White Chysanthemum – Mary Lynn Bracht


In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.

My review

This story will stay with me forever. White Chrysanthemum is a story of importance that should be shared with the world. It should be shared to acknowledge the atrocities of war, to share the suffering of the women who were taken from their families and to share how love can transcend time.

Although this is a work of fiction, the story is based on significant aspects of Korean history. Prior to reading this novel and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, I was unaware of the extent of the Korean people’s suffering. This is why historical fiction is my favourite genre. I learn a lot, which often leads to further reading and understanding. Young Korean girls and women stolen from their villages, families and homes were placed into brothels, having to service Japanese soldiers. They were raped over and over again. There were times when reading this novel that I had to put it down due to how tragic the content is.

Mary Lynn Bracht is an author who has the ability to write a story of historical significance whilst making the fictional characters come to life. Her dual timeline is intelligently connected and I did not prefer one narrator over the other.

Emi and Hana, sisters from the island of Jeju are brought up in a loving family. Their mother is haenyeo, as are the women in the community. Haenyeo are women who ‘make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea’. This aspect of Korean island culture is very interesting. Emi and Hana’s world is turned upside down when Hana is taken by a Japanese soldier. She becomes a comfort woman. Bracht’s character development is subtle and allows the reader to feel what the sisters are feeling. The relationships between the women Hana meets and herself, along with the horrors she experiences and witnesses had me in tears. Emi’s recollections of times with her family prior to her sister being stolen are emotive and beautiful. Emi and Hana’s bond and love transcends time.

The last few chapters tied the plot together in a way that I had never imagined. What a story, what a history and what an author! This is a novel I would highly recommend.


The Ghost of Christmas Past – Rhys Bowen

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Semi-retired private detective Molly Murphy Sullivan is suffering from depression after a miscarriage following her adventure in San Francisco during the earthquake of 1906. She and her husband, Daniel, are invited for Christmas at a mansion on the Hudson, and they gratefully accept, expecting a peaceful and relaxing holiday season. Not long after they arrive, however, they start to feel the tension in the house’s atmosphere. Then they learn that the host couple’s young daughter wandered out into the snow ten years ago and was never seen again. Molly can identify with the mother’s pain at never knowing what happened to her child and wants to help, but there is so little to go on. No ransom note. No body ever found. But Molly slowly begins to suspect that the occupants of the house know more than they are letting on. Then, on Christmas Eve, there is a knock at the door and a young girl stands there. “I’m Charlotte,” she says. “I’ve come home.”

My review

Have you read many historical mysteries? I picked this one up as I was hoping by the end it would be a heartwarming Christmas novel. It was a nice read.

Molly has experienced tragedy and loss in her life. Her miscarriage left her feeling grief for the child who could not be born. As the protagonist, I felt that Molly did not draw me into her world as I hoped. The mysterious house, people who lived there and mystery of the missing child intrigued me. I kept reading in order to find out the secrets of this grand old mansion. I loved the relationship between Molly and her husband. They are a great team in their work and marriage.

I hope to read more from the mystery genre.


Adopting Overseas – Lisa and Ailsa Burns

Intercountry adoption is the most common form of adoption in Australia. This wonderful book looks not only at the processes involved in adopting a child from other countries into Australian families but also includes the findings of the largest survey of adoptive parents in Australia. The information they share with us and their personal experiences are heartwarming, inspiring, and sometimes confronting–but regardless, the stories always make for compelling reading. “Adopting Overseas” offers both expert advise and personal accounts on how best to manage a range of issues that some adoptive families will face such as: “Why choose intercountry adoption? “and “Will our child attach to us? “It also covers tantrums and how to manage them; anxiety about being abandoned; health issues such as skin, teeth, delayed growth, and motor development; behavioral/psychological issues; the importance of finding out about your child’s background and keeping the birth culture alive; and racism. The authors are donating their royalties from the sales of this book to overseas aid for children.

My Review

This is a must read for anyone considering intercountry adoption in Australia. There is a lot of helpful information, statistics and personal experiences. It is perfectly balanced.

Reading families’ personal experiences is invaluable. The stories of children who have found beautiful adoptive families and have positive experiences living in Australia, along with the challenges. I feel grateful to have read about each personal experience.

There are other sections which I will no doubt refer to again and again. These include the managing change advice, comments on attachment, ideas on how to make things more comfortable for our child as they settle into their new culture and home and the bonding process.

Thank you Lucy and Alisa Burns for writing such a helpful and supportive guide for prospective adoptive parents.

#adoption #southkorea #koreanadoption

I Can Mend your Broken Heart – Paul McKenna and Hugh Willbourn


Almost everyone, at one time or another, is affected by a broken heart. But how can we cope with this most personal of traumas?

Here, world-famous hypnotist Paul McKenna and psychotherapist Dr. Hugh Willbourn show the reader how to cope with the grief which can accompany the break-up of a relationship. How to Mend Your Broken Heart is packed with simple, highly effective, practical techniques which will make you feel better fast, and bring about lasting change.

Understand emotional healing, make crucial connections between key events in relationships and achieve a new understanding of love, change bad habits and eliminate destructive emotional patterns, open the door to a new love.

Follow the programme, as outlined in the book, and you will not only mend your broken heart but you will be on your way to achieving success in every loving relationship!

My review

I was recommended this novel due to the grief I am experiencing. My heart is broken after losing my mum. Heartbreak and grief often come hand in hand. My mum meant the world to me. I love her and miss her very much.

This book has a lot of interesting advice, ideas on life and comments on the working of our minds. There are sections which related more to my situation than others. A lot of the book relates to a romantic heartache, yet there were also invaluable sections for me too.

The sections that I will re read and will help me relate to the negative thoughts of regret and blaming oneself for different situations. The sections on self esteem in this book are very helpful and I particularly like the exercises that would be invaluable for everyone.

My favourite quote from this book is ‘change yourself on the inside and the outside world changes too’. I believe this to be very true. We have the power to change our thoughts. With yoga and meditation, my thoughts change due to the space I give my mind. Being with family and friends gives us this too.

Thank you Dr McKenna and Dr Willbourn for your book. The emotional pain felt when we grieve is overwhelming and the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. To gain insight from professionals and learn how to help ourselves to grieve in a healthier manner feels important. I think it’s important to realise we may grieve for rest of our days… we may cry everyday for our loved ones… but to gain advice and support will help us to live with our grief and come to a point in which we may concentrate on the beautiful memories and feel our loved one is with us always.

You will always be in my heart mum. I love you.

This was taken a year before my mum passed. We have such beautiful memories. I will always long for more memories and more time together.

The Choice – Nicholas Sparks

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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


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


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.