Hello Lovelies! Please excuse our dust while we do a bit of construction on the blog. We will still be posting exciting reviews, brilliant guest posts, and exciting giveaways but we are in the process of transforming the blog and adding new content and features for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Secret Shores by Ella Carey

Title: Secret Shores
Author: Ella Carey
Publisher: 5 September 2017 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 318 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, mystery
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

In 1946, artist Rebecca Swift’s dreams of love and a life free from convention are crashing like the waves of the Australian coast below her. And it’s into those roiling waters that she disappears.
Forty-one years later, Tess Miller’s dreams are crashing, too. The once-successful New York editor has lost her most prestigious author to the handsome new golden boy of publishing. Meanwhile, she’s stuck with Edward Russell, a washed-up Australian poet writing a novel about some obscure artist named Rebecca Swift. But Tess may have underestimated Russell. His book is not only true—it’s a searing, tragic romance and a tantalizing mystery set in a circle of postwar modernists. When Tess uncovers a long-hidden secret, she’s drawn even deeper into Rebecca’s enigmatic life and death.
As Rebecca’s past intertwines with the present, Tess finds herself falling for the last man she thought she’d ever be drawn to. On the way, she discovers the power of living an authentic life—and that transcendent love never really dies.
My Thoughts

“Take life one day at a time. It is the only way we can control our lives at times of indomitable grief.”

I have been looking forward to reading an Ella Carey book, and I was not disappointed - coming along at a time in my life when I really needed to read some of its contained wisdom. Being a huge fan of historical fiction and dual timelines, I was enthralled with this tale. ‘Secret Shores’ starts in Australian 1946 (just after WWII and all the ramifications of that) and then in 1987 with a clear link between the two timelines, only varying locations.

“The Heide circle were young moderns, trying to forge a new life out of the shatters of war. It was all-encompassing, you know, what they did, their rejection of the Establishment. From the way they lived, to the way they loved, freely, to the way they approached marriage, modernism went to the very core of themselves.”

This is a complex and intriguing tale of the modernist movement post WWII (you will be running to Google actual people) and how they attempt to break with traditions. You really get a feel for each of the characters especially the love story between Rebecca and Edward. The switch between timelines is smooth and meeting Edward in 1987 provides the opportunity for a retrospective reflection and a lesson in how to not only move on, but also, learn from lessons of the past.

“...perhaps it was equally important to look to the past, to not replicate the mistakes that people such as Edward’s family and their class had made, because the bubble would burst in the end.”

As is often the case, one story is slightly stronger, and although the link between the two is strong and well executed - the present love story between Tess and James feels at times a little contrived. Her paranoia and hostility begin to grate, but do not let that deter you from what is a well thought out story and plot evolution. When Tess discovers that the book she is editing is about the love Edward still harbours for Rebecca, thus begins a journey of self discovery for each of the characters.

Reading the novel along with Tess is a clever way to reveal facts from the past, whilst also securing new and personal insights through one-to-one discussions. It’s also interesting to see a small parallel between both relationships - past and present. The plot twist at the end of the book is well done and provides the perfect conclusion.

Overall this is a most interesting and worthwhile read - a moving tale, with complex characters and a compelling storyline that will keep you engaged until the very end.

“He had no desire to take himself back to those secret shores that he had sworn he would never revisit. That period of his life was too difficult, too frightening.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa & Claire Sweeney

Title: A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
Author: Emily Midorikawa, Emma Claire Sweeney
Publisher: 17 October 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: biographies, memoir
My Rating: 4 crowns


Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Coauthors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.
Through letters and diaries that have never been published before, A Secret Sisterhood resurrects these forgotten stories of female friendships. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always—until now—tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

My Thoughts

“... misleading myths of isolation have long attached themselves to women who write: a
cottage-dwelling spinster; an impassioned roamer of the moors; a fallen woman, shunned; a melancholic genius. Over the years, a conspiracy of silence has obscured the friendships of female authors, past and present. But now it is time to break the silence and celebrate this literary sisterhood - a glimmering web of interwoven threads that still has the power to unsettle, to challenge, to inspire.”

‘A Secret Sisterhood’ is an interesting book packed with loads of information, new insights and wonderful descriptions of friendship from times long gone. Reading more like a biography, it allows the reader to look at female literary friendships within the context of their writing.

Being a big Austen and Bronte fan, I was eager to see what new snippets would be brought to life. Thinking of these famous female authors (and understanding that writing is very much a solitary pursuit), one often sees them in isolation. This book reveals how much they were actively involved with others, sharing at times, revealing insights into their thinking. Either meeting in person or through their correspondence, one can learn a great deal more about the individual.

You do not have to be well versed on these writers, as a satisfactory amount of detail is provided by these authors. What they succeed in doing is portraying another aspect to these famous lives and how these friendships contributed to the writer’s lives. I learnt more about those I knew well eg. Jane Austen and was introduced to those I was unfamiliar with eg. George Eliot.

This is an extremely well researched book, impressively so. Dedicating three chapters to each of the writer’s, the authors shine a light on the importance of friendship to these famous women, through diaries, letters and other documents. The authors really do a fabulous job of inviting you into a ‘secret sisterhood’ and sharing details I knew little of.

If you are in any way intrigued by any of these literary heroines, or you are interested in literary history, then I highly recommend you take some time to discover this ‘Secret Sisterhood’.

“In piecing together the lost stories of these four trailblazing pairs, we have found alliances that were sometimes illicit, scandalous, and volatile; sometimes supportive, radical, or inspiring but, until now, tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release