format read: Softcover
Source: Courtesy of the author
 
About the book
 
Fizzy Frog Swamp was a beautiful location
A croaking wonderland for rest and relaxation
Every local frog possessing cold blood
Considered it a paradise of insects and mud

An uneventful life was all that they desired
The swamp provided everything that they required
If there was food, then nothing else mattered
But the peace of their home was about to be shattered…
 
My review
 
Snotbubble (a name that elicited many giggles) was forced to leave his home as it had become overrun with pollution and human waste. He makes a rocket from refuse left In the lake. Crash landing in Fizzy Frog Swamp a quiet, unpolluted haven he spins a story to the frogs that he is an alien from outer space. Mudball is suspicious about Snotbubble’s story and does some investigating. He is soon found out to be lying and decides to come clean and tell the truth. When they hear his story of how the lake was polluted and all the inhabitants had to leave, they tell him they must all stick together and he can stay.

I really enjoy Faiz Kermani’s children’s books! They have messages of acceptance, anti-bullying, being different, honesty and being your best self. I love the use of frogs and toads in these wonderful tales featuring anthropomorphism and are a fun way to introduce meaningful, related topics.

The Toad from Outer Space is a story of acceptance and honesty with themes of displacement and conservation. This picture storybook is told in verse and the story moves along smoothly with a good cadence and wonderful imagery.

Each page of text is accompanied by a full page colour plate giving the story an extra lift in imagery. The text also has a visual effect with colour, size and font change to express noise, movement, colour and atmosphere.
 
5/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
Meet the author
 
 
Away from his serious scientific day job, in his free time, Faiz Kermani loves writing children's books that have funny and wacky themes.
A lot of his books have frogs in them but no one knows why.
His books have won awards in the US and UK and have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian. Faiz is also involved in various literacy projects with schools and non-profit work with healthcare charities.


For more information on his books please visit:
 
 
Meet the illustrator
 
Korey Scott is an illustrator who specializes in children's books, educational material, and funny characters/cartoons.
His illustration style is perfect for capturing the attention of children and adults. Not only are they fun to look at, but they provide a beneficial resource to a child's education. He explains, "I love what I do, and try to put something unique in each project while learning something new too. When I am not drawing (and many times when I am) you can find me telling jokes, making sound effects, speaking Spanish, and trying to make people laugh".


See more of Korey's work at:

 


 Other books I've read by Faiz Kermani
 
 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart

Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart
by
Helene Opocensky
 

 
Publisher: Self Published
Publication date: 10th October 2020
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Pages: 380
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of Smith Publicity Services
 
About the book
 
How could Corbin possibly do what he was supposed to do? After Corbin's mother died, Maxim Moritz Grobian took him, penniless orphan that he was, under his wing and taught him the magic that was their heritage. Corbin owed Max everything, and now Max had given him a mission. Corbin was to bring Max's estranged daughter to New York. Lorelei was the only one, Max insisted, that could used the Heartstone, a crystal of phenomenal power, to keep mages safe from the Inquisitors that hunted them and allow mages to finally take their rightful place in the world.

A wothy goal, thought Corbin initially, but now that he had actually met Lorelei all he really wanted to do was to run for the hills. Both afraid of hurting her and endangering himself, he needed to stay away from her not befriend her to do Max's bidding. Besides his instructions  were more than to just befriend her. He was supposed to make her fall in love with him!

There was no way, absolutely no way he was going to do that - not after what she told him.

My review

In Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart we follow Corbin, a young orphan boy, as he first discovers his magic at the tender age of 10 when consumed by sadness at his mother's death he turns into a crow and flies off with a crow that was perched on his window. He is soon befriended by a mage who, seeing his potential, makes Corbin his protege.

The story is written in an uncomplicated style which seemed to be geared towards a younger audience 12+ however I found it lacking in good role models. Corbin was very self-centred and vain. I'm not adverse to teens kissing but Corbin was kissing his friends' girlfriends and there didn't seem to be any animosity or concern over this. There was also much talk about the easy girls he used to date. I feel stories with teens need to have at least one strong female. Hyacinth and Lorelei were nymphs so it was understandable that they were obsessed with looks and were flirtatious (although I think this was a little overdone). The other female was Maggie and I was disappointed that she wasn't more assertive with the boys.

I have to commend the world building. This was well executed. Detailed but not complicated.

In my fantasy reads I want to see the magic. I want to feel real danger and I want the antagonist to be mean right from the start. He did come through in the end with a kidnapping and threat of torture but I felt it was too late.
I would have liked a lot more showing and less telling. Corbin tells us he is having magic lessons, we are told he lived with the crows for two years and how he ran with the wolf pack but what I really wanted was to live these scenes.

I think Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart has a fantastic premise and exceptional world building. I would like the next book to concentrate on the mission and why it's important. With more magic, more danger and a bit less on personal issues I think this could be a great series.
I don't usually mention cover art but I think this one is captivating.

2.5/5   ⭐⭐½

Meet the author

 
Photo credit: Goodreads
Helene Opocensky was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a child.

After college graduation, she worked for an insurance company for ten years but, after filing a sex discrimination lawsuit against them, she was hired by her law firm and encouraged to attend law school.

After graduation, she worked for many years in the child support department as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut.

She has recently released her debut young adult novel, Smoke and Mirrors.