Book Review: Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristen Harper

Synopsis: Up in the attic, with views across the sparkling bay, she opens the lid of the carved trunk. Carefully moving aside the delicate linen wedding dress once worn by her great-aunt, she unpacks all the smaller boxes inside until she finds the leather-bound diary. She knows this will change everything…

All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, being spoiled with cranberry ice cream and watching the tides change from the rooftop. Now, heartbroken from a recent breakup, Zoey can see her elderly aunt’s spark is fading, and decides to move to the island so they can care for each other.

When she arrives to find her cousin, Mark, sitting at the solid oak kitchen table, she knows why Aunt Ivy hasn’t been herself. Because Mark—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the cousins clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when the local carpenter who’s working on Ivy’s cottage takes her side. As he offers Zoey comfort, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper, and throws doubt on Mark’s claim…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. The discovery could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but can Zoey trust that the carpenter really has Ivy’s best interests at heart? And will dredging up an old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.

My Thoughts: I admit I clicked on this title initially because of the cover (oh la la) and the name of the author – I didn’t read past Kristen H!!! However, win on my part because this was very, very enjoyable.  The book has changed a little since the synopsis was written, but the general idea is there. The characters grow and change, the dialogue and situations are realistic (I was sniffing a bit at the examples of early stage dementia, having only recently experienced this with a relative) and overall, I’d give this four stars. I will be looking for more from this author.

Aunt Ivy’s Cottage releases on Dec 7th 2020. I received my copy as an ARC from Bookouture via NetGalley.

American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson

Subtitle:  Murder, forensics, and the birth of crime scene investigation

Synopsis:  ‘Heinrich changed criminal investigations forever, and anyone fascinated by the myriad detective series and TV shows about forensics will want to read [this].’ The Washington Post

‘An entertaining, absorbing combination of biography and true crime.’ Kirkus

Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities – beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners and hundreds of books – sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least 2,000 cases in his 40-year career.

Known as the ‘American Sherlock Holmes’, Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of the greatest – and first – forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural.

Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock is a true-crime account capturing the life of the man who spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools, including blood-spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence.

My thoughts: This book could have been oh-so-good if it wasn’t for a couple of things (note these might be corrected in a future edition) – the timeline becomes quite disjointed a few chapters in and there isn’t enough focus on Heinrich himself. A good editor would fix this quickly. The amount of information saved by the Heinrich family and given over to the university is amazing and I’d love to see a collection of his letters in chronological order. Heinrich’s influence on modern policing and the mundane but methodical crime investigations would be immeasurable as many of his techniques and ideas are still in use today – however I don’t believe he is the pioneer or spearhead of lie-detection tests!

Thank you to #NetGalley for this uncorrected proof.

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.