The Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanna Gaines

Synopsis

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people?What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.

The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

In The Magnolia Story fans will finally get to join the Gaines behind the scenes and discover:

-The time Chip ran to the grocery store and forgot to take their new, sleeping baby
-Joanna’s agonizing decision to close her dream business to focus on raising their children
-When Chip buys a houseboat, sight-unseen, and it turns out to be a leaky wreck
-Joanna’s breakthrough moment of discovering the secret to creating a beautiful home
-Harrowing stories of the financial ups and downs as an entrepreneurial couple
-Memories and photos from Chip and Jo’s wedding
-The significance of the word magnolia and why it permeates everything they do
-The way the couple pays the popularity of Fixer Upper forward, sharing the success with others, and bolstering the city of Waco along the way

And yet there is still one lingering question for fans of the show: Is Chip really that funny? “Oh yeah,” says Joanna. “He was, and still is, my first fixer upper.”

My review

When I found this memoir at a recent booksale I was taken back to a time just over two years ago, when I was sitting in front of the TV, pregnant and binge watching Fixer Upper. I love the show; the gorgeous, kindhearted Chip and Joanna and the beautiful work that they do in transforming properties into liveable dream homes. I love watching how Joanna takes care to preserve homes and the special touches she gives each home. The reveal of course is exciting to see the looks on the families’ faces.

This memoir was very readable. It is light, funny and just like the TV show. This is exactly the type of read I needed. There were moments when I laughed out loud and moments when I was inspired. This is a couple who encourage oneanother to make their dreams come true, take risks and are devoted to their family. I love their down to earth nature shown on the show and in their book. They are generous towards others and make time for each other. I love that they don’t have a TV at home. Maybe this is the answer for a lot of married couples?! Family is everything and this is emphasised throughout the book.

The style of the memoir is as if they are speaking to the reader and I love that it is written with both Chip and Jo sharing their perspectives on life matters. They are devoted to God and family and I found their faith inspiring.

My favourite parts of the novel were the personal stories on how they overcame challenges together and how they bounced off one another. Chip the risktaker, Joanna, the artist beind each flip.

Each house flipped gave me insight in their progress as house flippers. Joanna developed her style over time to ensure her children had a place to play and to make the home feel comfortable for the whole family. I love her designs. The farmhouse they live in sounds beautiful.

Thank you Chip and Joanna for sharing your story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Daughter of Victory Lights – Kerri Turner

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Synopsis

There was a pause, and Evelyn sensed those around her leaning forward in anticipation.

‘THE VICTORY!’

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 risque 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 does 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?

My review

Thank you @harlequinaus and Kerri Turner for sending me a proof copy of The Daughter of Victory Lights in exchange for my honest review.

The Daughter of Victory Lights is a unique view of post war experience from very different perspectives. Flynn, who has witnessed the horrors of war, having to retrieve and identify bodies, must live his life with these horrific images. Evelyn feels disconnected from her life in London upon her return from volunteering in the women’s searchlight regiment.

Flynn and Evelyn’s lives intertwine on the Victory, a boat that offers spectacular evening performances that challenge societal expectations, offering a more risque show. I felt like I was amongst the crowd, watching the performance, as the fire breathing man, contortionist and dancers created a show that lit up the night sky, with the help of Evelyn’s lighting. Kerri Turner’s experience of dance is evident in her writing. To make a reader understand a performance in a way that feels that they are there, emphasises her passion for dance and ability to share this passion with her readers. The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers gave me further understanding of ballet. The Daughter of Victory Lights gave me further understanding of dance performances that challenged society’s idea of what dance should be.

I love historical fiction and I am now a huge fan of Kerri Turner. Her novels do not bore the reader with historical facts, they actually immerse the reader in the world. What a way to experence history; through the eyes of a character in a novel.

The second part of this novel has such a different atmosphere and I was pleasantly surprised by the storyline. This is not a typical historical romance, it is much more. Lucy, a bright young girl, will be the motivating factor behind Flynn’s decision to make a path through his regrets and pain, in order to experience what life has to offer. Flynn’s pain is strong; ‘a phantom pain, something he knew wasn’t real but made him gasp all the same.’ Kerri Turner’s words are painfully true and yet, a perfect description. This phantom pain is symbolic of feelings of grief and regret that are reflected in his appearance. I particularly enjoyed the development of characters and by the end of the novel felt such love for Lucy’s family.

Kerri Turner has beautiful prose and this is the main reason I love this novel (not to mention her intriguing storylines) and am excited to read her future novels. The Daughter of Victory Lights is unique and breathtakingly beautiful.

The Lost Ones – Anita Frank

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Synopsis

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

My review

Thank you @harlequinaus and @HQstories for sending me a copy of The Lost Ones in exchange for my honest review.

The Lost Ones is an intriguing and mysterious novel. Stella has recently lost her fiancé to the horrors of war and her grief is raw. When she is asked by Hector, her brother-in-law to join her sister Madeleine at his mother’s home she accepts. Madeleine is preganant and in need of her sister’s support. The relationship between sisters is lovely and I enjoyed reading about their lives. Both women have experienced loss in their lives that will stay with them forever.

Greyswick house is an old mansion that has its own story to tell. The sisters soon start to hear sounds that have them questioning the spirit world. The characters are interesting in that each has a past that I wanted to know more about as the narrative progressed.

For a debut novel, this story has intruige and the descriptions were vivid. Anita Frank kept me interested until the very end.

A hauntingly beautiful novel that explores the topics of the afterlife and the spirit world.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Long Way Home – Nicola Marsh

Synopsis

A prodigal daughter returns to Brockenridge…

Eleven years ago Ruby Aston left Brockenridge – and its small-town gossip – for the anonymity of the big city. Now, a grieving Ruby is forced to come home to the place she loathes. But it also means returning to someone she’s always regretted leaving behind…

Connor Delaney is determined to prove himself and not get by on his family name alone. To do this he needs to acquire the local roadhouse. He never anticipated the owner would be the same ‘bad girl’ who ditched him at the high school ball and was never heard from again.

For Alisha Nathieson, the grief of suddenly losing her dear friend and employer Clara Aston has forced her to examine her choice to stay to support her aging parents. As she battles a growing need to explore her past, temptation wars with duty. And then there are her feelings for handsome chef Harry, who has secrets of his own…

If Ruby follows her heart and saves her mother’s legacy, will she lose the one man she’s longed for all along?

My review

#book-review #book-reviewer

Thank you @harlequinaus @romanceanz for sending me a copy of Long Way Home by Nicola Marsh in exchange for my honest review.

Thank you Nicola Marsh for writing this beautiful story. I truly feel that this book was sent to me for a reason. It spoke to me on number of levels.

Nicola Marsh’s writing flows beautifully and her characterisation allowed me, as a reader, to immediately connect with the characters. From the first page, I was intrigued and didn’t want to put the book down. It is an emotional story that is realistic in its ability to lift the characters from the page, drawing the reader into their world.

Ruby lives in Melbourne, having escaped the small town of Brokenridge as a teenager. When her mother passes unexpectedly she returns to Brockenridge, where she reconnects with those closest to her and where her memories are most vibrant.

Connor, also having escaped Brockenridge, returns to help his father who is struggling to run his business, due to illness.

This novel is a heartfelt rural romance. It is also much more. Ruby feels her grief and her regrets very strongly after the passing of her mum. She attempts to find ways to honour her mum and their relationship. The Roadhouse her mum ran in Brockenridge has great significance in the town. Ruby must come to realise her mum’s connection between the roadhouse and her own life. I fell in love with Brockenridge and the roadhouse. I can see myself dancing with the locals.

Ruby’s loss and determination to keep her mum’s memory and life ambitions alive is admirable. Having recently lost my mum in the same tragic and sudden way, this novel gave me hope. It gave me hope that there will one day be rays of sunshine beaming through the grief felt. One day, I may feel like I can truly honour my mum by living my days in her footsteps and feeling that she is a part of me always. Ruby questions how we can ever ‘repay’ our mums for their love? My original thoughts were that we do in love, yet also as my mum aged, I would be able to care for her. I didn’t realise we had so little time. As Ruby, I hope to repay my mum in my own way. Just as Ruby felt, my mum was ‘the best mum ever’.

Another intriguing character for me, is Alisha. Alisha cares for her parents and has had a beautiful upbringing. She was born in India and begins to realise that she should search for her birth mother and return to her country of birth for the answers she seeks. It was lovely to read about her life. This is also another aspect that spoke to me, as my husband and I are going through an adoption process and hope to grow our family via adoption. Stories from adoptees are important, particularly due to realising how our future child may feel in relation to loss, abandonment, family and love.

The romance in this novel was what romance should be; tender, genuine, playful and loving. Ruby and Connor’s feelings for oneanother stem from a bond in their teenage years. As their relationship grows, they come to question what is truly important in life. Alisha and Harry’s relationship is complicated in the secrets they must learn to share with each other.

Long Way Home is an enjoyable, tender hearted read that I would highly recommend. The novel overall aligns with my opinion as to what romance is. It is tender, genuine, playful and loving. Nicola Marsh is an author who can write and connect with a reader in ways that allow them to enjoy the novel, whilst considering their own world around them. Nicola’s words helped me in many ways. Thank you.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Day We Meet again – Miranda Dickinson

Synopsis

The brand-new novel from The Sunday Times bestselling author, Miranda Dickinson.

‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be . . .’

Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months’ time if they still want to be together.

But is life ever as simple as that?

My review

#book-review

The storyline of this novel drew me in. It reminded me of movies I watched growing up. Phoebe and Sam meet serendipitously, fall in love and decide to reunite in a year’s time if they still feel the same way about one another.

Miranda Dickinson introduces characters with such wonderful desciption. Sam and Phoebe’s friends held my interest, including Kate and Donal and their family, along with the band members.

In saying this, I struggled to connect with Phoebe and Sam. I love a good romance, however felt that their first meeting was lacking details and felt forced. As the characters travel along they seem to think of oneanother constantly throughout the year. The contact between them is almost like a long distance relationship. I became frustrated, rather than excited at the characters’ reunion. Their time apart was slow going.

For a couple in their early thirties, they seemed to be completing what we consider a gap year, a one year break to travel and reconnect with their roots. Phoebe takes money from her parents to travel and they seem to be disconnected from their families back home. For me, they both appeared lacking direction at such a time in their lives when I would hope for them that they had some idea of what they hoped for in their lives.

I enjoyed Phoebe’s adventures and her restoration of the library. Miranda Dickinson creates a lovely connection between Phoebe and her new friend, Giana. Giana inspires Phoebe to paint messages on pebbles to share positivity with those who find them, along with being an outlet for their own emotions. This is the most memorable part in the novel for me and the flow on effect in the novel is lovely.

Although this novel was not what I expected, I hope that others connect with Phoebe and Sam more than I did. The idea of love at first meeting is beautiful. The more love in the world, the better.

Thank you Harlequin Australia for providing me with a proof copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers – Kerri Turner

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Synopsis

Petrograd, 1914. A country on a knife-edge. The story of two people caught in the middle – with everything to lose…

A stunning debut from a talented new Australian voice in historical fiction.

Valentina Yershova’s position in the Romanov’s Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks to soloist, utilising not only her talent, but her alliances with influential rich men that grants them her body, but never her heart. When Luka Zhirkov – the gifted son of a factory worker – joins the company, her passion for ballet and love is rekindled, putting at risk everything that she has built.

For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfills a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is increasingly burdened with guilt about their lavish lifestyles.

While Luka and Valentina’s secret connection grows, the country rockets toward a revolution that will decide the fate of every dancer.

For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other…

A powerful novel of class turmoil, passion and just how much two people will sacrifice…

My review

Magnificent! A dance of words! Kerri Turner’s novel The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is one of my favourite reads this year. The words dance with oneanother on the page. I am impressed by the author’s knowledge of ballet and more than this, her ability to write a novel that allows the reader to feel as if they are watching a ballet production. The entire novel felt like a stage performance. It was beautiful.

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers provides insight into the days of the romanov dancers, their struggles in a wartorn country, as they attempted to bring joy to people who faced grief and devastation only to be shamed for their choice to dance rather than fight for their country. Valentina and Luka are characters whose passion for dancing has inspired the lives they lead. They have both come from backgrounds of less affluence than that of the ballet. I loved both characters more and more as I continued to read the novel.

There is a reason why I love historical fiction… I always learn more about history and the world we live in. I feel a sense of gratitude to those who lived in darker times than we do and for their attempt to bring light into those dark times and for future generations. This novel taught me a lot.

I do believe that dance and music connect with the soul and this novel did just that for me. The image above includes my first dance recital costume that my mum lovingly sewed for me. She kept it for all of these years and it has so much meaning for me. What a beautiful novel. It was everything and more than I hoped it would be.

Thank you Kerri Turner for hosting a giveaway. I am very grateful to own a signed copy of your novel.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Lifetime of Impossible Days – Tabitha Bird

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Synopsis

Meet Willa Waters, aged 8 . . . 33 . . . and 93.

On one impossible day in 1965, eight-year-old Willa receives a mysterious box containing a jar of water and the instruction: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’ So she does – and somehow creates an extraordinary time slip that allows her to visit her future selves.

On one impossible day in 1990, Willa is 33 and a mother-of-two when her childhood self magically appears in her backyard. But she’s also a woman haunted by memories of her dark past – and is on the brink of a decision that will have tragic repercussions . . .

On one impossible day in 2050, Willa is a silver-haired, gumboot-loving 93-year-old whose memory is fading fast. Yet she knows there’s something she has to remember, a warning she must give her past selves about a terrible event in 1990. If only she could recall what it was.

Can the three Willas come together, to heal their past and save their future, before it’s too late?

My review

Have you ever picked up a novel that is completely different to what you expected?

This novel delivers raw emotion and explores confronting themes, along with issues experienced in everyday human life.

The story follows Willa. It follows Willa at age 8, 33 and 93. My favourite Willa is 93 year old Willa, who provides comedic relief at times when 33 year old Willa is faced with the darkest memories of her past. This gumboots collecting Willa had me laughing and wishing I could sit and have tea and jam drops with her. At age 93 Willa’s mind isn’t what it used to be, however she will try to do anything to change past events in order to help herself and those around her.

The fond memories of childhood were lovely, especially the scene in which Willa dances in the rain with her Grammy. This scene is my favourite in the novel. In contrast, the horrors of Willa’s childhood were very confronting and at times I had to take a break from her sadness. The way in which domestic violence and child abuse is dealt with is on a subtle level. It was even more emotional for me, due to it being from the perspective of a child and the coping mechanisms age 8 Willa was forced to use.

I haven’t read many books that relate to time travel and expected this book to be a light read about a person who tries to change themselves for the better. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The time travel aspect is beautiful and ‘one ocean: plant in the backyard ‘ refers to the way in which Willa can travel in time to visit her past and future selves.

I started reading this book before my mum passed away unexpectedly and it has taken me a while to finish it and write this review, as I wanted a happy ending at a time when my life had turned upside down and wasn’t sure what Tabitha’s story would provide. I was also, without realising it, scared to read about a book that I wanted to be possible in so many ways. I wish more than anything for a plant and ocean in my backyard, so that I can visit my past self, take my mum to the doctors and have her looked after to avoid her heart attack. Tabitha, I wish your novel was real life. This novel has a lot of meaning for me and I will treasure it always.

Thank you to the author, Tabitha Bird for sending me a copy of this beautiful book. I am very grateful to have won such a fantastic giveaway.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5