Book Review – The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

From the bestselling author of The Land Girls comes a beautifully realised novel that speaks to the true history and real experiences of post-war Australian women.

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 thoughts: This book is both quite deep and superficial. Sydney’s last few weeks of the War in the Pacific and the months of anticipation and recovery after form the background, and the lives and thoughts of a few central characters form the main focus. The struggle that women had against the resurgence of the pre-war chauvinistic ideals echoes still now in 2020 as does the difficulty the men have with coming back to the idealistic views of Home that has moved on without them.

I really liked the fact that I’ve spent hours walking around the Sydney that Tilly inhabits and could view her world as I read. The passage about Tilly’s thoughts and feelings when in the ANZAC memorial was amazing.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but she’s one I’ll look for in future.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It’s available on most platforms and in stores from September third.

Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

Synopsis: She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.

Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.

Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

My thoughts: It’s easy to see that this is a first novel (it’s not as well polished as it might be) but for all that, it kept me reading well into the night. I really enjoyed how this played out; from the descriptions of the cast to the woods around Coromandel and the typical sleepy town. I can also see why this won the Ngaio Marsh award for the best first novel in 2018 and I think it will make a great movie (it’s been optioned already). Disclaimer: I purchased this book via Amazon. 3 stars, am going to read more from this author.

Life Update: Here in Auckland we are back in Level Three restrictions. No-one is currently working outside of the home (Bran is sick, and both he & I seem to have succumbed to the seasonal flu, but are waiting on the Covid swab results). I’m working remotely, which is great for me (peace, quiet and a garden view) and supervising both the younger boys at school. And hallelujah, I am starting to read more than the most superficial books and finding that I can concentrate on them!

Friday Recommend

This week, I’d like to suggest a return to simpler times. Let’s go back to an old favourite book or song that brings out the “feel good” vibe that the world really needs.

But life is what novels are about. A novel can contain more truth than a thousand newspaper articles or scientific papers. It can make you imagine, just for a little while, that you’re someone else- and then you understand more about people who are different from you. Lisa Kleypass, Chasing Cassandra.

My all-time favourite author is of course, AA Milne. Gran taught us to read on his poetry and Winnie the Pooh and I can still snuggle down in my imagination in the house on Fantail Grove, Wellington, and hear her read to me.

pooh love

Listening wise, I resurrected my old iPod from about 5 years of captivity. I got it in 2003, so it holds YEARS of listening pleasure, as I made a choice not to delete anything once it was loaded, except audio books and podcasts. There’s Nirvana, and classic Nickleback; Back Street Boys and Westlife; Bon Jovi and The Boss, and tucked away, a recommend from Kirsten, a then new-to-me artist called Kate Voegele.

What will you be reading this weekend?

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.

February WIPocalypse

Hello everyone! WIPocalypse is the monthly check-in SAL hosted by Measi on her blog, and via the Facebook group – we welcome all enablers! Click on the icon to the right to learn more. If you’re a crafter, please join up either on your blog or via the Facebook group – we welcome all enablers!

February Goals were:

  • Finish the second panel in 12 Days – just scraped in
  • Finish the second panel in Celtic Sampler – done & moved well past
  • 200 over one in Fairy Idyll – nope, maybe I should rename her Fairly Idyll 🙂
  • Walk every day I don’t bootcamp – mmm, most days I hit goal. Just the one rest day each week, and I am noticing a lot of changes.

I also completed another of the Cloudsfactory Disney minis that I am doing for Aurora’s Christmas present – Belle is done now too. So that’s Ursula, Rapunzel, Lady T, Eric, Oscar, Belle, and half a Dopey and a bit of Mulan.

Celtic was my work (yay, aircon) and travel project. It got a bit of time in hospital, doctor’s surgery, waiting for dawn etc as it’s much, much smaller than 12 Days (and a different fabric too).

20200301_115210.jpg

It was sooo hot (most days it was well over 27/28/29 degrees Celsius, and a muggy hot too, and I didn’t want a lap quilt worth of floba anywhere near me! Some days I barely managed one thread length on the 12 Days, other days were a little better.

March Goals:

  • Finish the third panel in 12 Days
  • Start a Chatelaine – see below.
  • Late Edit: add March is the first one-a-day SAL, I’ll be working on the beading of Atlantis. Copying Measi & getting the wheel to decide how many beads.

In honour of “Leap Year,” tell the story of a time you had to make some sort of a “leap” in stitching – taking the chance on a new style of stitching, attending a meet up or class, etc. I’m not very good at leaping – hence the growing collection of Chatelaines in my basket! I’ve made it a goal for this month to at least start one of the banners (I have three of the Mini Mystery Castle range) and master some of those embroidery stitches. After all, I’ve attended a class or two AND I’m not that stupid. I will be using mostly DMC rather than the original silks tho. My budget simply won’t stretch that far! And due to the expected intensity of this project, I’m not committing to much this month. I have looked into joining the local chapter of the Embroidery Guild, thanks to Anne’s advice & experience, and I’m attending my first meet up next week.

Stitch From Stash: I ended up finishing January in the red, mostly due to a fabric purchase. I’ve pulled that back in Feb, as I sold the spare Lady Mirabilia chart/bead pack that I had (broke even too) and had a couple of small finishes. However I’ve ordered the Duchess of Rouen (companion piece to The Baker’s Wife, both by Nora Corbett/Mirabilia) and the Hands on Design Nashville release, Well Rounded (expecting both in late March, early April). I also brought a kit by Tis The Season, a new-to-me business that I found in Whitianga, a coastal resort town here in New Zealand.

Book Review The Number of Love (Codebreakers #1) by Roseanna M White

codebreakersBLURB: Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

MY THOUGHTS:  I picked this title up not because it was a romance (altho it is one, and rightly Bookbub classifies it as such) but because of the interest I have in the battle of the brains that went on between Allied and Axis during WWII. From the “lighter” looks at the later code breaking teams such as The Bletchley Circle or The Imitation Game (I’ve watched this twice, despite Kiera Knightley’s acting) to the in-depth studies like The Secrets of Station X by Michael Smith or The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay (this one is super easy to read with lots of background about the people & activities that they did outside of “work”), I devour them all.

While the first title in the Codebreakers series, this title follows on from another. I didn’t know that until the end, and it certainly didn’t jar my reading in any way. The characters are real and have faults; they interact in a way that mirrors other WWI dramas – did you catch that? This title pre-dates the period I’ve been reading. I didn’t know that there was a Room 40 before I read this book – or at least, that little fact didn’t sink in (surprise).

Anyway, I’m off to read more of White’s books. Like, ALL of them. Ciao!

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: