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.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom

In Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds–two men, two faiths, two communities–that will inspire readers everywhere.

Albom’s first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.

Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor–a reformed drug dealer and convict–who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Albom and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers, and histories are different, Albom begins to recognize a striking unity between the two worlds–and indeed, between beliefs everywhere.

In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the rabbi’s last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.

Have a Little Faith is a book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story.

Ten percent of the profits from this book will go to charity, including The Hole In The Roof Foundation, which helps refurbish places of worship that aid the homeless.

My review

This is a book we need right now. I originally picked the book up as I had hoped to increase my faith. Personally, I have questioned my faith since I lost my mum last year. I want to have a faith so strong that I do not question it. I want a faith that is unwavering. Do I have it after reading this book? No. Did I gain a lot from Mitch Albom’s book? Yes.

Mitch was asked to write the eulogy of his rabbi. His rabbi requests this. This is a story of a man who finds himself, learns about life and what is most important. He discovers the power of faith. Mitch and his rabbi get to know oneanother. Mitch takes time to truly understand who Albert Lewis ‘Reb’ is, as a person, a father and a man of faith. He also meets Henry Covington, a man of faith who has in the past conquered his demons and lives his life to help others.

Mitch Albom is an author who I have loved for so long, especially his book Tuesdays with Morrie. His writing is beautiful, honest and inspirational. To read Henry and Albert’s story and learn about them is inspiring. I cried as I read this book. It spoke to me at the time. I sat with tears in my eyes in a coffee shop as I read this book I had just purchased. It was a lovely, which I took to myself and read whilst drinking some tea. There are many quotes I particularly loved. One beautiful quote about love relates to true love ‘That kind of love – the kind you realise you already have by the life you’ve created together – that’s the kind that lasts.’

Mitch Albom comments on his discoveries and states he is ‘in love with hope’. We need this now. In the world we live in, hope is what we need right now. By reading this novel my faith increased and so did my hope. My hope that there is a heaven, my hope that my mum is with me always and my hope that our people will be ok. The world is suffering. This is a book I highly recommend. I hope it provides comfort as it did for me.

The Angolan Girl, A true-life novel – Telma Rocha

Synopsis

Biographical Fiction

It’s 1975 in Lobito, Angola, where Rosa, Leo, and the children are trapped in their home. Thirteen years of bloodshed delivered Angola’s independence from Portugal. Now, civil war rages on. The Carvalho family has given up hope for peace in their beloved homeland. A plan to build a life in Canada sets into motion. But their journey won’t be easy.

Rosa takes comfort in the knowledge that her life has never been easy. Memories of her childhood spent bouncing between wealth and servitude, longing for a mother she couldn’t know, and a naïve adolescence cut short fuel Rosa’s courage to make good on a promise she made long ago.

After five straight days the gunshots have quieted; the time to flee is now. Which would you choose if memories and a change of clothes were all you could take?

My review

Here is a story that was meant to be told, a story of historical significance, a story of importance for Angolan people, the Carvalho family and generations to follow.

The Angolan Girl follows the life of Rosa. Rosa grows up in a family with her step mother as her main female figure and eventually meets her birth mother. Rosa is a young girl who believes in love and experiences loss at such a young age. Her experiences of love, loss, emotional abuse and family life are all set out in this biographical fiction novel. The story is written by her granddaughter, Telma.

I found this novel to be a very easy read as I followed Rosa’s life. The author manages to write such a complex story and issues in a manner in which is easy for the reader to follow. The writer’s style replicates that of the age in which Rosa is at particular times of the novel. As a young girl Rosa is innocent to what horrors there are in this world and this is reflected by the author’s style of writing, with shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary, filled with heart and meaning. Whereas, Rosa as an adult experiencing the horrors of war and is written from the perspective of an adult. Telma Rocha writes beautifully from a number of perspectives and stages of life. This made it very possible to get lost in the story and feel I was living this life whilst reading each page. It is also evident that this book was written from the heart. I did not want to put the novel down.

Rosa is a strong and kindhearted woman, a woman whose life should be celebrated, which is fitting as we have just celebrated International Women’s Day. I love Rosa and felt her interests as an avid reader and role as a mum were akin to mine. Rosa’s love of reading provided her ‘an escape from this dreadful situation into a new world with no war.’ This was particularly important to Rosa during wartime in Angola. Prior to reading this novel I did not have any knowledge of the war in Angola.

The horrors of war and devastation are discussed in the novel. The importance for families is to escape to a country that provides a peaceful life, instead of one in which people are worried for their own lives and lives if their loved ones daily. This is a story of a family who were happy in their own country until the war. It is a story of a family who had to leave their country and everything known to them behind. A family who left behind their lives and started a new. For the refugees experiencing this pain, loss and fear, I feel for you.

Stories like this should make us realise that now we must care for others and appreciate how lucky we are living in a peaceful place. We are lucky we do not have to hide from gunshots that could fire at us whilst walking out on our own balcony or into the street. We are lucky if we have not seen a mountain of dead bodies or lost loved ones due to war. We should be grateful. We should feel lucky. As Australians we should feel lucky.

Thank you Telma for sharing such a personal and beautiful story and sharing an important part of history that emphasises the importance of peace.

Thank you Telma for providing me with a beautiful signed copy of your novel in exchange for my honest review.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott

Little Women

Synopsis

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

My review

Little Women is the most splendid read. This classic is a favourite of mine and this is not the first time I have read this beautiful novel. If you haven’t read Little Women, you may not realise that it is an utterly timeless story. It is a story of four sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, who each have their own interests and personalities and we learn how they cope in the most difficult of times; when their father is at war, sickness of a sister and their mother is away. Their daily lives are written about in such a way that I am immediately drawn into the March home and feel a part if their family. The sisters are normal sisters; they show kindness, share their trials and tribulations and argue with oneanother. The most beautiful part of their relationship is the love they all share.

As an only child reading this novel, I loved to read of the sisters and their lives that were so different to mine. In the novel, I had a favourite sister whose personality I identified with more than the rest. I enjoyed following Jo’s life, with her interest in reading, writing and strong will. A writer first and foremost and a girl/woman who would follow her heart. I would read this with my mum as a young girl. My mum grew up with four sisters and I enjoyed listening to her stories of what it was like to grow up in a house full of girls. I have no doubt that there were many moments similar to what the March girls experience.

Louisa M. Alcott’s writing is beautiful in message and meaning. Each chapter presents a lesson to learn by and the value placed on family. Love is the main message throughout the novel. What a loving family. Here is a mother who is always concerned for others. A woman who will look after other families and teach her daughters how much more important it is to give than receive. She teaches her daughters values and morals of life. The relationship between Mr and Mrs March is respectful and loving. Mrs March states ‘I must try to practise all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example.’ Mrs March’s husband showed her this and we can only hope as parents we model behaviour we wish for our children.

In addition to the main characters, I also love another character in the story. Mr Laurence is a kindhearted man who has experienced pain and loss throughout his life. He is thoughtful and loves to hear Beth play the piano, as his beloved granddaughter once did. Mr Laurence is there when Mr March cannot be and is off at war. He is a gentle soul who is strict with his grandson and wants the best for him. He is an old gentleman such as this who cares for others and does not all himself to be restricted by class, rather a man who does what is right. We all wish we had a grandfather or neighbour like dear Mr Laurence.

If you would like to read a classic story that will tear at your heartstrings and be one of the most beautiful novels you may have ever read, please pick up this novel. The sense of family values is more important today than ever. This is a timeless novel that will live on in my childhood memories. Rereading this novel was the best decision I made. I am still in love with this classic.

The Women’s Pages – Victoria Purman

Synopsis

Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.

The war is over and so are the jobs (and freedoms) of tens of thousands of Australian women. The armaments factories are making washing machines instead of bullets and war correspondent Tilly Galloway has hung up her uniform and been forced to work on the women’s pages of her newspaper – the only job available to her — where she struggles to write advice on fashion and make up.

As Sydney swells with returning servicemen and the city bustles back to post-war life, Tilly finds her world is anything but normal. As she desperately waits for word of her prisoner-of-war husband, she begins to research stories about the lives of the underpaid and overworked women who live in her own city. Those whose war service has been overlooked; the freedom and independence of their war lives lost to them.

Meanwhile Tilly’s waterside worker father is on strike, and her best friend Mary is struggling to cope with the stranger her own husband has become since liberated from Changi, a broken man. As strikes rip the country apart and the news from abroad causes despair, matters build to a heart-rending crescendo. Tilly realises that for her the war may have ended, but the fight is just beginning…

My review

Victoria Purman has done it again! She is a master of Australian historical fiction set in and around wartime. Purman uncovers the story of women in a world where men make the decisions and women fight for their independence.

Although the war is over, women had their own battles to bear. Tilly Galloway is a strong woman who awaits her husband’s return from the war. Archie and Tilly hoped for a simple life together when the war was over, although Tilly’s world is turned upside down when Archie leaves for war.

Victoria Purman touches on subjects that we don’t often focus on. To read about the women of war, how they managed in wartime and post war, gave personal insights into the lives of many. Tilly’s friend Mary struggles when her husband returns from war. Women did not recognise their husbands; once loving family men, who return home strangers. They struggle with daily life, due to trauma, loss, grief and the horrific abuse they may have been subject to. Men came home with stories so terrifying and traumatic, they could not share what they witnessed with others. The stories of wartime prisoners were unimaginable and the scars they brought home, both physical and emotional, were deep. These emotional scars were told through Purman’s careful characterisation and stories Tilly shared with the media.

As a war correspondent, Tilly uncovers stories needing to be told. Whilst the men were fighting at war, women were provided job opportunities they would not have had otherwise. When men returned, not all women wanted to go back to tradition roles in the home.

Tilly was a writer then and wanted to continue to write post war. I enjoyed reading about Tilly’s career and her talent. She is a smart woman who challenges the traditional role those within the company attempt to place her in. As a woman, Tilly gains respect for her work.

Victoria Purman provides detailed descriptions throughout the novel for the reader to feel a sense of time and place. My favourite descriptions are of Tilly’s ten year old memories and ‘the sounds of her young life… fresh in her mind as if they were being broadcast from a wireless somewhere nearby.’ and her observations when the war had ended.

Tilly is a strong protagonist who has a beautiful relationship with her family. This is a woman who will continue to share stories of utmost importance rather than stories of running a household.

The Women’s Pages is a beautiful, heartfelt novel that explores important historical perspectives that must be shared. I highly recommend this novel for fans of historical fitcion. Thank you @harlequinaus and @harpercollinsaustralia for sending me a copy for me to read and review.

⭐⭐⭐⭐·5

The Orange Grove – Kate Murdoch

Synopsis

Blois, 1705. The château of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies. The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in love and domestic politics strive for supremacy.
In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

My review

The Orange Grove is a historical fiction novel set in Blois, France 1705. It is filled with intrigue, deception, jealousy, hatred, love and everything in between. The novel centres around Duc Hugo d’Amboise, his wife Duchesse Charlotte and the duc’s five mistresses. Letitia, the new mistress falls victim to the Duchesse’s jealousy. Letitia fast becomes the duc’s new love interest and his wife is disgruntled to say the least. Henriette, a woman with her own secrets, befriends Letitia and shows her kindness that no other woman will. Henriette is a mother first and foremost and the character I most loved within the story. The reader is soon witness to the cruelty and disgusting behaviour within the walls of the chateau. Kate Murdoch is an author who manages to write many characters into her novel, whilst allowing the reader to fast understand their characterics and personalities. Each character is a mystery to unfold, with their own drama, backstory and secrets. I felt that I was an onlooker into the chateau, just as the children tiptoe around finding out secrets and tid bits of information to entertain them, I too was entertained every step of the way. The storyline and characters made this a highly entertaining read. Kate Murdoch writes of a time and place that I have not read about often. Reading about France at the turn of the 18th century has left me wanting to read more. Kate Murdoch’s writing is a work of art; she paints the pictures of the scenes in an elegant and vibrant manner. I look forward to reading more of Kate’s writing. Thank you Kate for sending me a copy of your novel in exchange for my honest review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐