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!

🎆🎆🎆🎆/🎆🎆🎆🎆🎆

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

Home Work – A memoir of my Hollywood Years, Julie Andrews

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In this follow-up to her critically acclaimed memoir, Home, Julie Andrews shares reflections on her astonishing career, including such classics as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria.

In Home, the number one New York Times international bestseller, Julie Andrews recounted her difficult childhood and her emergence as an acclaimed singer and performer on the stage.
With this second memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, Andrews picks up the story with her arrival in Hollywood and her phenomenal rise to fame in her earliest films–Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Andrews describes her years in the film industry — from the incredible highs to the challenging lows. Not only does she discuss her work in now-classic films and her collaborations with giants of cinema and television, she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with the demands of unimaginable success, being a new mother, the end of her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. The pair worked together in numerous films, including Victor/Victoria, the gender-bending comedy that garnered multiple Oscar nominations.

Cowritten with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and told with Andrews’s trademark charm and candor, Home Work takes us on a rare and intimate journey into an extraordinary life that is funny, heartrending, and inspiring.

My review

I have loved Julie Andrews since I was a little girl. I loved sitting down watching The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins was one of my favourite movies. This memoir is honest, personal, insightful and authentic. Julie shares her life as a Hollywood actress, discusses her marriage and her family.

Her life was busy and I found myself feeling grateful that I have the opportunity to stay in the one place with my work. Julie and her family travelled a lot and lived between New York, London and Switzerland. Julie seemed to crave the quieter life, yet her work continued to call her.

Julie and Blake’s family is beautiful and they overcame many struggles and challenges along the way. Julie is kind, caring, humble and attempted to live her life based on what she considered best for her family.

I was particularly interested in her travels to Vietnam and life as an adoptive mother, along with the ways in which she maintained her profession whilst being a mum. I loved reading about her adventures on the set of The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, although I must admit that I wanted to know more about her experiences whilst creating these classic films.

Overall, I would recommend this lovely memoir. The beautiful thing about it is that Julie wrote this with her daughter Emma. I gained such  insight into her personal world.

⭐⭐⭐⭐