The Choice – Nicholas Sparks

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Synopsis

Nicholas Sparks turns his unrivaled talents to a new tale about love found and lost, and the choices we hope we’ll never have to make.

Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life – boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies — he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, THE CHOICE ultimately confronts us with the most heartwrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

My review

Reading one of Nicholas Sparks’ books feels like coming home. He is one of my favourite romance writers. I like being able to read a book that I know will be an easy read.

Straight away I found Travis’ character loveable. His friends seem like a great group of people who enjoy spending time with their families. Travis also takes time out to have fun with his friends’ children when they visit. Although he is not in a serious relationship, he appears to have what it takes to be a good Dad. He is also the type of person who realises how important it is to stop and take notice of the little things in life.

Travis soon takes notice of his new neighbour and takes time to welcome her to the neighbourhood. Gabby has moved in next door to Travis and she soon requires help with her dog, Molly. Travis and Gabby both share a love of dogs. They get to know each other in a short amount of time. Gabby is in a relationship and must make a decision as to whether Travis will be a neighbour and friend, or will he offer Gabby the future she longs for?

Nicholas Sparks has a way with romance, in particular the characters’ connection. Although Travis is confident, he respectful and a romantic.

Part Two of the novel kept me on edge, wondering about the outcome and whether love would in fact conquer all. The message to never give up on a loved one rang loud and clear.

The writing was enjoyable and this was an easy read. I was happy to read a novel that took me to a romantic setting, near the water and in a place where love is most important.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Thing about Oliver – Deborah Kelly

Synopsis

Sometimes I feel just like the glass in my fish tank— people look right through me.

Twelve-year-old Tilly dreams of becoming a marine scientist, but she doesn’t even own a swimsuit. She lives in a drought- stricken town with her mum and younger brother Oliver, who is autistic.

Oliver’s meltdowns are making life unbearable. He needs so many different kinds of therapy that there’s never any time—or money—left over for swimming lessons. Tilly knows Oliver’s needs have to come first, but it’s hard feeling invisible all the time.

When Mum announces they are moving to the Queensland coast, Tilly is excited at the thought of finally learning to swim— even snorkel! But she is also worried. The thing about Oliver is, he can’t cope with even the tiniest of changes to his routine.

It isn’t long before the cracks begin to show. Could so many changes all at once threaten to shatter the whole family?

My review

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Books have the power to change perspectives, increase understanding and move us to tears. The Thing about Oliver is one of those stories. Deborah Kelly has written a captivating, touching, insightful and heartfelt story. I was smiling, crying and feeling every emotion in between.

The Thing about Oliver is written from the perspective of Tilly, sister of Oliver. Tilly is an ambitious, courageous and bright young girl who is determined to become a marine scientist. Her knowledge of sea creatures is fantastic, offering some hillarious fun facts about specific creatures. Tilly loves her brother, yet finds life difficult. Her hope is to learn to swim and attend the local pool for swimming lessons… if only Oliver didn’t have a meltdown when they were intending to view the pool.

Oliver, Tilly and their mum, Dana, are a very close family. They struggle daily to keep the peace within their closeknit family of three. Oliver has autism and routine is of utmost importance. If something changes or if he is startled, it is difficult for him and his family to create the calm he needs again. When the family move to Townsville to live with Aunt Janine, there are many changes and challenges they face. They face these challenges as a family of four.

This is a book that I would love for everyone to read. For children who read this story, they will gain understanding of what it could be like to live with autism or to have a family member with autism. Teachers will gain insight into the workings of young minds and be able to offer more support. As a mum, there are points in this story that I can relate to and there is a point in which I was brought to tears. Deborah Kelly’s writing had me on the edge of my seat, hoping for a positive outcome for this beautiful family.

The ‘glass children’ are the siblings of children with disabilities. Often they are overlooked or disregarded unintentionally. The parents’ main focus may be the child with the disability, in order to maintain peace wherever possible and ensure the safety of all children. We need to consider how these children must feel. I could feel the mother’s pain and struggle, as she must try to find work and do what is best for her children whilst trying to spend quality time with them. It is difficult for Dana to provide Tilly with the opportunities other children have, as Oliver requires a lot of appointments and care. We often consider a care plan for a disabled child, we don’t often consider the pressure and stress placed on their family members.

I highly recommend The Thing about Oliver. The more young children who read this, the more we will see understanding of autism among school aged children. As a High School teacher, I hope that my colleagues and students will read this book to promote autism awareness and increase empathy for their peers.

Deborah Kelly’s books all have important themes within. Her books are well loved and read by my family, in particular my two year old son.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Apple Island Wife: Slow Living in Tasmania – Fiona Stocker

Synopsis

What happens when you leave city life and move to five acres on a hunch, with a husband who’s an aspiring alpaca-whisperer, and a feral cockerel for company? Can you eat the cockerel for dinner? Or has it got rigour mortise?

In search of a good life and a slower pace, Fiona Stocker upped-sticks and moved to Tasmania, a land of promise, wilderness, and family homes of uncertain build quality. It was the lifestyle change that many dream of and most are too sensible to attempt.

Wife, mother and now reluctant alpaca owner, Fiona jumped in at the deep end. Gradually Tasmania got under her skin as she learned to stack wood, round up the kids with a retired lady sheepdog, and stand on a scorpion without getting stung.

This charming tale captures the tussles and euphoria of living on the land in a place of untrammelled beauty, raising your family where you want to and seeing your husband in a whole new light. Not just a memoir but an everywoman’s story, and a paean to a new, slower age

My review

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This memoir is refreshing and had me in stitches. Fiona and her husband originally from England, make the move from Brisbane to a rural life in Tasmania. They make a life for themselves in Tasmania with their two children and end up running an alpaca farm. The day to day running of a property and day to day life from the perspective of a busy mum with young children was just the book I needed to read.

Fiona’s memoir is written in a relaxed and comedic manner. I enjoyed how the book is structured into chapters which relate to different aspects of farm and family life.

Fiona Stocker has a sense of humour, an appreciation for the simple things in life and good books. After reading this, I would gladly sit down and have a tea with Fiona and can imagine we would have a great chat because of how down to earth she is. I also love that Fiona is the type of person who values manners. I had a laugh when Fiona formally introduces herself to a local resident. Her husband suggests that she ‘should be in a Jane Austen novel where formal introductions are all the rage.’ I am with Fiona. When my husband doesn’t introduce me to someone I take matters into my own hands too.

Fiona attempts to balance mum life and her life working on the property. Finding balance can be tricky. She does so whilst making some time for herself as she attends the local yoga class. Again, this chapter had me laughing a lot.

This is the first book I have read which is set on an alpaca farm. I learnt a lot about alpacas and found the process of purchasing them, shearing them and their not so nice habits interesting.

Fiona doesn’t sugarcoat parenting and is honest. She describes the minimal time at night to read as a ‘daily luxury’, which is very true for a mum with a toddler. At the end of a day of cuddles, playing and being there for our kids, us mums need that quiet time. I was able to relate to the stories of motherhood and enjoyed the very different stories of living in rural Tasmania.

I would recommend this memoir and particularly feel that mothers of young children would enjoy sitting back and having a laugh, as I have. Thanks Fiona for sharing your story with me and your readers.

Thank you Fiona for sending me a copy of your memoir in exchange for my honest review.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kick the Dust – Rhonda Forrest

Synopsis

‘If I close my eyes, it’s easier to hold onto a memory. When I open them, I think it might really be there in front of me.’

After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Liam Andrews is home safe in Queensland. His weekly life drawing class, full of colourful local artists, helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder. But he’s struggling to open up about a past that still haunts him.

Belourine ‘Billy’ is an Afghan refugee who lost everything before arriving in Australia as a child. She finds joy in her daily swims in the lake. After years of upheaval, she’s still searching for a place to call home. But her past makes it hard to trust people.

When Liam and Billy meet, they form an instant connection. But will they ever overcome the past? And will it be together?

A moving story of love, loss and resilience from the author of Two Heartbeats.

My review

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Kick the Dust, by author Rhonda Forrest, is the fourth book I have had the privilege of reading, written by this talented Australian author. Kick the Dust is a heartwarming contemporary novel of loss, trauma, gratitude, love and courage.

Rhonda gently discusses issues with care and understanding, including her comment on loss and feeling that ‘gaping hole’ upon losing one’s mother. The romance within this novel is subtle and sweet, which makes the love all the more genuine and beautiful.

Liam, an artist who spent three tours in Afghanistan lives on a peaceful property in Queensland. He spends every spare moment in his studio or at the local art class, painting the human figure. Billy is a refugee from Afghanistan who has experienced tremendous tragedy and loss in her life. These two characters cross paths, as they take time to swim in the lake each day, in their own designated areas of the same lake. Much like their backgrounds, although distant, there are significant connections.

Painting is an emotive craft. It’s like music or poetry, it’s a way to express feelings, to interpret and portray the feelings of others.’ Art is everything and more in this novel. Painting is explored as an outlet for Liam’s grief, loss and pain, yet is also a way in which connects him and Billy with their past. Billy, who has no family, begins to remember images, smells and significant memories of her childhood and family. Painting is the gateway to healing for both characters.

I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of Liam, as he paints. Understanding his passion and thoughts, via his talent, allowed me to feel as if I were sitting in the studio or art class too.

The members of the art class all have their own stories and it is beautiful to see the transformation of thoughts as they get to know one another. Racist and thoughtless comments that we often hear in Australia are challenged and the characters gain a sense of the individual.

This novel challenges people who do not consider others as individuals, rather as one and the same. In Australia there are often opinions circulating that do not consider the horrors experienced by refugees. I hope that we see a positive shift towards acceptance in all communities, as is seen in this novel. I hope that more people provide refugees with opportunities, as Liam attempts to do. I cannot imagine losing my entire family. It is with kindness and love for others that we can help those who have experienced unimaginable devastation and loss.

Those who look deeper than the surface and take their time to look into the work will hopefully see the story.’ This is one of my favourite quotes in the novel. Rhonda’s reference to painting is a metaphor for the way in which we can take the time to get to know someone, rather than simply taking note of appearance.

The title of this novel is truly meaningful and I love where the inspiration for it came from; two young students from Afghanistan who recently arrived in Australia. Without divulging too much in my review, I will say the title is perfect. As a teacher, Rhonda has no doubt had a positive impact on young minds, as she does with her readers. Each novel challenges the reader to think about society as a whole and appreciate what they have in their own lives. Rhonda’s novels all have the ability to encourage the reader to engage with what is truly important in life.

Rhonda has such a unique style and yet again, I found myself in the depths of the world of the characters so much so that I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be a part of the art class and community, so that I could have a chat with them. I would highly recommend Kick the Dust and hope that many Australians will read this novel that has such relevance in our country.

Thank you Rhonda for sending me a copy of Kick the Dust. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to read your fourth novel and to have two quotes of mine placed in this beautiful book too. Another thought provoking novel from a talented author. Much love.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

1 Year Giveaway

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INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

On 14 November 2018 I started my #bookstagram account and blog. I am very glad that I did. This is the best community to be a part of. I love interacting with friends on my blog and bookstagram. Thank you. ❤️❤️

When I read B.Jeanne Shibahara’s novel Kaerou – Time to Go Home I couldn’t put it down. B.Jeanne and I would like to offer two signed copies of ‘Kaerou – Time to Go Home’ to two lucky winners (one international and one Australian winner).

To ENTER
– Follow me and @b.jeanneshibahara on Instagram or here.
– Like this post
– Tag three friends in one comment below. You may do this as many times as you wish. One comment is one entry.
– Be willing to provide your address to myself and B.Jeanne for postage.

I love this novel. It means so much to me. Kaerou – Time to Go Home is unlike any other novel I have ever read. As a kimono, this story is beautiful, delicate, complex and one to be treasured. The descriptions were vivid and I was immediately transported to Japan. This is great timing to gain a sense of Japan before the 2020 Olympics too.

To read my review please go to http://www.chapterichi.com or a bit about B.Jeanne in an interview I conducted with her https://chapterichi.com/interview-with-b-jeanne-shibahara/

Synopsis
“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”

Meryl—Vietnam War widow—misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure—take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18700081.B_Jeanne_Shibahara

THE RULES
– Must be over 18 to enter
– not affiliated with Instagram
– no giveaway accounts
– Competition closes AEDST 8pm 20 November 2019

#bookgiveaway #giveaway #bookstagrammer #bookstagramcommunity #kaerou #bjeanneshibahara #japan #japanolympics2020 #japanfan #historicalfiction #chapterichi

Riverstone Ridge – Mandy Magro

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Thank you @harlequinaus @romanceanz for sending me a copy of Riverstone Ridge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

An authentic and heartfelt story about uncovering who you truly are and where you belong from bestselling Australian author Mandy Magro.

After making a mistake that felt like the end of the world to her teenage self, Nina Jones fled the small town of Huntingvale. Now sixteen years later her beloved adoptive mother, Bea, has passed away, forcing Nina to return and decide whether to sell her family home, Riverstone Ridge. But even though Bea can’t be there to help her through it all, she’s left Nina five letters, one sent a week, to finally share the secrets she’d been unable to reveal in life.

For Logan Steele, Nina’s return is the catalyst he’s needed to finally move beyond his tragic past and start living again. But only if she stays. When mysterious and increasingly worrisome accidents start happening around the homestead, both Logan’s cop instincts and his protective feelings toward Nina spur him to investigate. Will he be able to piece together the puzzle of the past in time?

And with dark family secrets emerging from Bea’s last words rippling into the present day, how will Nina find the courage to be truthful to the one man who has always held her heart?

My review

Riverstone Ridge follows the life of Nina, a woman who loses her much loved adoptive mother, Bea. When Bea passes Nina returns to the small town she grew up in and must face her fears, the tragedies of the past and uncover family secrets. Her world is turned upside down.

Nina is a beautiful protagonist. I really enjoyed her character; her strength and determination. Whilst dealing with grief, Nina finds romance from her past. Logan, local police officer knows grief all too well and provides comfort to his friend. Magro writes with sincerity and allows the reader to feel the characters’ pain. Their grief is not brushed over and the characters connect due to their past, present and pain.

I love that Bea left letters for Nina to read. Due to her awareness of her illness she was able to do this, which is lovely.

I did feel the amount of drama in one story was a little too much for me, most likely due to focusing on my own grief lately. I could have read about Bea and Logan and feel it would have been an enjoyable novel without the additional mystery. The characters were well developed and the small town vibe had a lovely feel.

I would recommend reading this romance novel, as the writing is enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐.5

The Girl in the Painting – Tea Cooper

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Thank you @harlequinaus for sending me a proof copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis

For readers of the The True Story of Maddie Bright, The Woman in the Green Dress and The Birdman’s Wife comes this atmospheric and richly detailed Australian historical mystery from a bestselling Australian author.

Maitland 1913. Miss Elizabeth Quinn is something of an institution in Maitland Town. For longer than anyone could remember she and her brother, businessman Michael, have lived in the impressive two-storey stone house next to the church. When she is discovered cowering in the corner of the exhibition gallery at the Technical College the entire town knows something strange has come to pass.

Was it the prehistoric remains or perhaps the taxidermy exhibition that had reduced the whale-boned encased pillar of society to a quivering mess? Or is there something odd about a striking painting on loan from the National Gallery?

Mathematical savant Jane Piper is determined to find out. Deposited on the doorstep of the local orphanage as a baby, she owes her life and education to the Quinn’s philanthropic ventures and Elizabeth has no one else to turn to.

As the past and the present converge, Elizabeth’s grip on reality loosens. Can Jane, with her logical brain and penchant for puzzles, unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late?

Ranging from the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, the bucolic English countryside to the charm of Maitland Town, this compelling historical mystery in the company of an eccentric and original heroine is rich with atmosphere and detail.

My review

The Girl in the Painting is a mysterious and poignant historical fiction novel.

Tea Cooper is a master of the dual timeline novel. The story follows two strong female protagonists and their intertwined stories. This is another of Tea’s novels in which the female characters show their attempt to defy society’s expectations of what a woman should be and work hard to be true to themselves. Elizabeth’s past, present and future had me guessing throughout the novel… Elizabeth and her brother, in time, make a life for themselves in Maitland, NSW Australia, after travelling from England. Their arrival to Australia is not what they had pictured. The story also follows Jane, gifted mathematician, who was taken in by Elizabeth and Michael. Jane attempts to help Elizabeth, as she is considered mentally unstable due to episodes and flashbacks experienced. The regrets and love stories were a huge part of my hopes for the female characters. I enjoyed the romance in the novel.

I enjoyed Tea’s historical setting, in particular since it is set not far from where I live. Maitland in the early 1900s is not what I envisioned. I found myself researching this time and am grateful to have read a work of fiction that has lead me to realise these events in history, including the racial discrimination and way in which immigrants lived. They were forced to live in such inhumane conditions.

I also enjoyed the way in which Tea describes the artworks and the significance of them in respect to the mystery at hand.

I would highly recommend this novel and find that Tea Cooper’s style of writing is compelling. Her novels that I have read have all been enjoyable reads.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5