The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher’s Daughter is a historically significant novel depicting a fictional story of a young woman in Korea who witnesses the end of the Joseon Dynasty. It is an example of the very reason why historical fiction is my favourite genre. Eugenia Kim took 15 years to write this novel and her research was thorough to say the least.

Although a work of fiction, the story is loosely based on Eugenia’s mother’s story. Due to her mother’s story telling, Eugenia was able to write this fascinating and magnificent novel that shows the reader what it was like to be a woman from 1915-1945 in Korea. The story follows Najin Han, daughter of a scholar and calligrapher who is an independent thinker and a woman who wishes to be educated. Najin’s father does not understand her, yet her mother does everything in her power to encourage her to live the life she dreams of. In order to avoid being married off at 15 her mother sends her to her aunt, who is connected to the high court. The lessons learnt and life Najin leads at this time is fascinating.

When reading a historical fiction, one expects to learn about the life and times of the character. I was truly transported to Korea and felt the struggles, heartache, relief, love and hope that the characters felt. Najin’s relationship with her mother moved me. Najin’s mother walked two and a half hours every day for one hundred days to bring her daughter clothing and food when detained. Her mother supported and loved her for the person she is. Najin in return is a respectful, loving, determined, intelligent, spiritually considerate daughter who her mother is proud of.

The Calligrapher’s Daughter is a lesson in history and religion too. I learnt of the history of confucianism and Christianity in Korea. As a Christian, this novel proved to be a spiritual lesson and way to connect closer to God. Najin is a a selfless Christian woman, although she struggles with her own faith. There are beautiful passages that I took note of in this story that are inspiring and touching. Najin’s mother is a wise woman who encourages her to ‘trust in God’s plan’ and to pray often.

When asked about how she decided to write The Calligrapher’s Daughter, Eugenia Kim states that she was ‘called to do this’; to share her family’s story and to connect further with her own mother’s story. This is a story I intend on reading again and may do so many times. The Calligrapher’s Daughter is a story written from the heart and touched my heart. I look forward to reading more of Eugenia’s books and was honoured to be a part of the bookclub meeting tonight, organised by the Korean Cultural Centre of Australia. Thank you for hosting such a fantastic book club event.

The Buchanan Girls

Synopsis

A sweeping family saga about betrayal, forgiveness and the cost of love.

Sydney, 1941: Olive and Ivy may be identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different. While Olive is focused on marrying a man appropriate to her station, Ivy wants to do more, to be more. Joining the Australian Women’s Service Army is the perfect chance for her to escape her family obligations and make a real difference in the world. She doesn’t expect serving her country to lead to romance … or devastating betrayal and unthinkable grief.

As the war progresses, both Olive and Ivy find themselves wanting the same thing: for their loves to return safely. But neither of the Buchanan girls is ready for what the future has in store for them.

Sydney, 2008: Escaping her husband’s betrayal and an impossible personal loss, Madeline returns home to Sydney to nurse her broken heart. As she settles into her new routine, it’s too easy to consider never returning to New York and her old life. But her husband won’t give up on what they have so easily, and Madeline can’t ignore his messages reminding her of why they fell in love in the first place. With her grandmother’s support, Madeline has to decide if forgiveness means reconciliation. But is the biggest betrayal yet to come?

My review

The Buchanan Girls – Emily Madden

Thank you @harlequinaus and @emilymaddenauthor for #gifting  me a copy of The Buchanan Girls.

This story will stay with me for a long time. I am left thinking about the characters and their lives long after finishing the story. They touched my heart.

This dual timeline novel set in WWII follows the lives of twin sisters, Ivy and Olive. Olive is happy to marry and live a life of luxury, whilst Ivy wishes to make a difference. Ivy signs up for the Australian Women’s Army Service, makes some close friends, finds love and supports the war effort. In 2008, Madeline moves back home to Sydney and must face the trauma she experienced in her life. Her work at the local school as an OT is wonderful, especially when she meets happy-go-lucky Lucy, a little girl with autism. Lucy has such a positive impact on everyone around her and was one of my favourite characters. Emily Madden has a beautiful way of connecting readers to each character. I felt I knew them all.

I have never felt so emotional about a character before that I almost stopped reading the book because of one action. I could deeply feel the betrayal and heartache. This is due to Emily’s outstanding character development. But, I say this to you – keep reading! The twists and turns of family secrets brought to light after this incident will leave you feeling all the emotions and loving the novel even more.

Emily Madden brought to light the heartbreak that as women we may have felt in our lives. In 1940s unwed mothers were not accepted. These days mothers who have children who are not meeting certain milestones may struggle. Children with autism are often not understood. Society still does not talk about miscarriage in a way that people can truly understand what women experience. All of these matters were explored and the way they were addressed left me feeling hopeful. Authors like Emily Madden make a difference!

This is the first novel by Emily Madden I have read and intend to read all of her novels! Emily Madden is an author whose writing touches the soul. What a powerful family saga that I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐( 6th star if I could )

Her Heart for a Compass – Sarah Ferguson

Synopsis

From one of the most famous former members of the British royal family, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York —a mesmerizing novel of a young noblewoman’s coming-of-age that richly details both high society and low in Victorian England.

Queen Victoria’s close friend, the Scottish Duke of Buccleuch, Lady Margaret Montagu Scott is expected to make an advantageous marriage. But Margaret is an impulsive and outspoken girl in a repressive society where women are, quite literally, caged in corsets and required to conform.


When Lady Margaret’s parents arrange a society marriage for her, she tries to reconcile herself to the match. But shortly before her betrothal is announced, Margaret flees, leaving her parents to explain her sudden absence to an opulent ballroom stuffed with two hundred distinguished guests.

Banished from polite society, Margaret throws herself into charitable work and finds strength in a circle of female friends like herself—women intent on breaking the mold, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise. Margaret resolves to follow her heart—a journey of self-discovery that will take her to Ireland, America, and then back to Britain where she finds the life she was always meant to lead.

A bold and thoughtful story about a rebellious woman finding herself and her voice in an age of astounding technological change and great social unrest, Her Heart for a Compass is a delicious costume drama rich in atmosphere, history, and color.

My review

Thank you @harlequinaus for #gifting me a copy of Her Heart for a Compass
@millsandboonuk @sarahferguson15

Book review:
Sarah Ferguson’s novel Her Heart for a Compass is mesmerising. I was enthralled from the first page and wanted to continue reading long after putting it down.

This historical fiction novel is based on Sarah Ferguson’s ancestors and events that occurred. Some characters created, others part of history. The story is set in the grandest of settings of London, Ireland and Scotland. Sarah’s insight into this life,as the Duchess of York, influenced her research, knowledge and personal awareness of societal norms, conventions and settings. No one could write this better! This is one of the most detailed and realistic portrayals of a story set in Victorian England I have ever read.
 
Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch is expected to marry for a good match for her family, rather than marry for love. She is cast out of society for not marrying the man her father wishes her to. Margaret is ambitious, caring, adventurous and courageous. She has a desire to help others in need and is not afraid to speak up for those who cannot. Margaret’s compassion is heartwarming. There are many members of the royal family who are constantly helping others, working to ensure those suffering are supported and gain opportunities in life. Margaret is an example of this. She does not simply provide funds, she works with the children in the poorest places and gives them love, kindness and a sanctuary they have never experienced in their lives. What a character to admire.

Margaret’s best friend is Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter and their friendship is tested as Margaret travels to Ireland and America. Margaret grows as a person and she learns to truly follow her own heart, the whole way through the novel. The romantic relationships in the novel are exciting, heartbreaking and simply beautiful.

I hope to read more of Sarah Ferguson’s novels. This should be made into a movie!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#herheartforacompass #sarahferguson #royalty #ladymargaret #queenvictoria #princesslouise #chapterichi #romamcenovel #bookrecommendations

Starlit Skies – Suzanne Cass

Book review

Starlit Skies is the second story in the Stormcloud Station Series. This romantic suspense novel includes everything a reader could hope for- danger, suspense, sexual tension, romance and we’ll developed characters.

It follows the story of Skylah, the chef at the Stormcloud Station retreat and Dale’s sister. Skylah is passionate about cooking and this book definitely made me hungry! I love a book that describes delicious meals!

Skylah interrupts a domestic violence situation in one of the cabins at Stormcloud and makes the decision to testify against the accused. On her way home from Cairns, in the helicopter, they have an accident. Fortunately she is with Senior Constable Nash. Not only does he offer protection, but the two help each other with trauma they have both experienced in the past. Their feelings for one another grow as their time together in the wilderness continues. Nash and Skylah are not the only ones walking around in the bush. They are being followed.

Suzanne Cass considerately includes sensitive issues in her novels. Starlit Skies is a novel which emphasises the horrors of domestic violence, opening the eyes of the reader as to how one can be in a situation where they feel they cannot escape or speak up. The main characters in the novel deal with trauma and they develop in strength and psychological awareness of their situations.

Starlit Skies is not lacking in romance and steam! Nash and Skylah’s connection is visible from the beginning.

I would recommend Starlit Skies for anyone wanting to snuggle up with a romantic novel, along with being on the edge of their seat, taken along for a suspense-filled ride. What a page turner!! Thank you Suzanne for #gifting me a copy of your latest novel!!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#starlitskies #suzannecass #stormcloudstationseries
#australianreaders
#aussieauthor #bookstagram #bookreviews #bookreviewer #bibliophile #bookish #bookrecommendations #chapterichi

Clear Skies – Suzanne Cass

My review

Sexy, steamy, romantic and gripping!

Clear Skies is a romantic suspense novel that held my interest from the beginning.

Daisy and Dale meet in terrifying circumstances. Daisy’s car is about to be swept away with her in it and Dale is there to save her and her car. Dale offers Daisy to stay at his family’s retreat, Stormcloud Skies until she can cross the creek. Daisy is concerned about being away for too long, as she is desperate to return to her brother. He is currently on the run for a crime he has been accused of. Daisy, as his older sister is attempting to protect him.

Daisy’s stay at Stormcloud Skies is action packed. She gets to know Dale and his family, including his sister Skylah who is the chef at the resort. Daisy and Dale’s romance is passionate and  they explore the North Queensland landscape together. Daisy is an Aboriginal Australian who is passionate about sharing her culture and connection with the land. Dale learns a lot from her and as a reader, I found the appreciation of Aboriginal culture one of the most important  themes of the novel. There were also comments made about racism towards Aboriginal people, in particular in remote places of Australia. For people who have not experienced racism, their eyes should be opened. Dale’s eyes are opened and he learns of the fears, discrimination and treatment that Indigenous Australians are at times subjected to. I hope that readers of this novel learn from this. What I particularly enjoyed about this novel was the fact that Suzanne Cass celebrates Aboriginal knowledge of the land.

When one of the staff member’s bodies turns up in the creek there is a murder mystery to be solved! The twists and turns of the investigation, along with Suzanne Cass’ character development made this an absolute page turner.

I look forward to reading more of Suzanne Cass’ novels in the series. I would recommend Clear Skies to anyone who loves a good romantic suspense novel.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Charlie’s Will – Susan Mackie

Synopsis

A small town rural romance.
Rose Gordon knew the farm would be hers when her grandfather died.
Strong and sassy, she was the only heir to five generations of cattle country and the magnificent Barrington Homestead. But Charlie’s will was not as she expected and the appearance of Angus Hamilton on the day of the funeral unsettled her. Handsome and single, she was attracted to him in a way she had never experienced. The ongoing drought and discovering she had friends, if not family, in the small rural community complicate matters. More sinister threats lurk in the shadows. Will Rose give up city life to face the threats head on and fight for her inheritance?

My review

Captivating, heartfelt, suspenseful and a wonderfully crafted plot. Charlie’s Will is a page turner!

Charlie’s Will is a small town romance novel set in Barrington, NSW Australia. Rose returns to her hometown when her grandfather, Charlie passes away. She returns to the beautiful Barrington Homestead and the beloved animals living there. She is shocked to realise that her grandfather’s will is not as simple as expected and also includes local vet, Angus Hamilton. Rose does not trust Angus at first and wants to know why her grandfather placed his trust in him. Moving back to the homestead, Rose is threatened and  someone is lurking around the property. Soon Rose realises that the threats could have something to do with the company attempting to buy the majority of farms in the area. Charlie was aware of the threats and refused to sell the Barrington Homestead.  Rose has big decisions to make about her future and whether or not she will keep the home that has been in their family for generations.

Susan Mackie’s quote at the beginning intrigued me; ‘Do you drive by old homes and wonder about the lives of those that built them, lived there, loved and lost?’ I often look at heritage homes and wonder about the history and the people who lived there. The Barrington Homestead is magnificent. Susan’s descriptions of the home and farm make me want to move to a property and enjoy the sprawling vistas that we read about. The home has secrets and stories to tell that Rose must discover, in order to understand Charlie’s will. Susan paints a picture of a close knit community that will go to any lengths to help one another. The characters who knew Charlie best are caring, comforting and patient, just as he is depicted to have been. I enjoyed getting to know them all.

I love to read stories where the main characters have a love of animals. Angus shares his love of animals with Rose, who slides back into farmlife with ease. Rose knows horses and I enjoyed reading about the rides taken and landscape appreciated along the way. Barrington is a beautiful place and it makes me want to visit again someday.

I would highly recommend Charlie’s Will, with its steamy romance, twists and turns and small town charm. Susan’s short story ‘Love in the Ragged Mountain Ranges’ was heartfelt, compassionate and tender and also set in Barrington. I was very excited to read Charlie’s Will after reading Susan’s short story. Susan writes beautiful stories and it is obvious through her characters that she has a love of animals. Thank you Susan for sending me a copy of your novel to read and review. I can’t wait to read the next installment of the Barrington series!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Elizabeth’s Star – Rhonda Forrest

Synopsis

Book 1 – We’ll Meet Again Series

‘If you talk to the stars, I will talk back to you.’

In 1941, Queensland drover, Michael McTavish leaves behind his young daughter Gracie and joins the 2/22 AIF, his destination, Rabaul, New Guinea, a small town surrounded by impenetrable jungles and steep jagged mountains, its shores lined by tranquil bays and active volcanos.

Joanie has also arrived in New Guinea, with a chance to manage a trading store with her father, Reg, too exciting an opportunity to pass up.

As the tendrils of war creep closer to the islands north of Australia, some who call Rabaul home are given an opportunity to return to Australian shores. Others have no option but to stay. Will separation and distance affect the destiny of those who live in the path of the approaching enemy or will the power of love prevail?

Based on actual events, Elizabeth’s Star begins the story of Michael and Joanie, unfolding the lives of their families and friends while following the life of Gracie, a little girl left behind when her father went to war.

A moving tale of love, loss and separation.

An absorbing, sweeping saga that harks back to a period in Australia’s pre-World War II history that has been largely ignored. Compelling historical authenticity based on research and familial connections to this era. Maree Page-Gear

My review

Rhonda Forrest’s latest historical fiction novel ‘Elizabeth’s Star’ is nothing short of magnificent.

The story begins in Channel Country, Queensland, 1929. We first meet Michael McTavish and his family. I was drawn in right away, due to this loving family and how Michael and his brothers are are brought up with such love and care. I enjoyed reading about their lives and the work they do as drovers. The Australian landscape is depicted beautifully, in particular due to the characters’ appreciation of the land. Michael and his twin brother, Dan go to work away and their lives change forever. Their adventures lead them down different paths. Michael enlists in the war and must leave his daughter, Gracie behind in Australia.

One third of the way through the story we meet Joanie and her family in 1940, Woombye, Queensland. Joanie and her father, Reg decide to go to Rabaul, New Guinea on a father-daughter adventure/working trip. This is where the Michael and Joanie’s lives connect.

Rhonda is an author who can immerse a reader in a certain time and place in an instant. Each destination is a feast for the senses and an absolute delight. The ‘scent from the magnolia tree, laden with flowers, wafting in through the open window’ took me to Papua New Guinea with Joanie. Rhonda’s descriptions of the land and people are insightful, well researched, atmospheric and filled with cultural awareness.

Often when reading authors’ novels we learn about who they are or what they are passionate about through their writing. In Rhonda’s novels, I tend to learn something new about who she is as a person. Elizabeth’s Star, just as her other novels shows a compassionate writer who places strong value on family connection, in particular the significance of ‘Elizabeth’s Star’ in the night sky. In Elizabeth’s Star, we are told of some of Rhonda’s family history. I felt privileged to read her author’s note, learning about her beloved grandfather, James McGowen, who enlisted for service at Kelvin Grove, Brisbane and later became part of the Lark Force, ending up in Rabaul, New Britain. I was in tears reading this and felt for Rhonda and her entire family. Due to Rhonda’s personal insights, the historical events are well understood and explored in this historical fiction novel.

Another aspect that I loved about Elizabeth’s Star is the appreciation of indigenous cultures. Michael and his family appreciate the knowledge and true connection the Aboriginal people of Australia have with their land. They trust and respect them. Upon arrival to New Guinea, we see Reg and Joanie excited to learn about the Papuans who are at ‘one with their families, land and the waters’. I enjoyed reading about this vibrant culture and meeting the local people. I admire a culture where people are ‘happy and content with their homes and way of life.’

Rhonda’s characters always bring to light important issues. We see racial discrimination within the novel and how in time, multiculturalism is acknowledged. Joanie is a strong female character who speaks her mind. Upon arrival and noticing the divide between the Papuans and English speaking community, she states ‘there’s no way I’m going to treat anyone differently’ and proceeds to ensure everyone is welcome in their store.

The characters in the novel have a strong bond with one another, which is another reason why Rhonda’s novels are truly heartwarming. At a horrific time, pre World War II, we see such kindness and love between the main characters.

This is a story that had to be told! This is a time and event in war history that many have no knowledge of and yet through Elizabeth’s Star, here we are learning about it. I could feel the author’s personal connection with the historical events as I read the novel. Elizabeth’s Star is sincere and heartfelt. I can’t wait for Book 2!

Thank you Rhonda for sending me your beautiful novel.

Before the Storm – Di Morrissey

Synopsis

After being double-crossed by a devious colleague, career woman Ellie Conlan quits her job on principle. With no idea what to do next, she retreats to Storm Harbour, an idyllic Victorian beach town.

Ellie’s grandfather runs The Storm Harbour Chronicle, the trusted local newspaper. As Ellie is drawn into a story about a development which could split the coastal community – and involves her with the influential O’Neill family – an event she has long suppressed threatens to overwhelm her.

Dark clouds gather as rumours fly and tensions mount. And when a violent storm breaks and rages, Ellie will finally have to confront her past.

My review

All of her books are different and Before the Storm is no exception. Ellie Conlan leaves her job in the city and decides to take a break in the small town of Storm Harbour, living with her Grandad. The bond between Ellie and her grandfather is beautiful. Di Morrissey’s characters are thoughtfully introduced into the story and the relationships of the protagonists are strong, loving and heartfelt. 

Ellie’s grandfather’s newspaper, The Storm Harbour Chronicle shares stories within the local community and does so with integrity. Ellie finds herself writing stories for the paper and investigating an issue within the town. She becomes part of the community.

Before the Storm is a novel in which local people fight to maintain the beauty and history of the town. I love these types of stories and it was lovely to read about a community that would band together as they did.

Ellie’s priorities change fast. She sees herself as part of a town that she begins to love. Her past trauma challenges her and her strength to face this trauma is courageous.

This is a lovely read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

#beforethestorm #dimorrissey #stormharbour #victoria #trauma #bookstagram #bookreview #bookreviewer #chapterichi #bookblogger

The Last Paradise – Di Morrissey

Tha Last Paradise – Di Morrissey

Grace has a husband, daughter, friends and a luxurious home. One night her life as she knows it changes forever. Grace soon realises that her husband isn’t who she thought he was. When Grace is unsure of how she will support herself and her daughter, she is presented with a job opportunity of a lifetime, in Bali.

The majority of the story is set in Bali. Di Morrissey has a way of making readers want to travel to every destination she writes about. The traditions, history, culture and luxury are described beautifully. I felt like I was there watching the monkeys dance and feeling the peaceful feeling of the beach near the Kamasan resort.

The characters in this novel are what truly makes the story. Grace’s naievity is soon replaced by strength, courage and success. Grace is a strong female protagonist. As a newly single mother she proves that with support and love she can lead a life of contentment. Grace has a relationship with her mother that made me miss my mum very much. The two are close and her mum supports her in every way possible. Grace, Tina (Grace’s mum) and Grace’s daughter, Daisy have a beautiful bond. I loved reading their conversation a and could feel the love they have for one another.

There are many strong women in The Last Paradise who lift one another up. Mel, Grace’s best friend is another support person and confidant for Grace as she deals with her crazy, soon to be ex-husband, Lawrence. Mel is the kind of best friend we all hope to be to someone; loyal, kind, supportive and encouraging.

The people Grace meet in Bali impact her life in positive ways, along with her confidence in herself.

Di Morrissey’s The Last Paradise is hopeful, inspirational and exciting. In a time when overseas travel is so very challenging, it’s authors like Di Morrissey who will take us to exotic destinations, exploring the culture and land. What a truly magnificent read, one I could not put down. I loved it!!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Things are Alive They Hum – Hannah Bent

Synopsis

Marlowe and Harper share a bond deeper than most sisters, shaped by the loss of their mother in childhood. For Harper, living with what she calls the Up syndrome and gifted with an endless capacity for wonder, Marlowe and she are connected by an invisible thread, like the hum that connects all things. For Marlowe, they are bound by her fierce determination to keep Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder, alive.

Now 25, Marlowe is finally living her own life abroad, pursuing her studies of a rare species of butterfly secure in the knowledge Harper’s happiness is complete, having found love with boyfriend, Louis. But then she receives the devastating call that Harper’s heart is failing. She needs a heart transplant but is denied one by the medical establishment because she is living with a disability. Marlowe rushes to her childhood home in Hong Kong to be by Harper’s side and soon has to answer the question – what lengths would you go to save your sister?


My review

‘My hum… Will be in everything the wind the sea the sand the air in you.’

When Things are Alive they Hum is a moving story that touched my heart beyond belief.

Marlow and Harper are sisters. Their connection is beautiful and their love for one another is strong. Hannah Bent’s writing is superb. The story is told from the perspective of each sister and allows the reader to closely understand the characters’ thoughts, feelings, wants and needs. In reading Harper’s words, I gained an understanding of how this young girl with down syndrome (or as Harper states ‘up syndrome’) and a congenital heart disorder lives out her daily life. Harper is extraordinary. Her love for life, her family and her boyfriend, Louis, is pure. Harper is an inspiring character; how she views the world and how she reacts to situations. Readers will no doubt learn a lot from Harper. I did! Marlowe lives abroad with her boyfriend and is succeeding in her studies. Her studies of butterflies is lovely and I enjoyed reading about her research. Butterflies are significant in the story. She is very protective of her sister, Harper.

Harper lives in Hong Kong, where she is discriminated against for having down syndrome. Hannah Bent’s cultural knowledge of Hong Kong is evident in the story. The discrimination Harper experiences will impact her life. I felt very emotional reading the lack of acceptance and little value people place on others’ lives. Reading about Harper, who could teach us all a lot about the world, has made me consider the importance of sharing an awareness of how people with down syndrome may be treated instead of how all should be treated –  equal!

After reading the novel I was inspired to read more on Hong Kong and how people treat others. I was relieved to read of a recent change in June 2020 in which positive changes were made to the Discrimination Laws in Hong Kong. I also read of an American girl with Down Syndrome who fought for her rights to be treated equally in respect to her heart transplant. We need to fight for equality. Hannah Bent encourages readers to do this by writing a personal story and allowing us to fall in love with her characters.

I have felt that hum, Harper talks about, in my grief and I feel the hum in everyday situations. I love this description and find that it comforted me personally. This is more than a fictional book. It comments strongly on issues of discrimination, acceptance, disability, grief, loss and equality. Hannah Bent – what an inspiration! We need to do more in society to ensure equal rights for all. Thank you Hannah for writing a book that will be life changing for those who read it.