Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I have recently read The Bride Test by Helen Hoang and wanted to share my thoughts on it.
This is a sweet and fun story that is told with a lot of heart, and I adored the two main characters (for different reasons that I will elaborate on later in the review).

Khai Diep is the main male character. He is 26 years old, lives in California, is a successful businessman and is autistic.
Khai thinks that he is defective, and so he tries to avoid situations that he is uncomfortable in. He doesn't cope well with big emotions like sadness, grief, and love. 
His family (including his brother Quan, and his mother), are supportive and understand that Khai processes emotions differently than others.
But when he adamantly avoids relationships, his mother decides to take matters into her own hands and heads to Vietnam with the hopes of finding a bride for Khai.

Esme Tran is a young woman living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City with her mother, grandmother, and young daughter. She is a cleaner in a hotel and makes an hour long journey on foot twice a day to get to and from her job.
She is of mixed-race, and doesn't know much about her father - only that he was from America, and had green eyes that Esme inherited. 

After a chance meeting when Khai's mum arrives at the hotel where Esme works, Esme is offered the opportunity to go to America to meet Khai, and spend the summer living with him.
Esme knows that this could be the chance that her family needs in order to live a better life, so she agrees to go to California. She also hopes that while sh is in the USA, she can uncover some more information on her father. 

But things don't go to plan after she meets Khai and discovers that he will do whatever it takes to keep himself from falling in love.
Whilst she is instantly attracted to Khai, Esme knows that it certainly won't be easy to win his heart. 
But she won't give up easily!

Esme is such a great character; she is determined to provide a good life for her family, especially her young daughter. (I did find it a bit odd that she didn't communicate much with her daughter when she went to the USA; and whilst I know the story focused more on the relationship between Esme and Khai, I felt that the story would've benefited from some more contact between Esme and her family back home). 
Esme is headstrong and hard-working. Even when she arrives in California, she works as a waitress in Khai's mum's restaurant  and enrols in night school. 
She is passionate and kind, and empathetic towards Khai, refusing to give up on him even when he chooses to give up on himself. 

Khai is also a character I adored. His idiosyncrasies weren't stereotypical, they just added to his personality. 
I felt for him as he struggled with expressing his emotions, particularly love, and was hard on himself in many instances throughout the novel. 

In conclusion, this is a really sweet story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Bride Test is available now through Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $29.99

For further info on this title, head here

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Beauty & Lace Book Club Book Review: The Land Girls by Victoria Purman 

I've heard a lot of good things about Victoria Purman but have only managed to read one of her novels so far, so when I was given the opportunity to read Victoria's latest novel, The Land Girls, I was more than happy to get on board.

The story is set in Australia, in the 1940's during the war, with Australians fighting for their future.
There are three women who decide to become members of the Australian Women's Land Army - Flora, Betty, and Lily.

Flora is a spinster in her thirties and works in an office in Melbourne. She is the only female in her family; having lost her mother years ago. She lives with her beloved father John, and brother Jack. Her other brother Frank is away at war. 

Betty is 17 years old and lives in Sydney. Her next door neighbour Michael is her best friend, and also her first love. When he joins the army, she decides to leave her job at Woolworths and become a Land Girl.

Lily is from Adelaide and her love interest is a man named David, who is away in the air force. She wants a break away from her overbearing family.

The story is told in alternating sections, but the majority of it is told from Flora's perspective. 
As it unfolds, we discover the reasons behind the women wanting to join the Land Girls. 
Each of them embrace their new roles, even though the work is hard and tiring. 
They also get to make some fantastic friendships with other members as they travel over Australia to contribute towards combating labour shortages on rural properties.

Whilst the three women don't work together until towards the end of the story, there are chance meetings throughout the story where they cross paths. 
By becoming Land Girls, these three women get to grow into the women they hope to be, and work towards living the life they want.

I adored this story. The females all showed a lot of bravery and resilience. They were hard working and dedicated to helping farmers with their crops, even in stifling weather conditions. 
They each had their fair share of heartbreak and their courage is something that I admired.
Flora in particular really grew from the start to the end of the story; she managed to fulfill a lot of things for herself that she thought would never be more than wishful thinking. 
I enjoyed reading about her time on the Nettlefolds farm at Two Rivers in Mildura. Owner Charles Nettlefold is widowed and lives at the property with his two adorable young daughters and his mother. 
She forms a strong relationship with Charles and is welcomed and respected by the family.

I learnt a lot about what that period of time must have been like for Australians. I have read many wartime novels but they have mainly been set in European countries, so this made for a different reading experience. 

I would gladly recommend The Land Girls.
Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harlequin Books Australia for the opportunity to read and review The Land Girls. (You can read my original review on The Beauty & Lace post here: 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Book Review: Little One by Peter Papathanasiou 

It's been a while since I've read a memoir, so when I was given the opportunity to read Little One, I was happy to get involved.

Peter Papathanasiou grew up in Australia as an only child to two loving parents, Elizabeth and Bill.

His parents migrated from Greece in the mid 1950's, and they tried for a number of years without success to have a baby. 
The couple had always envisioned having a big family, but sadly, after three miscarriages, it didn't look as though they would even be blessed with one child, let alone many.
It bought shame and sadness for them among their family and the Australian Greek community. 
They were desperate to become parents; they even tried to adopt a child but sadly, it wasn't a success.

Finally in 1973, Elizabeth's brother Savvas and his wife Anna, who lived in Greece, offered to have a baby and then give it to Elizabeth and Bill to raise as their own in Australia. 

The couple was so grateful to them; they had waited so long to become parents. 
Anna and Savvas already had two boys of their own, Georgios and Billy, and they reassured Elizabeth and Bill that they had finished their family and wanted to do this for them.
Fortunately, Anna and Savvas were true to their word, and when baby Peter was born, they handed him over so that finally Elizabeth and Bill could be the parents they had always dreamed of.

Peter was in his  mid 20's when his mum told him the truth about his parentage. 

It was 1999, and Peter was about to embark on PhD in genetics, after completing 6 years of university. 
Sadly, his biological mother Anna had passed away by then, but Peter was happy to discover that he had two brothers alive and well in Greece.

The story spans over the years, tracing back to his parents struggles as migrants, the dedication for a better life, and an act of kindness and love.

It also looks at Peter's career as a geneticist, and his wish of meeting his brothers.

I thought that this was a very well told story. There were moments of sadness, but also happiness and hope.

I really enjoyed reading about Peter and his family. The family photos included helped form a visual connection to the story.
I am married to a man of Greek heritage, and so the traditions and culture surrounding the Greek nationality discussed in the story felt familiar to me. 

I felt that the book may have benefited from a glossary included for the Greek phrases and/or words that are mentioned throughout the story (I personally had no issue at all with it as I can understand Greek, but those that are unfamiliar with the language may have found it handy).

I would recommend Little One to those who enjoy memoirs, and stories about families, heredity and love.

Little One is available now through Allen & Unwin Australia

RRP $29.99
For further information on this title, head here

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Book Review: How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox 

Please note: Trigger warnings - potential distressing content, mental health, suicide

How It Feels To Float is a novel that I was sent recently to read and review. I didn't know much about it (but that is how I like it).  :)
I was immediately drawn in when I read the attached author letter that was sent along with the book. Helena Fox explains how a few short years ago, she lost someone close to her, and wanted to give up on everything.
Thankfully, she is still here and penned this story, drawing from her experience of that time.

Elizabeth, or Biz as she is better known, is a teenage girl who lives with her mum and her younger twin siblings.
When Biz was 7 years-old, her father passed away, and she has been grieving and dissociating since.
She misses her dad immensely, and she feels his presence around her a lot of the time, but she doesn't tell anyone, not her mum, or even her best friend Grace.
She is also trying to find her place in the world, not knowing if she is attracted to males or females. When she spontaneously kisses Grace one day, it is awkward and Biz is embarrassed and confused.
Then a new kid, Jasper, starts school and Biz finds that she wants to know more about him.

As the story unfolds, Biz struggles with managing her runaway thoughts; her mental health issues increase, and she is on the verge of a breakdown.
She experiences suicidal thoughts, and the reader discovers that Biz has never fully dealt with her father's death, and carries a lot of sadness and pain within herself. 
I really felt for her, and I could relate to some of her experiences.
As someone who has had mental health issues myself, I felt that I wasn't just reading this book, but connecting. 

There isn't a whole heap of action throughout the story, it is more of an unraveling of who Biz is, and a journey of her struggles. 
I loved all of the characters in the novel - Sylvia, (an elderly lady that Biz befriends in a photography class) is such a sweetheart, and Biz's mum is also kind, caring, and desperate to help in any way she can. 
Helena Fox has used her own experiences with mental illness and she portrays such an accurate picture of it in this novel in a sensitive and beautiful way, and that is just one of the reasons that I would gladly recommend this book.

How It Feels To Float is available now through Pan Macmillan Australia and has an RRP of $17.99

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Book Review: Just Add Love by Irris Makler

Just Add Love is a beautiful book filled with stories and recipes from Holocaust survivors. 
These admirable and adorable Jewish survivors are grandmothers (and two grandfathers), and the recipes they share are the same that they carried with them in their hearts and their heads when the war ended.
For most, they had lost their entire families, their homes, and their childhoods. 
So these recipes are more than just words on paper. They are memories of happier times, of sharing meals with loved ones,  and a connection to their families.

All of the recipes have been made and shared with love, and the stories are both heartbreaking and inspirational. 
Some of the recipes have been modified to include gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options to accommodate for different diets. All have been tested many times over, not only by the grandparents, but also in test kitchens. 

The recipes include a wide range of dishes including soups, meat, fish and poultry, breads, baked goods, and sweets. 

I would highly recommend this book as it has delicious recipes, and the historical side of it is very touching. 

Just Add Love is available now, RRP $49.99
For further information on this title, head here 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Book Review: Gravity Is The Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

I was recently given the opportunity to read Gravity Is The Thing, and I have to admit that the first 25 or so pages didn't really grab me.
Looking back, I think the reason is that it was just so different to anything I have read in a while, but I am SO glad that I persevered, as I absolutely loved this book!
Yes, it is different and unique, and that is what makes the story so captivating.
I read this within a matter of days as I couldn't stop thinking about it every time I put it down.

Abigail Sorensen is 35 years-old, divorced, and a single mum to her son, Oscar.  A former lawyer, she now owns and manages The Happiness Cafe in Sydney.
In 1990, Abigail's brother Robert went missing. 
The two were close in age, and close siblings; they shared everything and supported each other.
His disappearance came as a big shock to Abigail and her parents.
She has never stopped looking for him, and the impact of his absence has affected all areas of her life.

About the time of Robert's disappearance, Abigail started to receive random chapters from a self-help book called The Guidebook. 
She wonders whether her brother's disappearance and the guide are connected in any way.
So when she receives an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to a retreat to learn about the truth behind The Guidebook, Abigail decides to accept.
When she gets there, she meets some other people who have also accepted the invitation, and it turns out to be an intriguing weekend.
Upon returning home, she is invited to weekly seminars to further discuss The Guidebook.
It quickly becomes much more than that, as Abigail starts to connect with the others in the group, making friends and discovering herself.

The story is told in parts, and it reverts back in time on occasion, so the reader gains a deeper understanding of Abigail, and a look into the world around the time of Robert's disappearance, and also around her relationship with her ex-husband. 
All these intricate little pieces that may seem insignificant at the time all come together, and it just works. Beautifully.
I have to say that this book made me cry; I was sobbing so much in one part that I needed to stop as I couldn't even read the words on the page! So if you're prone to tearing up whilst reading a good book, then have the tissues handy!
This story touched me on a personal level, and I think that is why I enjoyed this book so much. 

I would highly recommend Gravity Is The Thing. 

Available now through Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $29.99
For further information on this title, head here 

Friday, 22 March 2019

Book Review: 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor 

This is a very sweet tale set in the 1960's in Melbourne. Author Anna Ciddor draws on her own childhood experiences to give it an authentic feel that will entertain readers both young and old. 
The story spans across a year in the life of Anna Lewison and her two younger sisters, Mirabelle and Bubby and their parents, who are of Jewish heritage.
Anna develops a love of antique dolls after reading a book about Hitty, an old wooden doll.
Her mother takes her to an auction at an antique store one Monday to see if she can find any dolls, but sadly, Anna doesn't find any.
She begs her mum to take her back, and as the weeks go by, her love for dolls grows.
When she isn't thinking of dolls, she is busy playing with her sisters, visiting her grandparents, and learning at school (whilst my school years didn't include bottles of milk at recess like Anna's, I do remember dusting the blackboard erasers like she mentions in the story!)
It was lovely to read about a childhood with an abundance of imagination and creativity, without the use of technology. 
This is a really delightful and easy to read tale, and I really enjoyed it. 

52 Mondays is available through Allen & Unwin Australia and has an RRP of $14.99  
Recommended for readers aged 8-13 but I am sure adults and teens will enjoy this too.