Book Review The Fire Blossom (The Fire Blossom Saga Book 1) by Sarah Lark (Author), Kate Northrop (Translator)

fireblossomBLURB: The bestselling author of the Sea of Freedom Trilogy returns with a sweeping family saga of two women in nineteenth-century New Zealand and their epic journey to survive in a world of their own making.

It’s 1837, and immigrating to a small New Zealand fishing village is an opportunity for Ida Lange’s family to build a better future. Yet for Ida, raised in a strict, religious, tight-knit German community, so much is still forbidden to a woman. Yearning for the poor day laborer she shared books with as a child, Ida is now trapped in a dire marriage to a man of her father’s choosing.

For Cat, who came of age in New Zealand under brutal conditions, life in the colonies hasn’t been easy. Through a strange turn of events, she is adopted by a native Maori tribe, and she begins to thrive. But when she challenges the traditions of her tribe, she’s banished, and left once again to rely on the only person she can trust with her future: herself.

When fate brings Ida and Cat together, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit. Out of common ground grows an enduring friendship that will not be broken by the hardships of the plains, threats from the past, or the trials of family and heartache. What they’ll discover is the depth of their own strength and resilience as they get nearer to the freedom they desire and demand. And their journey is just beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the first Sarah Lark I’ve read – it came up on Bookbub one day and I liked the cover (shallow, much?) and the topic, not that I’ve done much reading or research on the founding of my country. However during the course of reading I’d flick over into Google and meander down the rabbit warren that is history and the author was really accurate for the times.

I enjoyed the character growth in the main group; and altho the language was a bit heavy at times it was probably more realistic for that. I am very glad that I don’t have the same day-to-day hassles as Ida, Cat and the other 19th century women!

I can see myself reading more from Lark in the future.

Book Review The Star Giver by Ginger Nielson

BLURB: Deep in the forest where the wind never blows, in a far away cave where the sun never shines, lives a man made of stars and the branches of pines. So begins the legend that answers Little Bear’s question: “Where did the stars come from?”

MASE’S THOUGHTS: I loved this story because it was a story of determination. There was a mother bear and a baby bear and the mother bear went on a quest. Mother went and saw all of the animals and went in some bad conditions like windy rainy and snowy. Eventually when mother finished she tucked baby into sleep.

MUM’S NOTES: we haven’t read a picture book for quite a while but we’ve been looking at myths & legends of different cultures lately. This title popped up in my Kindle Unlimited list (.com.au, so I’m not sure if it’s available in your county); check it out with your little. Or really, just for the gorgeous illustrations. Mase gave it 5 stars.

Book Review – The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

bonelessmercies.jpgBLURB: Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.
When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.
Full of fierce girls, bloodlust, tenuous alliances, and unapologetic quests for glory, this elegantly spun tale challenges the power of storytelling—and who gets to be the storyteller.

MY THOUGHTS: There is a lot to like about this book for a mythology geek like myself. While it’s a little slow to start, the world the Mercies live in is well painted and the characters have both good and bad traits. Their actions as Mercies hit quite close to euthanasia, which made me uncomfortable; but that gave me a glimpse into why Frey was so weary inside and out of her role in society.

The book relies on retelling of (mostly) Norse mythology (thank you Mr Gaiman for your excellent work), with Celtic, Roman and even a bit of Judaism thrown in. Interactions between the characters are thoughtful and in line with YA age group, and what I did like is that sex isn’t a driver for the story.

In summary – it’s clever, descriptive, action-filled, thoughtful and I’ll definitely read again.

I received an ARC from Simon & Schuster (Australia) in return for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Ludlow Ladies Society – Ann O’Loughlin

ludlow.jpgSYNOPSIS: Connie Carter has lost everybody and everything dear to her. To help nurse her grieving heart and to try and find answers, she moves from her home in America to Ludlow Hall, deep in the Irish countryside. All she knows about Ludlow is that her late husband spent all their money on the house – without ever mentioning it to her. Now Connie needs to know why.

At Ludlow Hall, Connie befriends Eve and Hetty and is introduced to the somewhat curious Ludlow Ladies’ Society. But can Connie ever reveal her hurt? And, more importantly, can she ever understand or forgive? As the Ludlow Ladies stitch patchwork memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface.

REVIEW: I found this novel both freeing and heart-breaking all at once, kind of like a modern Maeve Binchey. Not wanting to be too dramatic about it, but the first time my daughter went away on access, it felt like I had lost her. That doesn’t put me anywhere near the scope of anyone whose child has died, but it did allow me to empathise with the behaviour and mind-set that Connie portrayed. The way the author unfurls the characters is organic (I know, I’m getting all fancy up in here) and the pace suited the story and themes.

There are obvious things that happen (which I won’t go into) but even those enhance the plot and character growth. Easy five stars & one on the re-read shelf.

As per, I don’t seek to fund this site so the following link is non-affiliate. I was introduced to the title through Bookbub, but you can read a sample chapter on the publisher’s site HERE & find links to various purchasing sites. I’m definitely going back for the author’s two previous titles!

REVIEW: Just In New Zealand series – Rosalind James

JUST THIS ONCE: Escape to New Zealand #1

Everyone needs to be rescued sometimes.

Everyone but Hannah Montgomery, that is. She just needs a vacation. Three weeks in New Zealand to sort out her life, figure out what she wants, seems just right. Oh, and to relax. She should definitely put that on the agenda. She certainly isn’t looking for a fling with a professional rugby player, no matter how attractive he is. Hannah doesn’t do casual. But maybe just this once. . .

As much as he’s shared with Hannah, Drew Callahan has kept one very big secret. And learning the truth, now that she’s back home again, has made Hannah warier than ever. Drew knows that she’s right for him. But how can he convince her to let down her guard enough to explore what they could have together?

New-Zealand-Website-Slide_10_bksI’m a sucker for books about my own country/environment. Add on romance, a hot book boyfriend and I’m sold (Rock Hard, anyone? https://sewscrapmuse.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/review-rock-hard-by-nalini-singh/ The concept of the plot isn’t too far out there (find me a girl who hasn’t dreamed of a bf that’s a sports/rock/movie star, & I’ll show you a liar) and the secondary characters are funny and well crafted.

James, while a Yank, has spent enough time here to perfectly describe our environment and she does it so well. Even our unique lexicon is sweet as… J I have devoured all the books in the series multiple times & would only admit to not liking one, which is very good odds for a series as large as this one has become. Overall I’d rate the series 4 ½ stars, which is very high for me! The best thing? The titles are now available on Kindle Unlimited and James has written plenty of others too. Book One, Just This Once, is available for free on most platforms in any case. Please click on the links below & enjoy:

ARC Review: Forever In Good Hope – Cindy Kirk

good hope.pngBLURB: Delphinium “Fin” Bloom returns to her hometown with one goal: get the mayor—her former flame—to approve a location shoot in Good Hope. But business turns personal when the two become entangled in a fake engagement to comfort his ailing grandmother.

For Jeremy, the romantic façade hits close to his heart. Still reeling from the way things ended between Fin and him all those years ago, he sees the fake engagement as an opportunity to get her out of his system once and for all. But instead of laying the past to rest, Jeremy quickly discovers he can’t envision a life without her.

Now engaged to another man, Fin had long ago given up on the dream of a life with Jeremy. Why is it, then, that her fake engagement feels more genuine than her real one? As the sleepy days of summer come to a close in Good Hope, will Fin and Jeremy give love a second chance? Or will the revelation of a devastating secret put an end to the fairy tale?

I started reading this series as it popped up from my Kindle suggestions as similar to Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shores series. And they are, in that the books are interlinked by family, romance and the wider community. Sometimes Kindle suggestions are wildly out (who the heck writes some of those book tags??!) but this one was spot on. While I haven’t written big reviews, I’ve given Christmas in Good Hope 4 Goodreads stars, and the same with Summer in Good Hope (possibly my favourite book of the series, with the presence of two normal & naughty boys) and this is one series I’ll be reading until the end. Go, Eliza!

I have to say, tho, that this is probably the weakest book of the series. Either that, or I really didn’t like Fin or the plot line. It was probably the plot line, but I persevered. I’m not the biggest fan of the fake engagement plotline, which generally has a big enough hole that you could drive a bus thru. I could see some of the ending early on (apart from the obvious real engagement) but there are other areas that out-weighed the fake. About half-way into the book, the secondary characters really started to shine and I enjoyed the second half way more than the first. Fin’s behaviour at the end of their school life was explained, Jeremy’s got a big twist coming (book six, Cindy?) and the family relationships were further fleshed out. As a series, the characters aren’t out-of-place as we move from book to book and it’s progressing nicely. I’d rate it 3 1/2 stars.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it. As per, I don’t seek to fund this blog, but pre-order links & more about the series are available on the Author site http://www.cindykirk.com/ Forever In Good Hope releases on August 15th (so 16th if you’re in New Zealand, like me).

REVIEW The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

Goddesses of Kitchen AveAuthor: Barbara O’Neal

Source: Kindle purchase

Rating: 4 stars

 

BLURB: From an acclaimed voice in fiction, this is a wry, beguiling, heartfelt, and warmly wise novel about second chances, unexpected choices, and the dreams that we all hunger to fulfill.

Trudy Marino never expected her life to turn out perfectly. But at forty-six, she was content with what she did have: her caring husband Rick . . . twenty-plus happy years raising three accomplished kids . . . and a lovely house in the artistic, vibrantly diverse town of Pueblo, New Mexico. But a heartbreaking discovery and a suddenly shattered marriage now has Trudy looking back on the choices she didn’t make—and where she might go from here.

Struggling to pick up the pieces, Trudy finds support from a quirky, eclectic group of friends and neighbors—her goddesses of Kitchen Avenue—all of whom are trying in their own unique ways to navigate life’s little surprises. There’s Jade, a fiery social worker who’s finding unexpected strength to deal with her “player” ex-husband, thanks to a most unorthodox passion; Jade’s grandmother, Roberta, who has just lost her husband of sixty-two years—and through memory and piercing grief wonders what to do with the rest of her life; Shannelle, Trudy’s young neighbor and an aspiring writer, determined to realize her talent despite formidable obstacles . . . including the husband who’s afraid her success will be his loss; and Angel, a young, quietly-knowing photographer who makes Trudy uncover a sensuality she never knew—even as he tries to get over the one love he can never really forget.

As Trudy faces her future, she discovers that figuring out what to let go and what to keep is just as difficult as moving on. As she weighs what she and Rick still share against new possibilities, she’ll surprise everyone— including herself—as she tries to reconcile the best of both.

I was hooked into this one by the cover. I know. Shallow. Bright shiny boots and fluffy cats. But the emotional tug made me keep reading thru the sometimes jarring character switches to a very satisfying end.

I could identify a little with Rick’s search for something “more”, which was echoed in both Jade’s need to express herself and Roberta’s overwhelming need to be with her husband. The way the characters are built is solid, & I only disliked one thread of the storyline (SORTA SPOILER ALERT) when Trudy has sex with Angel, looking to be desired, yet she knows Rick still desires her & did even after he had something on the side. There’s link to O’Neal’s other novels (which will go into my electronic TBR pile) which satisfies my want to revisit older characters and I’ll definitely re-read this one sometime in the next year or so.