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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews

Title: Million Love Songs
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: 4th January 2018 by Hachette (Australia), Sphere
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

After splitting up with her cheating ex-husband, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is another serious relationship.
Mason Soames represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, handsome, and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe Edwards on the other hand is also lovely and handsome but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.
Ruby soon has some very tough decisions to make. Is she ready for a relationship of any kind, and what type of life does she really want? Because while Ruby may think she knows what she wants, is that what she needs to be truly happy?
My Thoughts

‘Life should get easier once you leave the playground, but it doesn’t. Then you think you’ll have it sorted in your teens and you don’t. So you hurtle into your twenties when you’re sure you’ll crack the meaning of life. Yet here I am in my late thirties and I’m still all at sea.’

When you are looking for a solid, reliable read with some quality escapism, then Carole Matthews will always provide. This is a highly entertaining read with many a humorous moment. As Matthews says, it’s just about an ordinary woman trying to discover what is right for herself with lots of bumps along the way. You have to admire the lead character Ruby as she tries to work through things:

‘I was a little bit frightened of change. That’s no reason to stay anywhere, is it?’

I always enjoy Mathews humour, there is much to smile about whilst reading - everything from Ruby’s friend pursuit of the boy band, to her search for potential hobbies, their ‘muffin top’ laments and just some great one liners that really resonated with me, thus making the characters and story relatable:

‘I’m fretting about catching pneumonia or pleurisy by going out with damp hair –the things that your mother tells you leave scars for life .’

‘I try to pull it down at the sides. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ Charlie instructs.
‘I don’t think I have got it. I’m pretty sure it went a long time ago.’

The two love interests for Ruby could not be more different - but I guess that was the point. Whilst I appreciated her indecision, sometimes her decisions were perplexing. But again, standing at the side, it’s easy for me to draw rational conclusions - this was Ruby’s journey I guess and she had to go through all the highs and lows. I also loved the whole 80s boy band saga but at times this too was drawn out just a tad too much for my liking.

Overall this is a fun book with much to endear itself to the reader. Do yourself a favour, take a break from the craziness of life and spend some time getting to know Ruby and the gang.

‘I’m content for the first time in a long time. Sometimes we hurtle through life, don’t we? I’m rushing off to work or racing round the supermarket, doing a dozen other things that I really don’t want to be doing and it’s easy not to stop and simply take a breath.’

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Alice Network

Title: The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quinn
Publisher: 22 May 2017 by Harper Collins Australia
Pages: 503 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, world war
My Rating: 5 crowns


In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth ...no matter where it leads

My Thoughts

“I don’t want to just be pretty when I grow up. I want to do something different. Write a book. Swim the Channel. Go on safari and shoot a lion ....”

I have been eager to sample a Kate Quinn novel and finally I  know why. Wow! Books like this are the reason why I love historical fiction so much. This is one compelling and powerful story that confronts you with war and the role of women in espionage roles based on actual people and events. Quinn effortlessly takes you from 1915 to 1947 as she recounts the story of one of the most successful spy rings called the Alice Network.

“She slipped her hand through Eve’s elbow. “Welcome to the Alice Network”.

Both stories are strongly told through riveting female leads and are shockingly confrontational in both honesty and vigour. The research is faultless as is the backdrop of the French countryside - whether you be in war torn Lille in 1915 or driving across the French countryside in 1947. Incredible female leads in both time periods, supported by an amazing cast of supporting characters. You will be shocked. You will be horrified. And your heart will break with all that unfolds. Given the strong factual base, Quinn is amazing in the life she brings to both fiction and non fictional characters. Seamlessly she takes you from events in 1915 as the suspense builds, to 1947 as you await to see just how this will all be played out. The way the chapters symmetrically reflect time and location is spellbinding.

“I wanted to say to the figure hunched in the backseat, I’m sorry - but words were just air, useless after a tale like that.”

I dare you not to be chained to your chair as your fate seems intrinsically linked to Charlie’s journey and growth in 1947 as she desperately searches for her cousin, to the slow revelations of Eve’s role in the Alice Network in 1915 - how the stories are linked is just too good to be true. Eve, so bitter and damaged, driven by revenge, is truly magnificent. An ‘Author’s Note’ clearly accounts for who and what occurred in real life and you will be truly surprised on just how much truth lay in this incredible tale. The story is fascinating and riveting as you learn of real life heroines who risked it all in a display of true strength and courage, Quinn going to great lengths to ensure their tale would not be forgotten.

“If I were a man you’d be calling me patriotic for wishing to continue in my duty to my country .... a woman wants the same thing and she’s suicidal”.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and commend Quinn in her thorough and rich portrayal of the sacrifices and injustices that war delivered to these people that were, ‘The Alice Network’.

“War. Such a small, hopeless syllable to cover so much loss”.

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