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

Book Review: 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.

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

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! 

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 (reviewed on Goodreads)

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

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

Monday 13 January 2020

Mailbox Monday - January 13th

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. 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. Head over and check out other books received during the last week. 

Happy Monday!

I haven't managed to post a mailbox Monday for some time and this is my first one for 2020. Today I have listed the books I received as gifts from family and friends.

We had a busy Christmas period with all the children home for Christmas day lunch. The day was so busy I didn't even manage to take a photo.
My eldest daughter announced her engagement in the new year which was very exciting for the whole family.
Dot starts school in February, so only a few more weeks and she will starting a whole new adventure. Her introduction to preschool didn't go too well so we all have our fingers crossed for those first few weeks of school. Ditto also starts on his new adventure as a preschool boy so it will be very quiet at home soon.

Books received from  family and friends:

The Model Wife by Tricia Stringer
Natalie King's life is full. Some might say too full. With her teaching job, a farm to run, three grown daughters who have not quite got a handle on things, a reserved husband and a demanding mother-in-law, most days she is too busy to think about whether she is happy. But her life has meaning, doesn't it? After all, she is the one person everyone depends upon.

But when an odd gift from her mother-in-law - an old book in the form of stern and outdated advice for young wives - surfaces again, it brings with it memories she thought she had buried deep. Has this insidious little book exerted some kind of hold over her? Could it be that in her attempts to be a loving wife and mother, she no longer knows who she is?

The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker
Nicole has left her city life for the sleepy town of Rosella Cove, renting the old cottage by the water. She plans to keep to herself - but when she uncovers a hidden box of wartime love letters, she realises she's not the
first person living in this cottage to hide secrets and pain.

Ivy's quiet life in Rosella Cove is tainted by the events of World War II, with ramifications felt for many years to come. But one night a drifter appears and changes everything. Perhaps his is the soul she's meant to save.

Charlie is too afraid of his past to form any lasting ties in the cove. He knows he must make amends for his tragic deeds long ago, but he can't do it alone. Maybe the new tenant in the cottage will help him fulfil a promise and find the redemption he isn't sure he deserves.

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe by Sandie Docker
For Hattie, the cafe has been her refuge for the last fifty years – her second chance at a happy ending after her dreams of being a star were shattered. But will the ghosts of her past succeed in destroying everything she’s worked so hard to build?


For Alice, the cafe is her livelihood. After Hattie took her in as a teenager, Alice has slowly forged a quiet life as the cafe’s manager (and chief cupcake baker). But with so many tragedies behind her, is it too late for Alice’s story to have a happy ending?


For Becca, a teenager in trouble, the cafe could be the new start she yearns for. That is, if she can be persuaded to stop running from her secrets. Can Becca find a way to believe in the kindness of strangers, and accept that this small town could be the place where she finally belongs? 

 The Wolf Hour by Sarah Myles

Thirty-year-old Tessa Lowell has a PhD in psychology and is working in Uganda to research the effects of PTSD and war on child soldiers. She joins a delegation travelling across the Congolese border, deep into the African bush, for peace talks with Joseph Kony, notorious leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. 

At the camp Tessa meets thirteen-year-old Francis, already an experienced soldier and survivor of shocking violence. The talks stall, and the camp is attacked by other rebels who take Tessa. Isolated in an increasingly volatile situation, she tries to form a bond with Francis.

In Melbourne, Tessa's parents are notified of the kidnapping, but learn there is little that government agencies can do. Desperate, they contact their son Stephen, an astute if manipulative businessman based in Cape Town. He agrees to search for his sister but has other reasons to contact the rebel forces.

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

 Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives. Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?  

Books received from the publisher:

 The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Penman

1172. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as 'Outremer', the land beyond the sea. Outremer was a young realm, one baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099. Those crusaders who stayed had to adapt to an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and exotic customs and enemies who were also neighbors.
Balian d'Ibelin had long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with Saladin. But Saladin was set upon taking Jerusalem by storm, seeing it as a blood debt, retribution for the massacre in 1099. Defeating Saladin would have been a challenge for any king, but while Baldwin IV was intelligent, educated, charismatic, courageous, and dedicated to the welfare and protection of his people, he was also doomed by his affliction with leprosy. However, he fought his disease as fiercely as he fought the Saracens, though, and when he learned that Saladin was planning to invade Outremer, he won a remarkable victory over a much larger Saracen army at Montisgard in 1177; Saladin himself barely escaped capture. Balian took part in that battle, too, for he was loyal to his young, dying king. Eventually, Balian's finest hour would come, for he convinced Saladin to accept a peaceful surrender . . .

 A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
 Also published as: The Widows of Malabar Hill & A Murder on Malabar HIll
Bombay, 1921: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father's law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes her especially devoted to championing and protecting women's rights. 
Mistry Law is handling the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen goes through the papers, she notices something strange: all three have signed over their inheritance to a charity. What will they live on if they forefeet what their husband left them? Perveen is suspicious. 
The Farid widows live in purdah: strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate and realizes her instincts about the will were correct when tensions escalate to murder. It's her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that nobody is in further danger.  

What Books did your postman deliver, or you downloaded, this week?

Post a link to your Mailbox Monday or simply list your books in the comments below.