Women of the Word – Jen Wilkin

Synopsis

Many Christian women find great encouragement and joy in and through women’s Bible studies. However, popular Bible teacher Jen Wilkin is concerned that sometimes we let our emotions rule our study of Scripture and forget that the Bible is primarily about God, not us. Challenging hungry women to go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will help you refocus your efforts on feeding your mind first and foremost. Whether you’re young or old, married or single, this accessible volume will energize and equip you for Bible study aimed at transforming both the heart and mind

My Review

Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin was a perfect read for me. Here I am, new to Christianity, enjoying reading the Bible, going to Church and feeling closer to God. This book has taught me a lot and will keep teaching me more, as I continue to refer to it, as I learn Bible Literacy.

Jen Wilkin’s book can be read in conjunction with her short YouTube videos and I am finding this very helpful. It is helpful in my personal studies and will no doubt help me in my Bible study group sessions. Jen Wilkin’s book teaches how to read the Bible with meaning. Rather than reading with simply ourselves in mind, we first learn to know who God is, love him for who he is, understand the text and it’s historical context before we consider how the text can help us in our daily lives. Jen’s approach is not easy, but I can see that it is thorough and I have learnt a lot. There is a process to follow and that suits me. It also suits my study and writing habits.

I particularly found the reflection pages helpful in confirming my understanding, along with Jen’s stories of her life. The pages on prayer are also extremely helpful. I have learnt to pray before each and every study/reading.

In terms of my own Bible Literacy, this is a perfect place to gain an understanding of how to approach the Bible. ‘Mind before heart. God before self.’ I have now started to study James and will take my time. Jen doesn’t suggest a fast paced approach, rather one of greater understanding which will lead to reflection.

I was hesitant to read this book at first, as I have very little knowledge of the Bible… I need not have worried.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone new to Christianity and anyone who has been reading the Bible for their whole lives. Thank you Jen for the wisdom and love you have poured into your book.

Stars Over the Southern Ocean

Synopsis

With her home and freedom on the line, will her family force her to leave it all behind?

1937 – Seventeen year old Marina Fairbrother has lived in the small logging town of Mole Creek, Tasmania, her whole life. When she meets Jory Trevelyan, she is intrigued by the young man with the strange name and his tales of the west coast. Stories of wild winds and a tumultuous sea leave her hungering for a freedom she hadn’t realised she lacked.

1993 – After a terminal diagnosis, Marina knows there is only one place she wants to spend her remaining days. The remote coastal property of Noamunga has been her home for the past fifty years. Her memories are imprinted on the walls of the house and the rocks of the cliffs. Here she raised their three children, loved deeply, survived a war, worked hard, grieved deeply and lived a good life.

But there are forces that threaten to pull her away from her beloved home. Daughters whose well-intentioned concerns hide selfish ambition, a son who puts his future in the hands of the wrong people, and an oil company intent on striking oil just off the coast of her land.

My review

Thank you Harper Collins Australia for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is a beautifully emotional story of family, love, fear, hope and contentment.

J H Fletcher writes this dual timeline novel whilst sharing the story of Marina and her children. Although there are different settings and perspectives, the novel is so well written that it flows easily. From the atmospheric coastal property of Noamunga to the colourful and spectacular buildings of India to the hustle and bustle of Thailand. I loved that the author had the reader in a variety of settings that spoke to the senses. I could smell the spices in India and the fresh air of Noamunga. The main story revolves around Marina, who at 17 years old meets Jory Trevelyan. Marina moves from Mole Creek, Tasmania to the remote Noamunga to share her life with him.

As this story is told we are also taken to 1993, as Marina is diagnosed with a terminal illness and her adult children selfishly consider their inheritance above all else…

J H Fletcher writes in such a way that I connected with each place in an instant. This is the first time I have read a J H Fletcher novel. This will not be my last. Stars Over the Southern Ocean is real, raw and kept me intrigued the entire time.

The Goldminer’s Sister – Alison Stuart

Gold is a fever. Will it lead her to love … or death? A suspenseful romance set on the turbulent goldfields of 1870s Australia, for readers of The Postmistress and The Woman in the Green Dress.

‘There are people in this town with the gleam of gold in their eyes and cold steel in their hearts.’

1873. Eliza Penrose arrives in the gold mining town of Maiden’s Creek in search of her brother, planning to make a new life for herself. Instead she finds a tragic mystery – and hints of betrayals by those closest to her.

Mining engineer Alec McLeod left Scotland to escape the memory of his dead wife and child. Despite the best efforts of the eligible ladies of Maiden’s Creek, Alec is determined never to give his heart again.

As lies and deceit threaten Eliza’s life, Alec steps in – although he has problems of his own, as he risks his livelihood and those he holds dear to oppose the dangerous work practices at the Maiden’s Creek Mine.

When disaster draws the pieces of the puzzle together, Eliza and Alec must save each other – but is it too late?

My review

Thank you Harper Collins for sending me a copy of The Goldminer’s Sister, Alison Stuart in exchange for my honest review. 

The Goldminer’s Sister is a story of tragedy, grief, lies, loss and love. Eliza arrives in the town of Maiden’s Creek expecting to meet her brother. Instead she is met with the tragic news of his death. Eliza is a smart woman who has been dealt with too much loss  in her life. She is welcomed into her Uncle’s home and he attempts to find her a position as a teacher  in London. His rush to send her away, has Eliza asking questions, in particular, surrounding her brother’s estate and death. Eliza ends up finding a position in the local school. Her attempt to be self sufficient in life is admirable, especially considering the time. She is a wonderful teacher who cares for the children she teaches and is a true advocate for ‘education for all’.

Eliza stays in the town to feel closer to Will and to investigate further into what happened to him. Will had always wanted to look after his sister financially. For Will to leave the mine and almost everything to his Uncle seems unlikely. Eliza starts to question whether or not her brother’s death was an accident or whether he was in fact murdered. There are some nasty folk in this town!

The townspeople are interesting. Eliza meets Alec upon her arrival and their meeting is anything other than favourable. In time, Alec and Eliza try to help each other. I love Alison Stuart’s development of both Alec and Eliza. Alec’s backstory is very sad and yet he is a very likable character. Together they find their way. Eliza’s personality, as a strong and independent woman makes her a perfect protagonist.

What I particularly loved about this historical fiction was that the history and mining industry were a huge part of the story, yet were dealt with in terms that I could understand and easily feel a part of. The suspense and mystery had me hooked and I didn’t want to put the book down. The romance was an added bonus, but if you want to read a good mystery, I highly recommend this story. The Goldminer’s Sister is a gripping tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a fantastic Australian historical mystery novel and I look forward to Alison Stuart’s next novel.

Normal People – Sally Rooney

Synopsis

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

My review

Normal People is an interesting novel about the inner workings and relationship between Connell and Marianne.

Marianne, the unpopular girl at school who is bullied and sits by herself starts to talk to Connell, a popular boy at school. Connell’s mum cleans Marianne’s home once a week and the two start to talk. They are drawn to one another and their lives move in certain directions due to the influence they have upon oneanother. Marianne has low self esteem and her thoughts about herself are what we would hope is not the ‘norm’, yet we know that unfortunately teenagers and adults for that matter lack self confidence. This is however on a different level due to the abuse she has experienced. Connell goes through his own mental health issues and the two go through life with issues they learn to overcome. There are important issues raised in the novel and Sally Rooney raises them in such a way that we see varied perspectives on each issue.

It is questionable whether or not it is good for Connell and Marianne to overcome their issues together and whether they will continue to reconnect in each stage of their lives.

I was immediately drawn in by Sally Rooney’s writing. It is addictive.. I didn’t want to put it down. There is a lack of  punctuation and although this would usually annoy me it was the opposite here. I felt that it made for a quick read. Althought descriptive it is also straight to the point. The psychological impact upon the reader would differ. This is not just a romance, rather it looks at psychology and the inner workings of two minds that connect. I loved the book at the beginning, started to get a little frustrated and by the end was completely frustrated… I understand the ending, appreciate it, but I didn’t like it… I had hoped for further development in the characters’ mindset.

Overall, I am left wondering whether this book actually deserves the fifth star… here I am sitting down contemplating the novel and still thinking about it hours after finishing it. I also remember how annoyed the end of the book made me feel… to the point where I felt the story or characters weren’t progressing at the rate they did in the beginning. Normal People is a gripping story due to it’s psychological insight into the characters. It was worth the read and I would recommend it!

🎆🎆🎆🎆/🎆🎆🎆🎆🎆

When Grace Went Away – Meredith Appleyard

Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. Synopsis

She’s gone … will her family pull together, or fall further apart?

Classic, women-centred fiction, a complex, multi-layered story about family and community, from the author of the warmly received Home at Last.

‘Functionally dysfunctional.’ That’s how financial analyst Grace Fairley describes her family in the small South Australian farming community of Miners Ridge – a family fractured by tragedy and kept that way by anger, resentment and petty jealousies. As the eldest sibling, Grace tries to keep the family in touch, but now she’s accepted a promotion to the London office. Time-zones and an enormous workload mean she’s forced to take a step back, although she finds time to stay in contact with Miners Ridge landscape gardener Aaron Halliday.

Sarah Fairley, Grace’s mother, fled Miners Ridge and her embittered husband eight years ago. Now, in the absence of Grace, she finds herself pulled back to the small town where her estranged children and grandchildren live. Drawn into the local community, and trying to rebuild family relationships, she uncovers a long-kept secret that could change her world …

Can Grace, Sarah and their family find a way to heal? Who will have the courage to make the first move?

My review

If you’re looking for a story that is hard to put down, When Grace Went Away is it.

Grace, originally from Miner’s Ridge, a country town in South Australia, is a woman who has worked hard for her recent promotion. Her job will take her to London. Grace is close with her mother and has been there for her in the hardest of times. Her decision to move is one she doesn’t take lightly. I connected with Grace immediately. She is a character who has suffered grief, having lost her brother and in essence, the connection with her siblings and father. Before leaving for London she takes a trip to Miner’s Ridge.  As Grace learns more about her family, she learns more about herself. She ends up moving to London for her career and finds herself in the perfect spot to travel around Europe, yet with her long hours, this prevents her from exploring and with the homesickness she starts to feel, she must consider what is truly important. Will Grace choose family and love or her career? The romance in the novel kept my attention. Grace connects with her old flame, Grant as she is getting to know Aaron. Aaron and Grace meet in Miner’s Ridge before she leaves. Aaron’s caring nature and interest in Grace’s wellbeing continues when Grace is in London and they start to confide in one another in an online setting. Meredith Appleyard’s characters are real and I loved reading about them, their relationships and their development in the story. Here is a family who have been drawn apart due to grief and despair. The pain and loss felt has changed who they are and what they live for. With a few important changes, each character experiences healing in their lives.

Appleyard’s writing is heartfelt and makes for an enjoyable read.  This is a story I couldn’t put down. I love a good story in which the protagonist truly considers what is important in life. The overall message of the novel is beautiful.

The Island of Sea Women – Lisa See

The Island of Sea Women

Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

My review

This is a story of the bond between two friends, Young-Sook and Mi-Ja. They are from two vastly different backgrounds, yet both are haenyeo (women divers). The lives and work of haenyeo arThe story follows the girl’s lives as they grow up together, travel, marry and have children. They live on the island of Jeju, South Korea, once a safe and beautiful home that is struck by tragedy. The two women experience love, loss, hurt, tragedy, war and personal struggles.

As soon as I started reading this novel I knew I had in my hands a novel of great importance. Lisa See has a way of making her characters and their world, part of the reader’s world, through her vivid descriptions. Throughout the entire novel I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to follow their lives and find out what would be next for them. I hoped for peace for them. I hoped they would not have any more loss. Both women deal with the horrors of war and lose part of what is most important; family.

Lisa See has researched the issues and historical events herein thoroughly. I learnt a lot. I have not studied the Korean war in depth and my eyes were opened to the horrors of it. I also felt that her personal interactions with those on Jeju island has made this novel the novel it is, a heartbreaking, generational story that is authentic in culture and placese. I felt I was on the island of Jeju, feeling the freedom of the sea, as the haenyeo completed each dive.

Lisa See has written a novel that I will always remember. Her writing is beautiful and The Island of Sea Women is a very clever piece of historical fiction. I hope to read more of Lisa See’s writing. Although set in a world away from myself, the messages ring true. Women are powerful and strong. A mother’s love for her child is everything to her. ‘A good woman is a good mother.’ This is an unfortgetable novel that will stay in my heart.

🎆🎆🎆🎆🎆

The Beekeeper’s Secret – Josephine Moon

Synopsis

Maria Lindsey has secrets to hide. Living on top of a secluded mountain is a good way to hide from the world… until her past begins to track her down. The surprising and intriguing new novel about the astounding secrets we keep from those we love.

‘Maria knew about guilt. It was a stubborn, pervasive and toxic emotion, and incredibly difficult to shake. Especially if really, deep down, you didn’t think you deserved to let it go.’

Maria Lindsey is content. She spends her solitary days tending her bees and creating delicious honey products to fund orphaned children. A former nun, her life at Honeybee Haven has long been shaped by her self-imposed penance for terrible past events. But the arrival of two letters heralds the shattering of Maria’s peaceful existence.

Pushing aside the misgivings of her family and friends, Tansy Butterfield, on the eve of her marriage, made a serious deal with her adored husband, Dougal. A deal she’d intended to honour. But, seven years on, Tansy is finding her current feelings difficult to ignore. And on top of those not-really-there feelings, Dougal wants to move to Canada!

My Review

I love Josephine Moon’s writing. From the moment I read the first page, I felt that I had connected with the author’s style. The story is cleverly written and has much more depth than I originally expected. It is a story of a disconnected family in which each character has a story of their own.

I loved the characters, particularly Maria, once a nun who now works at The Honey Hive which supports children in need. She has aimed to live her life for the good of others. Maria’s life was also filled with secrets, including her decsisions made when she is faced with the mistrust of men in power.

Her niece, Tansy, goes in search of her Aunt Maria and learns more than simply the family secrets, she learns about herself, the meaning of her life and what is most important.

I particularly enjoyed this story, as the characters learn the importance of family. Love, relationships, bees, crime, justice and everything in between. What a great read❤️❤️

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside – Jessica Ryn

Synopsis

She’s always looking on the bright side…

Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….

My review

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is one of hope, love, friendship and new beginnings. It is a beautiful story that pulls at the heart strings.

Dawn, a homeless woman who has seen too much tragedy in her life, moves into St Jude’s a hostel for the homeless. Grace, who runs the hostel is kind, caring and wants to help all who come through the doors of St Jude’s. The author presents important issues, including mental illness and homelessness. Along with this, we can see the kindness and care of some people in the community. Dawn is prepared to risk it all, as she fights for St Jude’s to remain open. She becomes a friend to many and gains true friendships. Dawn is a lovely character who shows kindness and loyalty to those around her.

I found the novel slow in pace to begin with, yet enjoyed the characters, their backstories and was behind them, cheering them on until the very end. This is a novel that provides hope and one well worth reading right now. What a great read!

Thank you Harper Collins Australia for sending me a copy to read in exchange for my honest review.

❤️❤️❤️❤️

What Happens Now? Sophia Money-Coutts

No question about it, there are two little purple lines. I’m pregnant.’

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’—that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?

Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own—it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…

My review

This book is everything that I needed in my life right now. It is funny, light hearted and everything a romance should be. I laughed, laughed and laughed some more. Thank you @harpercollinsaustralia for sending me this escape from the world as we know it right now. I couldn’t put it down. Lil is a character who is a down to earth and always says what she thinks and feels. She is hilarious without realising it. After a fantastic date with Max, a man she has only met once, she realises she is pregnant. Considering her age she realises her best option is to deliver this baby and raise her. The scan confirms it for her and she falls in love with her baby at once. Lil has friends and family around her who are willing to support her in every way they can. Jess, her best friend is there for her in every moment she can be, including the point when she tests positive for pregnancy. Max and Lil’s evolving relationship is perfect. It is authentic in these circumstances. Sophia Money-Coutts does not leave a single detail untold…sometines there are too mamy details… and yet this makes it even more hilarious. I look forward to reading more from this author. What a treat. If you want to read something funny that you won’t want to put down, I highly recommend What Happens Now?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

My review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is unique in presentation and story.

Jacob, a 16 year old boy has a close relationship with his grandfather who tells him stories as he grows up. These stories are magical and unbelievable, along with elements of horror. He considers his grandfather’s stories fictional and a way to disguise the horrors of his wartime experience through story.

Upon his grandfather’s passing he decides to go to the island in which his grandfather spent time in an orphanage. He travels with his father. I particularly enjoyed reading of Jacob’s relationships with his family members and would have liked this to be detailed further, prior to Jacob leaving for the island. As Jacob explores the abandoned orphanage he finds out who the children were who stayed with his grandfather.

The story is intriguing, yet I had hoped for further magic and insights into the world in which the peculiar children live. This is clearly set up for the following novels, however I felt that details and descriptions were held back to be written in the further novels. The presentation of the novel with images is interesting and very creepy, which I have no doubt was intended.

3.5 stars