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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Memories That Make Us

Title: The Memories That Make Us
Author: Vanessa Carnevale
Publisher: 19 February 2018 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 5 crowns


Gracie Ashcroft is supposed to marry Blake Beaumont in three months’ time. The trouble is, she doesn’t know who he is…

After an accident leaves Gracie with severe amnesia, she’s forced to decide: live a life that is made up of other people’s memories of who she was, or start a new life on her own. Leaving her fiancé Blake behind, she moves to the country where she takes on the task of reviving her family’s abandoned flower farm.

While attempting to restart a business with an uncertain future, she tries to come to terms with the grief of losing a mother she can’t remember and a fiancé she so badly wants to fall in love with again. What she doesn’t count on is developing a deep connection with Flynn, a local vet. Worst of all is having to confront the fact that she might lose either chance at love.

Forced to examine the person she has become, Gracie confronts the question: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?

My Thoughts

I read Vanessa’s first book, ‘The Florentine Bridge’ (review HERE) and loved it - would her second novel be equally as compelling? Let me just say, I have only now come up for air - finished it in a day - beautifully compelling, I could not put it down. What not to love - the delectable cover, my home state setting (love Daylesford), the storytelling and the twist - yup, this is one special book to lose yourself in for a weekend.

‘Somehow, even if not by choice, you’ve been given a clean slate, a way to create a life you want that’s free from all the baggage and the drama that most people spend their whole lives trying to escape.’

Where to start? Well, how about at the beginning. What’s this book really all about, the blurb states it outright: ‘if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?’ So very interesting and Gracie’s story here really gets you thinking what would you have done if in her shoes? Written in the first person throughout, you are totally aligned with all Gracie is going through with her amnesia. I love her decision to remove herself to her late mother’s flower farm for perspective and reflection.

‘I don’t want to be told stories about how things were and what I felt. I want to know it and feel it myself. Otherwise, how am I going to know if what I feel is real?’

Secondly, I have to make note of the setting - a small country town, Daylesford, in my home state of Victoria (Australia). This is a beautiful part of the world and Vanessa really captures everything about it - from the main street, to the local pub to the past glory of her mother’s flower farm. An area full of natural beauty and on this occasion, the perfect setting for all the reflection and memories that were to unfold. Next, let’s talk about flowers - my gosh! Has Vanessa done her homework here and how interesting is it! Without being overly burdened with facts, you are provided with an honest introduction to many things involved with not only flower farming but also individual flower meaning and significance (I loved the character of Tilly!)

Finally the characters - both primary and secondary - are so well thought out. You feel for Gracie and what her obvious frustrations must be. You understand her best friend Scarlett trying so hard to help remind her of all she once was. Even the likes of Charlie and his wife Maggie (suffering alzheimer's) have their part to play. Then there is the romance and Flynn ... sigh ... no words - just read the book.

‘But isn’t it our past that shapes our future?’
‘To a degree …’
‘Exactly,’ I say. ‘It’s our memories that make us who we are.’

This is just a really beautifully told story full of heartbreak, fear and ultimately, trying to discover who one really is, especially when all seems lost. I feel like I have been on a real emotional journey and that is just how one wants to walk away from a book of this nature. Considering, just how much does our past shape our future? Or ....

‘Maybe what matters is simply how I feel about you all, now.’

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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Phantom's Apprentice by Heather Webb

Title: The Phantom’s Apprentice
Author: Heather Webb
Publisher: 6th February 2018 by Sonnet Press
Pages: 350 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: mystery, retellings, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.
My Thoughts

Let me start by saying ... I love ALL things Phantom Of The Opera - books, musicals, score, movie - you name it! I feel it in my bones and know every word of every song. So of course I immediately had to read this book and can glady state that Heather Webb has presented a fabulous take on this much loved classic.

‘What had happened to the poor man to make him hate everyone—and himself—so much?’

In this version Christine is an illusionist as well as an opera singer and the Phantom is someone with whom she may have crossed paths in the past (not to give away any spoilers). So be warned - this is not the romantic love story we all know and love - this is a completely new and satisfying approach.

The tale may start out a little slowly but once Christine joins the Paris Opera Company, the pace certainly increases. I also very much appreciated the authentic detail Webb went to in presenting the magic and illusions - it was new and fitted in very well with the theme - I mean the Phantom was the Master of illusions! Learning more about this Phantom’s back story is also new and well presented. I liked it.

I really enjoyed this book! Heather Webb does a fine job of paying respect to the original whilst simultaneously delivering new and creative reimagining on certain plots within the overall tale. It was refreshing to learn of things solely from Christine’s viewpoint and have her character demonstrating so much more strength and independence.

‘This ghost would show himself—now—and explain his motives! If he didn’t, I would expose him to the directors. The charade was over, like it or not.’

Full of magic and atmosphere, rich in historical detail, with a fresh but still reassuringly comforting enough retelling for avid fans, you will quickly turn the pages of this suspense filled tale. Enchanting, delightful and thoroughly engaging for both original devotee’s and newcomers alike.

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