September 4, 2015

The Beast's Garden. Kate Forsyth

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The Beast's Garden
Kate Forsyth
Published: Random House Australia
Date: August 3rd 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 441
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world .' A retelling of the Grimm's Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany. It's August 1939 in Germany, and Ava's world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler's spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it. Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo's hang in the balance. Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast's Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers' 'Beauty and The Beast', is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

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The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth is a well researched and compelling story, set in Germany just prior to and during the Second World War.  It is more accurately the retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark - a version of Beauty and the Beast.

I wanted to read this book, but held back, a little reluctant to enter again that horrifying era. Like the author my first introduction to it was through The Diary of Anne Frank. However once I opened The Beast's Garden and started reading I was soon captured by the characters and the plot.  

I found reading a book set within Germany was different, I knew very little about Berlin during that time and the Resistance operations. It was an eye opener for me. Being given a viewpoint from Berlin looking out at the war was thought provoking. The atrocities of the Nazis, the bombing of the city and the desperation of the inhabitants of the city are all experienced through the eyes of Ava, Leo and their friends and families.

Ava is a resilient, courageous character. Her exploits and care for her Jewish friends never wavered. The treatment of the Jews is not glossed over and is often disturbing and real. 

Ava's love for Leo was real and enduring. Leo was the very antithesis of what I had thought about when I thought of  the German Nazi Officers. He is part of the resistance movement The Red Orchestra, a group that realise that Hitler is evil and mad. They put their lives at risk to try to rid their country of him.

As I read on I couldn't put the book down. This is a well crafted novel that engaged my mind and emotions. There are some excellent novels written about this time period and this book can hold its place very well among them.
5 stars
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September 2, 2015

Running Like China. Sophie Hardcastle

book cover Running Like China
Sophie Hardcastle
Published: Hachette Australia
Date: 25th August 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 275
Genre: Memoir
Source: Thank you Hachette NZ
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Most of the time we don't notice the darkness... not until we're in the thick of it. It was like that for Sophie Hardcastle, as the joy she'd always known disappeared. She was constantly tired, with no energy, no motivation and no sense of enjoyment f

In this brave, bold and beautifully told memoir, Sophie lays bare her story of mental illness - of a teenage girl using drugs, alcohol and sex in an attempt to fix herself; of her family's anguish and her loss of self. It is a courageous and hopeful story of adaptation, learning to accept and of ultimately realising that no matter how deep you have sunk, the surface is always within reach.
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Running Like China is a memoir of a young woman in Australia, that held my attention all the way through.  Her book is a gift of herself - her story to each and every reader. Her hope is that it will help others who are experiencing the depths of mental illness that may lead to suicide. That it will encourage them to hang in there in the down times and to remember all there is to live for. 

It is a very moving, articulate, insightful piece of writing and it gave me some understanding of what it can be like for someone living with bi polar 1 disorder.  I was astounded and in awe at her experience. I stand and admire her strength, courage, wisdom and intelligence, and passion for life. Her passion for writing.

I loved how she shared about those who were there for her, her family, a few close friends, a boy with ice blue eyes, a school counsellor, a white bearded psychiatrist. And for some reason a surf maker -"the coffee -coloured, coffee scented man with shorts as short as the seventies", who helped her back to the enjoyment of something important to her.  

I wondered about those who do not have such support, and those who for some reason are unable to give that support.  It is obviously very difficult for family and friends to hang in there with a person suffering with such a disability.  It is painfully distressing. This book may not always reach those who have bi polar when they need it, but if this book gives an understanding to family and friends of the person, then it has achieved so much.   I came away realising support is so important.

It cut at my heart that some of her peers in their ignorant youthfulness said horrible things about her on social media.  We live in an age where petty gossip and drama can be blown up hugely. With such cruel results.  

I was saddened by the misdiagnosis to begin with that I think caused much suffering in the beginning. Drugs that weren't helping and had terrible side-effects.  Of course bi polar is a chemical imbalance and when the right drugs are used and the person can underscore that with responsible living then drugs are another support for the person.

I feel inadequate in responding to this book. It is powerful, it is important reading. Read it. It's one I know I will pick up again and reread.

5 stars

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Sophie Hardcastle is an exciting young writer, determined to help change the lives of young people living with mental illness. She is working with Batyr and Headspace, agencies that train young people with mental illness to visit educational institutions, to share their experiences and dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Website      Twitter

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August 31, 2015

Month in Review Wrap Up

Welcome in, do join me by sharing your link to your look back at this month. I'm looking forward to visiting and seeing what everyone has been up to.  The link will be open for you to share your post whenever you post over the next few days.  Do visit each others' posts.

Total books read this month: 18, 10 of which were review books.

Audio Books Read:
Survivor in Death   J. D. Robb
Summer's End   Mary Alice Monroe
Magic Flutes    Eva Ibbotson

Ebooks Read
Inconsolable   Ainslie Paton
Wildest Dreams  Robyn Carr
If You Only Knew    Kristan Higgins
Ransom Canyon      Jodi Thomas
Starlight on Willow Lake   Susan Wiggs
The Beast's Garden     Kate Forsyth
Marriage in Mustang Creek   Linda Lael Miller
Rainy Day Sisters     Kate Hewitt

Paperbacks Read
First Impressions     Jude Deveraux
Midnight Promises  Sherryl Woods
Blood Brothers     Nora Roberts
Quicksilver          Amanda Quick
Running Like China   Sophie Hardcastle
Early One Morning   Virginia Baily
Ravenscar      Barbara Taylor Bradford

Genres Read
Romantic Suspense 4, Contemporary romance 5, Women's Fiction 4, Memoir 1, Fairytale retelling 1, Historical romance 1, Historical Fiction 1,

Places Where I Read.
Nth Carolina, Sth Carolina, New York, Oregon, Texas, Maryland, Wyoming, - USA.  Sydney, near Whyalla, near Eyre Peninsula, - Australia.  Berlin, Germany. Vienna, Austria. Rome, Italy.  Yorkshire, Cumbria, -  England.

New to me authors this month:
Sophie Hardcastle
Virginia Baily
Kate Hewitt

Top Book for August

This is a memoir, and while I read a couple of others which could easily have been my top book - for the courage of the author, excellent writing and the insight that it gave me into mental illness, I name this one as my top book for August. My review for it will be posted later this week.
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Incoming Books.
Paperback Books Purchased:

Kindle Books Purchased:
The Secret Sister        Brenda Novak   $3.30
The Other Daughter   Lauren Willig  $9.96
Cinder                        Marissa Meyer   $5.74

Library Books: 
Midnight Promises     Sherryl Woods

Books coming from NetGalley
The Beast's Garden    Kate Forsyth
The Patterson Girls    Rachael Johns
A Window Opens      Elizabeth Elgan
Along the Infinite Sea     Beatriz Williams
The Good Neighbor     Amy Sue Nathan
Rainy Day Sisters      Kate Hewitt
All I Want                  Jill Shalvis

Hachette NZ
Running Like China   Sophie Hardcastle
Early One Morning   Virginia Baily

Audio Books 
The Summer's End  Alice Mary Monroe  - 1 Audible credit.
Magic Flutes    Eva Ibbotson   -  1 Audible credit
The Lost Night    Jayne Castle - 1 Audible credit

As you don't actually pay for these until they are delivered they will be counted in the month they are published.

New Leaf by Catherine Anderson - published in Jan 2016. Kindle version.
Fatal Frenzy by Marie Force  - published September 15 2015  Kindle version

Book Spending:  $19 (USA)  =  $29.40 (NZ)


So how did your reading month pan out?

August 30, 2015

Weekly Wrap. Fitreaders.

badge for Sunday PostIt's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sheila at Book Journey runs It's Monday! What Are You Reading? While this  meme is not fully active at present I will be linking up as well to the Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Just squeaked in to completing my 48 200 goal this week.  Didn't walk two days and that tells. However one was spent exercising in the garden!

What I read last week:

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Early One Morning is a story that starts in WW2 Italy and from one decision in a moment the story spans out.
The Patterson Girls the most recent from Rachael Johns.
Magic Flutes audiobook, a really fun historical romance. Loved the narrator although seems some love her and some hate her interpretation.
Christmas in Mustang Creek a delightful Christmas romance.

What I am reading at present:

Listening to:
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I know I read a really good review of Rainy Day Sisters but can't remember where. Anyway here I am, now reading it!  I see many of the Goodreads' friends have marked it to read but haven't read it. A mystery to me!

Up next:

Not too sure, will see what the postie brings!

Posts from the last week:

Reminder for those who join the Month in Review link up, it will be up tomorrow for linking during the coming week.

August 26, 2015

Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas - a Word from the Author

Firstly I welcome Jodi Thomas to the Book Date and then read on for my review of the first in her new series.

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Jodi Thomas
With seven generations of my family in Texas, of course I write about the state I love.  In this new series I’m going more modern-day western than I ever have.  Step into the life of small towns and ranching with me.  I promise, you’ll fall in love with the people of Ransom Canyon.

I knew I had to open RANSOM CANYON with Staten Kirkland.  He is a well-respected rancher who believes he needs to work harder than any hand he hires. He’s strong and honest and broken inside by the death of his only love, his wife.  When his son is killed during a storm a few years later, Staten runs to a quiet woman who has been his friend since grade school and his wife’s best friend. Shy Quinn asks nothing of him.  She offers understanding amid the storm of his life.

Their friendship develops into a gentle, loving affair that grows to rock both them with its depth.  Staten will have to learn to love again and Quinn will have to open up to someone.  The whole town watches the birth of passion and love as Staten stands beside her letting her be strong, and quiet Quinn discovers one man’s love can wash away all the pain in her past. Through storms, cattle rustlers, and facing Quinn’s greatest fear, they fight for each other as the whole town stands behind them.

Readers will feel, not like they came to visit, Crossroads, Texas, on the edge of Ransom Canyon, but the town will start to feel like home.  My goal as a writer is to keep you up late reading because you have to know what happens next.
So, saddle up with me and step into RANSOM CANYON.

photo Jodi Thomas
Jodi Thomas
A fifth-generation Texan, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable.

With a degree in family studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A&M University campus, where she currently serves as Writer in Residence.

Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, “When I was teaching classes full-time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher or nurse or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place.”When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo and “checking up” on their two grown sons.

The prequel to Ransom Canyon (Winter's Camp) is available free until 31st August at B&N and Amazon until the 31st of August.

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I loved both Winter's Camp and Ransom Canyon. I highly recommend.  I certainly love to settle back and enjoy the adventures she takes her readers on. My thoughts on Ransom Canyon follows.

Publisher: Harlequin (USA & Canada)
Date: 25th August 2015
Pages: 368
Genre: Women's Fiction. Western Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
My thoughts banner
Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas is the first of a new series set in Crossroads Texas and surrounding ranches and farms.  After reading this one I know I am going to totally love this community. I enjoyed the prequel which gave us the tale of how Crossroads and Staten Kirkland's forebear laid the foundations of this community. It's a small town with a great community feel story, there's a wide variety of characters - goodies and baddies, old and young, cranky and cheerful, mean and kind. Now to meet some of them:
  • Staten Kirkland - rancher, lost his wife a number of years ago when she died of an illness and a son who died five years ago in a car crash.  He's a fifth generation Kirkland and he could be the last.  He is in his early forties.
  • Quinn O'Grady - lavender farmer, a friend always to Staten's wife and is in a sort of relationship with Staten but as the book opens there is nothing formal about it. She also has something from her past that has hurt her badly.
  • Lucas Reyes - wrangler.  Young, just setting out with his eyes on college. Has integrity.
  • Lauren Brigman - daughter of Dan Brigman the sheriff. Finds herself early on in a situation that is a turning point in her young life, along with Lucas, young Tim O'Grady and Reid Collins. (Son of a rich rancher).
  • Yancy Grey who just got of a truck at Crossroads and is just out of prison. Point of fact he has one blue and one grey eye.
  • The Old Timers - all ex teachers who are living in a rather down at heel ex motel complex.  Among them is Staten's grandma.  Do not discount them. They are a load of fun and add immensely to the story.
As soon as I was in a couple of pages I relaxed, recognising I was in the hands of an experienced and adept storyteller.

I loved it from beginning to end. It's a western with cattle and horses, a shootout, some mystery, some romance. The baddies get their come uppance and the goodies shine.

There is drama and humour. FABULOUS.

I am already looking forward to Rustler's Moon the next one in this series.

4.5 stars

August 25, 2015

Wildest Dreams. Robyn Carr

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Wildest Dreams
Robyn Carr
Published: MIRA
Date: 25th August 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley & Little Bird Publicity
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My thoughts banner
Wildest Dreams is #9 in the Thunder Point series.  This one is the story of Lin Su and her son Charlie.  It also continues the story of Winnie, Grace and their family.  Blake Smiley is the triathlete who has arrived next door, we met him briefly in the previous book. Now he is in Thunder Point permanently.

Lin Su is the nurse to Winnie and an excellent one.  She is a great mother to Charlie, but just somewhat over protective and controlling. He is fourteen and beginning to want a little more independence. Charlie was a character I loved, he was so caring and respectful towards his mother, but also ready to spread his wings a little. Lin Su has had a very challenging time since she became pregnant with Charlie. She is gritty and feisty, but a little proud and unbending. I loved all the growth and development for Lin Su as the story evolved.

Blake is a talented athlete and he and Charlie bond, Charlie admires him and they form a very understanding relationship. However Lin Su sees some of this as interference and she is vocal when she disapproves.  Blake himself has not come from an easy background, growing up in a very poor area. He loves to help out youth from poor areas and help them to rise above and go places they never thought they could.

We also catch up with some other inhabitants of this small town and its a time when there are three babies due just before Christmas.  I love seeing into their lives as they live out their 'happily ever after'!  All is not going too well in the Sileski household, Seth's parents are still not getting on and one of them is threatening divorce.

I loved this book as much as the others, once I started reading I was pretty much engrossed and immersed again in the lives of these people. The romance is low key and beautiful, it is part of the package but doesn't provide the whole focus. If you like that, then you'll enjoy this, if you like romance to be more to the front, maybe this book isn't for you.

I thought perhaps events at the end were too quickly wrapped up.  Personally I thought the new arrivals in various forms could have  made a very nice Christmas novella!

4.5 stars

Robyn Carr
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August 23, 2015

Weekly Wrap and Fitreaders

badge for Sunday PostIt's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sheila at Book Journey runs It's Monday! What Are You Reading? While this  meme is not fully active at present I will be linking up as well to the Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

On Saturday went by train to Wellington, caught the ferry across the harbour, had a delicious lunch, went for a walk up in the hilly bush and returned home. A wonderful way to spend a day in great company to celebrate another birthday flying by! Ouch!
looking our across harbour

                                           Leaving from the city side of the harbour.
Across the other side, coming into the bay.

bush walk
Bush walk up the hill.

I reached my goal and went over it this week. Walking on Saturday helped out. I also have now walked the length of New Zealand according to my Fitbit stats! Won't share how long that has taken!

What I read last week:

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What I am reading at present:

Listening to:
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Up next:

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Posts from the last week:

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