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: Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

I meant to post this yesterday, but best laid plans and all that. We’re currently down the country, living the dream… sea, sand & finally some rain! BLURB: A magnificent epic set against a history of seven thousand years of the struggles of Gods and Kings and men – of strange lands and events – of fate and a prophecy that must be fulfilled! THE BELGARIAD

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But that was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the dark man without a shadow had haunted him for years. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved – but did not know? For a while his dreams of innocence were safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while… THUS BEGINS BOOK ONE OF THE BELGARIAD’

MY THOUGHTS: I love this book. Totally adore it. It was the first title I brought with my own money, earned from a paper round (which I hated, BTW). It’s classic high fantasy, good vs evil, with a few twists & turns along the way. Recently I listened to it on Audible, with the gorgeous tones of Cameron B (think Sean Connery *sigh*). Yes, it has gaps and there is a bit of patriarchal character development, but that reflects the period of writing. After all, not many people complain about Tolkien’s writing!

Book Review Wild by Cheryl Strayed

WildBLURB: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

MY THOUGHTS: If I met Strayed in real life, I’m not sure I’d stop and share time with her. I very nearly abandoned this title three chapters in, altho I’m glad now that I did persevere, I’m not likely to pick up another of her titles or go to her TED talk. She struck me as self-obsessed, willfully ignorant and frankly, annoying (naming herself “strayed”? really?).

However, even I with my distinctly non-rose tinted glasses could see her personal progression thru the book, and I did enjoy her descriptions of her fellow walkers and most especially the scenery. Oh my, that scenery. Three stars, and I’m not watching the movie.

If, however, I didn’t put you off or you also hadn’t read one of 2012’s Books of the Year (Boston Globe, EW, NPR etc) there is an extract and reading guide HERE

Book Review The Empty Nesters by Carolyn Brown

empty nest

BLURB: Dear friends and army wives Diana, Carmen, and Joanie have been through war, rumors of war, marital problems, motherhood, fears, joy, and heartache. But none of the women are prepared when their daughters decide to enlist in the army together. Facing an empty nest won’t be easy. Especially for Carmen. With emotions already high, she suffers an even greater blow: divorce papers. Diana understands the fury and tears. She’s been there.

With nothing to lose and no one at home, the girlfriends impulsively accept an unexpected offer from their elderly neighbor. The recently widowed Tootsie has an RV, a handsome nephew at the wheel, and an aim for tiny Scrap, Texas, to embrace memories of her late husband. Still grieving, she can use the company as a balm for her broken heart. So can the empty nesters.

Embarking on a journey of hope, romance, and healing, Diana, Carmen, and Joanie are at a turning point in their lives. And with the open road ahead of them, it’s just the beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: I do remember reading Carolyn Brown a few years ago – particularly taken with her title genius – My Give a Damn’s Busted resonated with me at the time – but I thought then that the romance was ok, funny in parts, but it was something l sped read thru. This one was something that I slowed down on in parts, as it runs a vast range of emotions and circumstances. The scenarios are fairly realistic and you can see the characters grow and change. They aren’t in general one-dimensional and there isn’t anything surplus either. I can see myself reading more of Brown’s later standalones. Three & a half stars.

If you’re on Prime, or Kindle Unlimited, this title is free to borrow.

Book Review – An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

ImpartialBLURB: Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then ‘The Origins of the Industrial Revolution’ somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson’s ‘Shatterproof’ ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now…

In this ‘Horrible History for Grown Ups’ you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; ‘Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends – oi, he’s nicked my bloody ox!’ Discover how England’s peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain’s kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn’t have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, ‘2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge’, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain’ fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

MY THOUGHTS: I found this title by randomly selecting the podcast We Are History, a relatively new addition to my listening agenda, by Angela Barnes and this author. It’s funny and informative, and available on a number of platforms (I use Podcast Addict on my android phone).

I listened to this title during my week’s commute to & from work on Audible, but again, the book is available from many different sources. This version is unfortunately abridged, but I didn’t notice that until I read someone else’s review after finishing (whoops!). That said, I enjoyed learning more about things I’d skimmed over in the past and also his irreverent but truthful view of some of the most obvious cock-ups in British history. An easy listen that might send you off onto another learning tangent or satisfy your need for one-off entertainment. Four stars.

Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For 2020, part of my “reset” is to read a decent (i.e. interesting, thought provoking) book a week. Any links will be non-affiliate, as always, and any thoughts are my own. If you’ve got a recommend, send it my way!

crawdads.jpgBLURB: For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one that got a lot of hype when it first released, and was on several influencer’s book lists, including Reese Whitherspoon and my fav, Ali Edwards. I should have read it then, but last year I was going for escapism and easy reads. There are some unrealistic aspects to this tale but it is beautifully written and the characters are well thought out and come alive on the page. I was gripped during the middle portion and blown away at the end – it wasn’t what I expected. 5 stars.

If you are thinking about picking this one up, Amazon have an extract on their US page HERE:

Book Review – A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

madness.jpgBLURB: On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

MY THOUGHTS: Nalini has been a must-buy for me for a while now, with the exception of her Archangel series. When she revealed that she was moving into a suspense genre, I was pumped to read it and pre-ordered as soon as it was available (note Nalini, I STILL hate a Tuesday release. Especially when I couldn’t take the day off. Please talk to your publishers about that one!).

Initially my thoughts were that the overall format was like a Nora Roberts suspense (thinking of 2016’s The Obsession) but there are solid reasons for picking this one up over a recent Nora. It’s well-crafted and the characters are more than one dimensional right from the start. I loved the pacing and flow, and at no point did I think this was either rushing me or wasting my time.

There’s several possibilities as to whom the killer is, and each one is very plausible. There’s other spooky stuff going on in the background – alcohol, abuse, lying – all the things you find in any community. I’ve read one review which was indignant that Singh didn’t re-phrase this book in “woke” terminology and had everyone learn from their mistakes – oh whatever. We all know someone who relies upon other’s view of themselves as gospel. We all know someone who has p*ssed their life away for whatever reason and is angry about it, but doesn’t change. We all know someone who relies on an artificial product (alcohol, drugs, shopping, gossip) to bleed away any pain they might have. We all know someone who focuses on a trait & choses partners based on that, be it physical or emotional. And that makes the characters real, IMO.

This gets a solid 4.5 stars from me & I’ll be buying copies for Christmas presents. Can’t get much better than that!

AUTHOR SITE: https://nalinisingh.blogspot.com/

Back Roads to Belonging

Recently I’ve been reading an ARC of Kristen Strong’s latest, which released yesterday. It’s a worthy follow on from Girl Meets Change & I love it. Parts are like I’m actually sitting down with a girlfriend, it feels that personal.

Anyways, I encourage you to pick it up and review. There are always parts of our life where we feel like an outsider & this is about how that’s kind of normal. We aren’t all the same square peg.

There’s a lovely article on Ann Voskamp’s site today. Again, I encourage you to take a read.

When You Don’t Belong – and why that’s Okay

(Audio)Book Review – Circe by Madeline M Miller

circeBLURB: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

 

MY THOUGHTS: After listening to only a portion of this title, it was easy to see why it was a recommendation on multiple book lists (NYT, Publisher’s Weekly, Boston Globe etc). It’s lyrical, engrossing, and suspenseful (even tho I’ve read the Iliad and roughly remember what happened). For me, the most interesting portions of the book were after the fall of Troy, when Circe’s isolation is removed by various turns and I wasn’t ready for the story to end.

I’ll be buying The Song of Achilles once I’m over this book coma as frankly, Stephen Fry’s Mythos isn’t doing much for me so far.

AUTHOR SITE: http://madelinemiller.com/circe/