24 Oct 2016
in Food Review
Tags: agency, barefoot on the wind, beautiful prose, beauty & the beast, beauty and the beast, belle, black magic, bold hunter, book, books, charming, classic fairy-tale, classic fairytale, companion novel to shadows on the moon, contemporary, Control, creative, delicate prose, destiny, fairy tale, fairytale, fantasy, fantasy fiction, fantasy world, feminist adaptation, feminist re-telling, feminist retelling, fiction, flowery, flowery test, hana, haunted forest, head, heart, heroine, inspirational, itsuki, japanese mountaintop, japanese village, journey of self-discovery, lyrical, novel, novels, pleasant, repetitive, review, reviews, sensitive, Shadows on the Moon, slow, story from a feminist's perspective, the beast, the beauty, there is a monster in the forest, townspeople have vanished, village in japan, whispered the trees, Zoë Marriot, Zoë Marriott
Many of us are familiar with Disney’s version of Beauty & the Beast. The film shows the cursed Beast who captures the beautiful Belle, and it is only after Belle sees the creature’s inner “goodness” and falls in love that the spell is broken. Some people may consider that the Beast is actually rewarded with Belle’s love and not punished for his wrongdoings. Author Zoë Marriott has decided to redress this imbalance and tell the story from a feminist’s perspective.
To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201610/205159
Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/
21 Sep 2016
in Book Review
Tags: based on a true story, book, books, chairman mao zedong, chariman mao, china, chook chook series, communism, communist party, communist party's re-education program, communist rule, darkness, difficult subjects, fei, fiction, freedom swimmer, harsh, harsh circumstances, inspired by a true story, li, light language, meaningful topic, ming, novel, novels, oppression, optimism, orphan peasant boy, poignant topic, political minefield, red guards, repression, review, reviews, treacherous swim from mainland china to hong kong, true story, wai chim
Wai Chim’s novel, Freedom Swimmer may be a work of fiction but it’s based on an amazing true story. It tells the tale of two unlikely friends who embark on a treacherous swim from mainland China to Hong Kong in order to escape the oppression of living under the communist rule of Chairman Mao Zedong. The story is ultimately an incredible and inspiring one that will get us thinking and talking about an important chapter in history (and unfortunately one where millions of people died.)
The book is Chim’s first foray into the world of young adult literature but it isn’t her first story to be set in China. Chim has successfully written The Chook Chook series for younger readers. In Freedom Swimmer she writes a first-person narrative where the perspective shifts between the shy, orphaned peasant boy Ming and the suave and educated city boy, Li. The book opens with some tragedy for Ming- his mother has died from starvation and this has left him an orphan. He is all alone but he does receive some kindness and compassion from a local village girl named Fei.
In 1968 the boys from the village are left to work hard in the fields and survive on a meagre diet of rations. Eventually they are joined by a group of young upstarts from the city that includes Li. This new group are teenage members of Mao’s red guards and they have come to the countryside to help spread the word for the Communist Party’s re-education program. At first the differences between the two groups are stark but over time Ming and Li bond over their harsh circumstances. The pair eventually decide that they need to escape and that they should undertake a difficult swim through shark-infested waters and oceans that are patrolled by cruel guards. What happens next is in their destiny.
Freedom Swimmer shares a few things in common with Alice Pung’s Her Father’s Daughter and Micheline Lee’s The Healing Party. In the case of the former, both authors draw inspiration from their father’s harsh childhoods in order to make us stop, re-think and count our blessings. In the case of the latter, both novels deal with poignant and meaningful topics but also manage to tell their stories through light and easy language.
In Freedom Swimmer Wai Chim manages to negotiate a potential minefield and handle some difficult subjects with a deft touch. This story is ultimately an inspiring one about the resilience of the human spirit and how people can remain optimistic even in the face of darkness and oppression. In all, this book is an excellent one that packs a lot in and is basically like a punch to the heart.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-freedom-swimmer
24 Aug 2016
in Book Review
Tags: abuse, bitterseet, book, books, colleen hoover, connection, deft hand, depth, emotional, emotions, engaging, excellent storyteller, feelings, fiction, grit, hard lesson, hate, hearts, honest, it ends with us, love, naked truth, new york times bestseller, novel, novels, ny times bestseller, pathos, personal, previous relationships, raw, relationships, romance, ryle kincaid, sensitive, the past
It Ends With Us is a title that hints at a certain sense of finality or ending. But in reality this novel is only the beginning. This bold book from New York Times bestseller, Colleen Hoover is an important one that slowly reveals itself to be a rather hard lesson in love, told by an excellent storyteller with a deft hand and a sensitive heart.
The cover of this book reminds me of Charlotte Woods’s The Natural Way Of Things. Both books are works of fiction but they are also so raw and honest that they often feel as though they could be real stories. They also deal with some difficult subjects that are hard to discuss or raise, so hopefully this gets readers talking about them.
Colleen Hoover has offered us a story about an engaging young woman named Lily. At the beginning of the story she is reeling from the recent death of her father. It’s a bittersweet moment for her because their relationship had been a rather fraught one. At the same time she also meets a handsome neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid. The two connect and he literally sweeps her off of her feet. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever because Lily also has to process some stuff to do with a previous relationship. It is material that will make her reassess things and challenge what she previously thought. It’s also something we can all learn from.
This novel is a bold one from Colleen Hoover and a very personal story. In her author’s note (which you should only read after finishing the book) she reveals her true connection to this tale. This intense book will tug at your heartstrings and thrust you onto an emotional rollercoaster that will take you through every emotion on the spectrum of feelings. To reveal anything more would ruin things but suffice to say the naked truth is that this is one excellent book full of depth, pathos and grit.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-it-ends-with-us
01 Aug 2016
in Book Review
Tags: betrayals, book, books, chick lit, choices, emma, emotional, emotional roller-coaster, everyday women, excellent, felicity, female besties, female friendship, flick, friends, genevieve, harlequin, hooks the reader, impacts, inspiring, interesting, lies, mothers of teenage boys, neve, novel, novels, nuance, rachael johns, real, review, reviews, romance, secrets, sisterhood, sisters, slow reveal, strong, the art of keeping secrets, well-crafted
Rachael Johns knows how to tell a good story. The author has written numerous romance novels and chick lit books. Her latest novel, The Art of Keeping Secrets is a well-crafted and emotional piece of fiction. It’s also a story that is a testament to the power of female friendship.
The story is about three women who have been friends for the past five years while their sons have been studying together at high-school. The trio have a regular book club meeting but they’re also heavily involved in each other’s lives. You have the down-to-earth Felicity (known to everyone as “Flick”) who is a non-nonsense woman and a keen taxidermist. She seems to be living a textbook romance despite being married to her near-perfect husband Seb for years. But is their marriage all it’s cracked up to be?
Emma is the divorced mother of Caleb and twin teenage girls, Laura and Louise. She is a superwoman juggling the new demands of full-time work and single motherhood. She appears to be coping but she is also harbouring a number of secrets of the head and heart. Then there’s Genevieve (known as “Neve”) who is a looks-obsessed make-up artist and a single mum who has a close relationship with her son, Will because she has always been the sole parent in his life. The only problem is she hasn’t told Will the truth about his father’s true identity.
This novel is told in the third person and split into separate chapters focusing on each of these strong women. Their friendship is a real and inspiring one and the trio are almost like sisters. They’ve shared lots of things together and they’ve also had their share of ups and downs and lived to tell the tale afterwards. So they should be able to make it through anything that life throws at them, right?
Rachael Johns has crafted an excellent little book in The Art of Keeping Secrets. She reveals things slowly with just enough to keep the reader hooked and interested. The reader is basically strapped into an emotional roller coaster of a journey, bumps and all! In sum, this book is a fun read about three strong, everyday women and it examines the choices they make and how their secrets, lies and betrayals have lasting impacts on the individuals living around them. Fascinating stuff.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net
13 Jun 2016
in Book Review
Tags: book, books, desire to better themselves, drama, eben slinger, emotional, family, family drama, fiction, gems, greed, greta costello, hatred, iowa, jem baillie, late 19th century, late nineteenth century, leah flemming, loss, love, loyalty, novel, novels, pearl, pearl stringing, pearls, review, reviews, sadness, scotland, the captain's daughter, the girl under the olive tree, the last pearl, tragedy, visceral, well researched, york
A pearl can be an interesting symbol. Some people are superstitious and think it brings bad luck if worn at certain moments. And at the very least in different levels of light this thing can shine and change colour in front of the naked eye. In Leah Fleming’s novel, The Last Pearl we are presented with some characters that change colours like pearls in that they are like real, multi-facetted gems in some instances while others bring bad luck and sadness to the people around them.
Fleming has written numerous books including The Captain’s Daughter andThe Girl under the Olive Tree. Her latest novel is a well-researched one that is set in the 19th century and takes in stories from Scotland, York and Iowa over a period of around twenty years. It follows three main characters who are motivated by a desire to better themselves, sometimes with good intentions (like doing relatives proud or supporting the family) and others with evil ones (as they’re motivated by pure greed and lust).
The story begins with a young, Scottish lad called Jem Baillie. His father is a pearl fisherman and the two discover a large, exquisite pearl they name, “Queenie.” This rock is to be set aside so that one day it will pay for Jem’s education. But Jem’s father falls ill and passes away and his mother makes the mistake of selling the pearl for a pittance to a rogue buyer. Jem is mad and vows revenge.
In York Greta Costello had lived a comfortable life until her father passes away. She takes on different jobs, working at a Quaker household and with a local jeweller who teaches her the art of pearl stringing. These jobs are abruptly cut short and the naïve Costello is faced with a difficult decision that is not dissimilar to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice. Costello must decide whether she should marry the wealthy Eben Slinger in order to secure comfort for herself and her family or whether she would wait for a man that truly loves her. The choice she ultimately makes has long-standing ramifications because things are not as rosy as they initially seem.
The Last Pearl is a beautiful and delightful gem of a book. It’s a complex slice of historical fiction where different stories are woven together to produce a dense family drama. This novel tackles the themes of love, loyalty, greed, hatred and loss. Some characters will make you laugh and love them while others will make you want to cry, and then there are some still that will make you want to hit them in anger and frustration. This book is a rare, emotional one that shakes you out of inertia and causes you to feel just as the characters do in a most stark and visceral manner. Brilliant.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-the-last-pearl
30 May 2016
in Book Review
Tags: ambitious, artwork, beaded coronet, book, books, choker, collar, creative idea, debut, debut novel, evocative, family, fashion, fiction, flashbacks, headband, historic fiction, history, if only it could talk, imaginative, insatiable human spirit, kelly doust, love, love story, lush, maggie, marriage, novel, novels, review, reviews, rich, romantic, vintage, vintage clothing, vivid, women
Oh you pretty things… Kelly Doust’s debut novel is a celebration of all things precious. It’s a rich, historic fiction book that intricately threads together the stories of the owners of a beaded coronet. This fashion piece is like a cat with nine lives because over the course of the book we learn that it has lived in different countries and continents and has enjoyed being reinvented as a choker, headband, collar and artwork.
Doust has previously written five non-fiction books about craft and fashion. For Precious Things the author tapped into her love of vintage clothing by offering a vibrant account of the different people that wore the collar and their own individual stories. This begins with a woman that is about to get married to a man she barely knows in Normandy and then to death-defying acts with a trapeze artist at a circus. There are dancers in Shanghai and an artist’s muse and model in Italy and eventually it was used by a different model during a now-famous magazine shoot. The main thing is the piece belonged to some very strong, independent and important women through time.
The flashbacks are evocative and lush but there are also a lot of different stories and these could have been fleshed out a little more or at least visited more than once (in some instances). It is often the case that the reader may find themselves getting into the groove of a particular voice or character only to be drawn into a new life of the collar or into the present day. The current owner of the collar is Maggie, an auctioneer working in London and juggling the busy demands of family, a career and being a loving wife and mother. Her character is the one that features the most prominently through the book.
Kelly Doust should be applauded for coming up with such a creative idea and for crafting such an ambitious novel that threads together so many different elements. In addition to all of this, Doust has also managed to capture one important common thread and that is the insatiability of the human spirit and how love and family should prevail and be considered more important than our wants and desires. This novel is for anyone who has ever looked at something and thought, “If only it could talk” because it offers a very vivid, romantic and imaginative tale that celebrates life, love and lust through the ages.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27429391-precious-things