Tuesday 26 September 2023

Book Review: A Jewish Girl in Paris by Melanie Levensohn

 A Jewish Girl in Paris


Melanie Levensohn

Adapted from a translation by Jamie Lee Searle

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 9th August 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
RRP: $34.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: A Jewish Girl in Paris

A Jewish Girl in Paris is a must read for all historical fiction fans. Moving from war torn Paris in the 1940's to Washington DC in the early 2000's.
On his death bed in 1982 Jacobina's father confesses to having another daughter, Judith, who he left  behind in Paris after divorcing her mother. Over two decades later Jacobina confides in volunteer care-worker Beatrice that she promised her father she would find out what happened to her half-sister. Beatrice offers to help her and a friendship sparks between the two women.
1940's Paris, and Judith is attending University, working in the library and falling in love with the handsome Christian. Life is perfect! But the German occupation is increasing and the Jews are being vilified more and more.
A Jewish Girl in Paris is a beautiful story that I didn't want to end. A fictional tale of courage and resilience, inspired by real events and circumstances.
I loved Judith's naivety and her thoughts that everything will be fine. It came across as very realistic.
The story follows Judith's life leading up to her being sent to Auschwitz. Showcasing her bravery, and Christian's determination to save the woman he loved. 

Beatrice works for the World Bank but her character really evolves when she volunteers as a care-worker and meets Jacobina and the search for information on Judith starts.

There are a few "sliding door" moments, when key characters miss each other by mere moments, which I thought were an ingenious addition to the story.

A Jewish Girl in Paris has a tantalising blend of danger, romance, mystery and historical events.

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ + an extra ⭐ for a character named Veronica 💖

About the author

Melanie Levensohn studied international relations and literature in France and Chile. She earned her master’s degree from Sciences Po in Paris. She later became a spokesperson for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, reporting from countries in crisis round the world. From 2006 to 2013 Melanie worked as a communications at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., managing corporate external relations for the Caribbean region. She now lives in Geneva.

Monday 25 September 2023

Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

 Force of Nature


Jane Harper

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 26th September 2017
Series: Aaron Falk #2
Genre: Crime / Suspense 
Pages: 384
Source: Own purchase

Review: Force of Nature

Force of Nature is book two in the Federal Agent Aaron Falk series. Jane Harper's debut novel The Dry was a huge success so Force of Nature had huge shoes to fill. I found it was every bit as atmospheric and pagerturnerish (that's a real word) as the first book.

Five women enter the Giralang Ranges on a team building event and only four return; late, muddy and distressed. Alice Russell is missing and everyone is assured she will be found cold but safe. Only Aaron knows she is a whistleblower in a major fraud case.
The story moves from the present day search for Alice to the four days the women spent in the bush. The chapters are short and the move between the two time frames is quick, which keeps the story moving along at a fast pace.
Through conversations between Aaron and his partner Carmen we get to know more about them and their personal lives.
Harper's writing is engaging and the hostile environment of the Australian bush is perfectly rendered to keep the suspense level high. 

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author (from front of book)

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestseller The Dry, The Lost Man, The Survivors and Exiles. Her books are published in forty territories worldwide. Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year. Jane lives in Melbourne with her husband, two children and two cats.

Saturday 23 September 2023

Book Review: Simply Lies by David Baldacci

 Simply Lies


David Baldacci

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 28th march 2023
Series: Mickey Gibson #1
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 400
RRP: $34.99 (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Simply Lies

I'm sorry to say that Simply Lies was not my favourite David Baldacci novel!
I absolutely loved the Atlee Pine series and couldn't get enough of her. I was sorry to see the series end.
Simply Lies is the first book in a new series featuring protagonist Mickey Gibson. Gibson is a former detective now working for private investigation company ProEye, tracking down the hidden assets of the extremely wealthy who have mounting debts.
Gibson is conned into investigating the death of a known criminal and once she is in, there is no backing out.
Simply Lies has a very complicated plot and I couldn't understand Mickey's motivation to become so involved in this case.
There weren't a lot of characters in the novel but everyone had two, sometimes three, different names. Baldacci includes lots of dialogue and internal monologue - two of my pet hates.

I did enjoy the unexpected twists in the story and I have to admit the plot wasn't at all predictable.
I definitely plan on giving the next Mickey Gibson novel a try as I know Baldacci can write a compelling five star worthy novel.

My rating 2 / 5 ⭐⭐

About the author

David Baldacci is one of the world’s bestselling and favourite thriller writers. A former trial lawyer with a keen interest in world politics, he has specialist knowledge in the US political system and intelligence services, and his first book, Absolute Power, became an instant international bestseller, with the movie starring Clint Eastwood a major box office hit. He has since written more than forty bestsellers featuring, most recently, Amos Decker, Aloysius Archer, Atlee Pine and John Puller. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US.
Other books I've read by David Baldacci:

Thursday 21 September 2023

Book Review: The Magpie's Sister by Kerri Turner

 The Magpie's Sister


Kerri Turner

Publisher: Echo Publishing
Publication date: 2nd May 2023 
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Pages: 336
RRP: $32.99 (Trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: The Magpie's Sister 

Who doesn't love a circus! The Magpie's Sister is an evocative and moving story about an Australian circus and the performers' lives.

The Magpie's Sister focuses on two main characters, both given to the circus, under different circumstances, at a young age. The story is told in the dual narration of Maggie, who suffers from a facial deformity, and Charlotte, the beautiful tightrope walker. The pair start to become friends but lies and deceit will test the delicate line of trust they have developed.

Set in Australia in 1911 I found it heartbreaking at how cruel people could be. This was a time when the circus was the only place people with a deformity could live some semblance of a normal life. Not all circuses were as kind and benevolent as the one Kerri Turner depicts in The Magpie's Sister.

I loved all the descriptions of circus life, the moving from town to town, and the fact that not everyone was happy to have the circus in town. It was a hard life.
The story brought back many happy memories of attending circuses when I was young and also attending with my own children.
Kerri Turner has written a fascinating and heartfelt story of friendship and letting people in. Family is not always the one you are born into!
My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Kerri Turner is an Australian author of historical fiction. Her books and short stories focus on female roles throughout history that have been largely overlooked or forgotten, and often include elements of the performing arts. Her short stories have appeared in several national and international publications. With a Diploma of Publishing and an Associate Degree (Dance), she splits her time between writing, and teaching ballet and tap dancing to seniors.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Book Review: A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

A Disappearance in Fiji


Nilima Rao

Publisher: Echo Publishing
Publication date: 6th June 2023
Series: Akal Singh #1
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Pages: 276
RRP: $32.99 (Trade paperback)
Source: courtesy of the publisher

Review: A Disappearance in Fiji

A Disappearance in Fiji is a fabulous depiction of life in Fiji during the indentured Indian Servitude Program where lower class Indians were brought to Fiji to work on the sugar cane plantations.
Set in 1914 the story follows Sikh Indian police officer Akal Singh who has been sent to work in Suva after an "incident" in Hong Kong which left him disgraced.

I immediately warmed to Akal, he was so gentle and always wanted to do his job as best he could. Akal always believed in doing the right thing and he was faced with some moral dilemmas throughout the book.
The mystery surrounding his transfer was always at the back of my mind.
Nilima Rao perceptively portrays the prejudices that existed in the early 1900's against the Indian workers in the servitude program. A program that was little more than slavery under a different name. Even with his standing as a police officer Akal Singh found himself on the receiving end of racist remarks.

The mystery of a young woman's disappearance from a sugar cane plantation was weaved through the facts of the horror of the plantation workers' conditions and treatment. 
Set over a five day period in October 1915, I loved the keenly described scenes and the eclectic cast of characters, both good and bad, each had me totally immersed in their lives.

A well researched addition to the story was the newspaper articles that preceded each chapter. The author later explains that these were real clippings from the Fiji Times published during the era. Much of the story is based on real historical fact with some liberties taken for the purpose of the story.

A Disappearance in Fiji is an impressive debut and a great start to a new series. I am looking forward to the next Akal Singh mystery.

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Nilima Rao is a Fijian Indian Australian who has always referred to herself as ‘culturally confused’. She has since learned that we are all confused in some way (and has been published on the topic by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service as part of the SBS Emerging Writers Competition, so now feels better about the whole thing). When she isn't writing, Nilima can be found wrangling data (the dreaded day job) or wandering around Melbourne laneways in search of the next new wine bar. A Disappearance in Fiji is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second in the series.

Friday 15 September 2023

Book Review: Sleepless in Stringybark Bay by Susan Duncan

 Sleepless in Stringybark Bay


Susan Duncan

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 29th August 2023
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Cosy Mystery
Pages: 389
RRP: $32.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Sleepless in Stringybark Bay

Sleepless in Stringybark Bay was such a pleasure to read! The characters' colloquial Australian language did take a little getting used to but once I settled into the style I could appreciate it being perfect for the narrative.
In Sleepless in Stringybark Bay we revisit the offshore community of Cook's basin and the eclectic group of characters that were first featured in The Briny Cafe.
Interest is aroused when a group  of retirees move into the bay calling their newly renovated residence GeriEcstasy. When one of the group is found dead a few days after moving in the police pass it off as an accident. However, former journalist Kate feels it's much more and is certain there is a story behind the group moving to The Bay, isolated from society.

At the heart of this endearing story is a close-knit community that is genuine, wholehearted and takes pride in taking care of its own.
I haven't read The Briny Cafe but I immediately loved every character in this engaging story full of heart and humour.
Sleepless in Stringybark Bay features a captivating mystery, a life threatening storm, a bush birth, a picturesque setting and a quirky community of lovable characters. 
My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Susan Duncan took up a cadetship on the Melbourne Sun which led to a 25-year career spanning radio, newspapers and magazines. She quit journalism after her husband and brother died within three days of each other and eventually wrote the best-selling memoir Salvation Creek. Later branching into fiction, she wrote about good communities creating a sense of belonging and leading to contentment.
Susan now alternates between boats on Pittwater and raising cattle at Wherrol Flat with her second husband Bob, writing occasionally for The Australian Women's Weekly.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

The Perfumist of Paris by Alka Joshi

 The Perfumist of Paris


Alka Joshi

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 5th April 2023
Series: The Jaipur Trilogy #3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
RRP: $32.99
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

 Review: The Perfumist of Paris

The Perfumist of Paris is the third book in The Jaipur trilogy by Alka Joshi. Not having read the first two books I did find my connection with the main character Radha was flimsy. However I never felt like I had missed something plot wise during my reading of the book.  
The Perfumist of Paris is set in 1974 with Radha forging a career in the perfume industry. A career she loves and is good at.
Through Radha, Alka Joshi portrays the guilt that all working mothers have. Whether it's having to work or wanting to work, as Radha did, the guilt that their children, and husband, are being neglected is all consuming. 

I've never really contemplated how perfume is developed and I found the process and the areas of inspiration that Radha followed was fascinating.
I loved both the setting of Paris and also that of India and how different each country was. It was easy to become immersed in the sites, smell and cuisine of both countries.
There is the addition of a compelling mystery worked through the plot and also a long held secret from Radha's past that catches up with her. 

The Perfumist of Paris is a fast, immersive read about being true to yourself, finding your passion and accepting past mistakes. I would however recommend reading the trilogy from the beginning.

My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts and runs an advertising and marketing agency. She has lived in France and Italy and currently lives in Pacific Grove, California, with her husband.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Book Review: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town


Hayley Scrivenor

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 31st May 2022
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 368
RRP: $32.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 

Review: Dirt Town

I wasn't sure how I was going to go with this book with its unusual narrative style but I found I was totally hooked.
The bulk of Dirt Town is narrated over a four day period during the search for missing twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi.
Written through the alternating points of view of Esther's school friends Ronnie and Lewis, D.S. Sarah Michaels who is heading the case and Constance, Esther's mother. There is also the unusual and unique narration of the town's collective of children, past and present.

Hayley Scrivenor delves into small town nuances. A place where everyone touches everyone else in some way. Many have grown up together as have their parents before them. A case of domestic violence is met with the statement "everyone knew". A blind-eye is turned to any unpleasantness.

I had picked the perp right from the start however Scrivenor's excellent plotting had me second guessing myself all the way through.

Dirt Town is a propulsive debut mystery novel that had me glued to the book until the heartfelt ending.

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Plus an extra⭐ for a character named Veronica 💖

About the author

Hayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Hayley has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales. Dirt Town is her first novel and has been shortlisted and won many awards.


Tuesday 5 September 2023

Book Review: Jillaroo from Jacaranda by Mandy Magro

 Jillaroo from Jacaranda


Mandy Magro

Falling in love was never part of her plan....

Publisher: Harlequin Australia 
Imprint: HQ
Publication date: 5th October 2022
Genre: Romance / Contemporary
Pages: 320
RRP: $29.99AU (paperback) 
Source: courtesy of the publisher

Review: Jillaroo from Jacaranda 

Jillaroo from Jacaranda is a delightful slow-burn romance read.

Whilst trying to come to terms with her beloved great-grandmother's death Rose's fiance breaks up with her. Rose is heartbroken but could see they had different ideas of what their future would be.

Moving back home to Jacaranda Farm Rose decides to concentrate on her writing and her riding school business to give herself time to heal. A chance meeting with bull-rider Ty Parker gives her the opportunity to stay on his cattle station to write and reflect.

I loved Ty and Rose's banter, it was fun and flirty. Their slow-burn romance came across as natural. Ty had demons of his own and an ex-wife to deal with so neither of them were after a relationship.

I did feel like I had missed something whilst I was reading as there was no backstory and I had a lot of unanswered questions as I hadn't read Jacaranda, which was the first story about the Jones family.

I did find Rose flighty, saying one thing and doing another. This story was a bit too mushy for me and I would have preferred the prologue to be left off because it contradicted everything Rose believed in.

Overall I enjoyed the story and Magro's descriptions of bull-riding and life in rural Australia. I am planning to read the first book, Jacaranda, and have some of my questions answered. I think then I will find Jillaroo from Jacaranda will be a lot more enjoyable.

my rating 3 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Mandy Magro lives in Cairns, Far North Queensland, with her daughter, Chloe Rose, and their adorable toy poodle, Sophie. With pristine aqua-blue coastline in one direction and sweeping rural landscapes in the other, she describes her home as heaven on earth. A passionate woman and a romantic at heart, Mandy loves writing about soul-deep love, the Australian rural way of life, and the wonderful characters who call the country home.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Book Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

 The Doll Factory


Elizabeth Macneal

Freedom is a precious thing

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Imprint: Picador
Publication date: 30th April 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction / Gothic / Thriller
Pages: 336
RRP: $29.99 (Trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: The Doll Factory

The Doll Factory is a gripping and bone-chilling gothic thriller. A tale of love and obsession set mid 19th Century London.
Macneal thrusts her readers into the streets of 1850's London detailing the filth, poverty, pick pockets and prostitution. The story is very confronting however Macneal delivers it all without judgement.

Women were expected to marry and have children but for those without marriage options life was an endless slog of backbreaking work. When Iris is asked to model for an artist her family disowns her however she is now open to a whole new world of art and freedom. A world where one man's obsession and delusion will put her in grave danger.
Macneal's characters are beautifully rendered and come to life slowly on the pages as their descriptions are layered throughout the narrative.
The Doll Factory would have to be one of the creepiest books I have read. An ominous feeling hangs in the air and even though I knew what was coming, when the scenes unfolded they were disturbingly unsettling. 

About the author

Elizabeth Macneal was born in Scotland and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. She read English Literature at Oxford University, before working in the City for several years. In 2017, she completed the Creative Writing MA at UEA where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury scholarship. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth's debut novel, won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018.

Challenges: Mount TBR challenge.