Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Synopsis

The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

My review

Markus Zusak’s writing is poetic with a unique style. I was drawn into the life of the Dunbar boys within the first few pages. The suspense and mystery intrigued me from the beginning. Zusak’s choice of vocabulary often intrigued me too, encouraging me to read on.

The structure of the book is almost random, yet is clever in execution. Bridge of Clay is structured in a way that provides clues and important information for the reader to gain an insight into the lives of Penny, Michael and their sons. Penny’s past before having children is very interesting. Her and Michael both experienced vastly different lives prior to their story, however, they are brought together when Penny’s piano lands at his door. The story revolves around their sons, the Dunbar boys, who have emotional scars due to feelings of grief and abandonment.

Music is a huge part of the Dunbar family’s lives, thanks to Penny and her piano. Penny’s story kept me on the edge of my seat, in particular, her days in which she was referred to as the Mistake Maker. Her relationship with her father was that of true selfless love, as he sent her away to a better life.

Zusak’s raw portrayal of the emotions and feelings of the characters allowed me to connect with each character. I love the honest characterisation and descriptions of this particular family. Penny, in a house full of boys soon takes on their rough and tumble ways as they grow up, whilst they are influenced by her love of music and books.

The only reason I chose to give this book 4·5 stars was that at times I felt that the story was quite slow. I loved that the narrator, Matthew describes his and his brothers’ everyday lives. The novel made me reflect on how we can all find joy and rediscover ourselves through the simplest of moments. There was a lot to learn from this novel and I gained a further appreciation for life as I read the tragedy, courage and strength of the Dunbars.

Did you enjoy The Book Thief? I loved it as I did this novel. They are very different, yet Markus Zusak seems to have drawn me in each time.

Breath – Tim Winton

Synopsis
Breath is a story of risk, of learning one’s limits by challenging death. On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrill-seeking teenage boys fall under the spell of a veteran big-wave surfer named Sando. Their mentor urges them into a regiment of danger and challenge, and the boys test themselves and each other on storm swells and over shark-haunted reefs. The boys give no thought to what they could lose, or to the demons that drive their mentor on into ever-greater danger. Venturing beyond all caution–in sports, relationships, and sex–each character approaches a point from which none of them will return undamaged.

My review

Breath is the first Tim Winton novel I have read. I was really looking forward to reading it. After buying a few of his books second hand, I set the intention to read one of his novels this month.

The style of writing is very different and took me some time to adjust. The book centres around young Pikelet and Loonie, who are inspired by surfer, Sando. I found the plot slow, even within two hundred pages, as the majority of the novel describes the next big wave. I am not a surfer, so on one hand it was interesting to understand the passion behind the sport. On the other hand, I simply didn’t want to read this much about the sport.

As a coming-of-age novel, I felt like I was given a book that I had to read for an English class. I felt that Tim Winton’s themes within the novel are important and this book suggests that ultimately our teenage years can shape who we become and/or how we cope with situations as adults. When a minor has been wronged in such a way by an adult their lives are forever tainted.

The characters were introduced well, although I didn’t particular like them and found it hard to connect as a result.

The colloquial language and Australian slang throughout the novel was consistent, however I did not enjoy the style of writing, including the minimal use of punctuation.

Will I be reading another Tim Winton novel soon? I am not in a rush. I appreciate the story, themes and messages, but it wasn’t personally a plot that interested me greatly. This book may be enjoyed by anyone interested in surfing or who loves coming-of-age novels.

⭐⭐.5

Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers

Synopsis

By P.L. Travers, the author featured in the major motion picture, Saving Mr. Banks. From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!

My review

How has it taken this long for me to read this series? As a child I would watch the Disney movie ‘Mary Poppins’ over and over again. I knew all of the songs and as an adult I have continued to love Mary Poppins. I was even fortunate enough to watch the stage show in Sydney a while back. This series took me back to my childhood in an instant.

This first book of the Mary Poppins series was magical, fun, mysterious and humorous. After watching ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, I expected the books and movie to be vastly different. Although this is the case, I also enjoyed the similar events that took place and I often pictured the characters from the film. I loved reading about the original characters who didn’t appear in the movie and learning more about some of the characters who did.

Mary Poppins is very stern and I love her no-nonsense attitude, even as she is involved in the most magical of moments. I enjoyed learning more about the children and one of my favourite chapters revolves around the twins, John and Barbara.

I love the structure of the novel. As the story progresses, each chapter brings to life more magic and a new event. When Mary Poppins arrives on the doorstep of Number seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, to take the role of Nanny to the children, Jane and Michael begin to experience a world beyond their imaginations. From pictures that can be stepped into to demanding dogs to laughing cows. I am in awe of P.L.Travers’ imagination.

If you haven’t read this book yet and loved the movie, I highly recommend you read it! This truly is a childrens classic that will no doubt, be read in my house for years to come. I hope that many children and adults alike are able to experience the extra special magic of Mary Poppins.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Petite Anglaise – Catherine Sanderson

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Synopsis

Living in Paris with her partner, the workaholic Mr Frog, and their adorable toddler, Tadpole, Catherine decides to alleviate the boredom of her metro-boulot-dodo routine by starting a blog under the name of Petite Anglaise. Writing with disarming honesty about Paris life, about the confines of her hollow relationship with Mr Frog and about the wonder and pain that comes with being a mother, she finds a new purpose to her day. As Petite Anglaise, Catherine regains her confidence and makes virtual friends, including one charismatic and single Englishman who lives in Brittany, James. And after meeting James one evening in a bar, Catherine feels she has regained her ability to fall in love, too.

My review

This was a nice, quick and easy read. I particularly enjoyed the style of writing and the setting. I loved the details of Paris and the French language used. It was lovely to escape to Paris for a time. What a beautiful city! I enjoyed learning some of the language too.

This true story revolves around Catherine, who lives in Paris with her partner, who she refers to as Mr Frog and her young daughter, Tadpole. Catherine is unhappy in her relationship and struggles, as a new mum, to find time for herself. I found it challenging to connect with Catherine at times, as I felt that her interest in her own love life often took over in this memoir. I enjoyed reading the sections where Mr Frog and Tadpole’s relationship strengthens and when Catherine notices those beautiful moments of motherhood. I found myself wanting to read more of those moments. Her feelings seemed very different to those I have felt as a new mum, so I would keep reminding myself that reading about a character who is walking a different path to mine is often a good way to understand others. Life would be boring if we were all the same.

I liked that the memoir is honest and the fact that the blog is still able to be located and Catherine has a wonderful online profile, providing further insight into her world. In the novel, Catherine starts a blog and begins to write her thoughts, feelings and problems online for the world to see, becoming an online celebrity in the blogging world. The need for balance between the online world and real life is a constant battle for most people these days. This book emphasises the challenges and benefits of technology. As someone who is fairly new to blogging, I could relate to the interest in readers comments, although this book made me feel at peace with what I write online. I enjoy having a private life. I don’t want anyone else weighing in on my personal world, as Catherine would at times. What I enjoy about blogging is the connection with like minded people, the fun I have when writing book reviews and even at times inspiring others to read. Catherine also enjoyed that connection with like-minded people.

Overall, I didn’t particularly like some of the decisions made by the main character and felt a disconnect at times, however I admire the courage taken to write this story and appreciate how well written it is. If you’re looking to read an honest memoir set in Paris, this one is for you.

⭐⭐⭐

Kaerou – Time to Go Home – B.Jeanne Shibahara

Thank you to the author, B. Jeanne Shibahara for providing me with a copy of Kaerou – Time to go Home in exchange for an honest review.

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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.”

My Review

Thank you to the author, B. Jeanne Shibahara for providing me with a copy of Kaerou – Time to go Home in exchange for an honest review.

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 story follows Meryl, Vietnam war widow as she makes her way to Japan after being handed a WWII flag. Meryl meets many interesting characters along the way, including the Professor who initially encouraged her to go to Japan to hopefully return the flag to where it belongs.

As I started reading this novel my attention was initially drawn to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Shibaharasan has chosen beautiful quotes that are from some of my favourite poets/novelists and some that I wish to further explore. The novel is beautifully written and it is evident that the author is well read, having extensively researched literature and historical facts. I love reading novels where I not only gain an emotional experience, but ones that I learn a lot from too.

I particularly loved the setting of the novel. I was taken to the bright lights of Osaka, the historical town of Nara and the traditional world of Akita. There is a true sense of Japanese culture within the pages. The descriptions were vivid and I was instantly transported to Japan, my second home. I could smell spring as I read of the blossoms and in particular, Ms Kawanishi who notices the delicate nature and subtleties of the plum trees. There is a juxtaposition of beauty and the horrors of war that truly emphasises the strength of the Japanese and US citizens.

The characters in the novel face their own challenges and I enjoyed reading about each characters’ backstory too. Mr Baba’s heartfelt story of his family had me in tears and Byron’s ability to teach much more than English to his student was beautiful. Meryl, the protagonist faces her grief and sorrow. I felt that her character was gentle, respectful and courageous, especially in her meeting in Akita. If anything, I was left longing to find out more about the owner of the flag once it was returned home. I wonder if this could possibly give way to a future novel? (Or am I just hoping to read more of B.Jeanne Shibahara’s work?!)

Kaerou – Time to Go Home made me laugh and cry. I felt that I had arrived home once I finished the novel. I feel like I experienced every emotion possible whilst reading it. The quote ‘love in the simplest things’ resonates with me. I was left feeling calm, relaxed, grateful and appreciative of everything and everyone in my life. I would highly recommend this historical fiction/romance novel to anyone. If you love Japan, its people and culture along with a good romance, I suggest you read Kaerou – Time to Go Home.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Heir of Fire – Sarah J Maas

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Synopsis
The heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat third instalment to the Throne of Glass series is a New York Times bestseller and a must-read for fans of Game of Thrones
As the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, Celaena Sardothien is bound to serve the tyrant who slaughtered her dear friend. But she has vowed to make him pay. The answers Celaena needs to destroy the king lie across the sea Wendlyn. And Chaol, Captain of the King’s Guard, has put his future in jeopardy to send her there.
Yet as Celaena seeks her destiny in Wendlyn, a new threat is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
This third novel in the Throne of Glass sequence, from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, is packed with more heart-stopping action, devastating drama and swoonsome romance, and introduces some fierce new heroines to love and hate. Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.

My Review

Witches, fae, wyverns … oh my! If you’ve read the first two books in the series, don’t stop there! Heir of Fire was my favourite book in the series so far!

In the last installment, Celaena was heading to Wendlyn. This book follows her as she comes to realise the magic she is capable of whilst in training with Rowan. More of Celaena’s backstory is revealed and she is coming to realise who she truly is. There are many interesting twists and turns along the way.

The characterisation is superior to the other novels. I loved the way in which new characters were introduced and old ones gained more depth. I am excited to see what happens when all characters meet their destiny in the next books. The witches, including Manon and her wyvern Abraxos build the plot further and create anticipation as to the future books. Abraxos is one of my favourite characters. At times, he even made me want my own wyvern.

Back at the glass castle, Dorian and Chaol face their own challenges and the plot thickens as Aedion arrives. I felt that the romance in Heir of Fire is much sweeter than the romance in the other two novels. True love is shown in many forms and that made me connect further with the characters.

I would highly recommend reading this series and in particular, this novel. I am left in suspense and ready to read the next Installment.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

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Synopsis

‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

This edition includes explanatory notes, textual variants between the first and second editions, and Tony Tanner’s introduction to the original Penguin Classic edition.

My review

Jane Austen’s writing transports me to another time and place. A time in which simple pleasures are the focus and the English countryside is untouched. Her novels are much more than stories of romance and raise numerous issues of society and self-discovery. Although I love her writing, this is the first time I have read Sense and Sensibility in it’s entirety. This edition was the perfect one to read, not to mention how truly beautiful the clothbound cover is. I enjoyed reading the additional comments on Austen and the novel itself, giving me insight into just how special this novel was to the author, as she considered it her ‘literary baby’.

The strong female protagonists Marianne and Elinor Dashwood have a beautiful relationship. Through the characters, Austen explores the essence of family life, the connection between siblings and how to truly place others’ happiness before one’s own. I fell in love with so many of the characters in the novel and it is, as Pride and Prejudice, an extraordinary literary classic due to the intricate web spun by Austen. If I did not know the story well, I would have been surprised by the ending.

Although I love the novel, the only parts that I did not enjoy were the lengthy idle gossip and the constant talk of financial gain.

I am almost tempted to share the themes of the novel and analyse it in depth, however, I need not write a book report instead of a review. I will however, say that I feel life lessons can be learnt from the Dashwood’s world, their connections and especially the inner thoughts of Elinor and Marianne. My favourite quote by Elinor is ‘Know your own happiness.’ What simple words, yet such meaning. I found many more hidden gems in this novel.

Sense and Sensibility is truly a beautiful novel. I would recommend it for Jane Austen fans and anyone interested in reading a classic that is as influential today as the day it was written.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5