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.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

True Places by Sonja Yoerg

Title: True Places
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: 1st January 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 347 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: general fiction, womens fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 5 crowns

A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.
Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.
Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?
My Thoughts

‘She didn’t have to consult her phone to know there were countless other tasks waiting to occupy that time. That was, in fact, what time was: a narrow container for a relentless succession of tasks. The container could not be expanded, but the tasks could multiply exponentially.’

How happy am I that I picked this book up! Absolutely fantastic read from beginning to end. This was phenomenal storytelling that explored a range of contemporary issues faced in this modern world by many of us. As the title suggests, this is about finding your ‘True Place’ in this life, staying true (or having to rediscover) the real you.

‘I’ve spent weeks explaining this world to her: why we buy things, why we need so many choices, why we try to get so much money, why we never sit still, why we throw so much away. I hear myself explain all this—or try to—and I can’t believe how ridiculous I sound. Suzanne swallowed hard. She took a breath and spread her arms out wide. “I can’t believe this is me.’

This is a family drama which highlights this conflict of interest when pitted against the constant stream of materialism and superficial living that soaks into our systems from our modern day living. All it took was the foster care of a young teenager to throw into chaos what the family had thought to be their perfect life. It wasn’t and Sonja Yoerg highlights this tremendously well.

‘Once their kids had started school, it was more like jumping into a fast-flowing river. You didn’t choose. You swam to keep from drowning ... Suzanne was the first to admit she had no parenting philosophy she could articulate. There didn’t seem to be time for top-down thinking; it was a minor miracle to arrive at the close of the day without significant mishap, take a deep breath, down a glass of wine, and get ready to do it all over again the next day.’

There are a number of themes masterfully addressed and presented throughout this novel. Many you will relate to, some you may not but will undoubtedly appreciate: marriage and partner roles, family living, societal pressures, adolescent issues and most importantly how to reclaim and get back on track - if you can - to the essence of who you are as an individual. I found this to be an exceptionally well written book with both setting and character development at an all time high. For example as a mother, I wanted to confront the teenage daughter but then realised that her mother, Suzanne, needed to  progress along her own journey to arrive at that destination.

‘Suzanne was as busy as before but nevertheless now found time to enter rabbit holes of self-examination and worry. Perhaps it wasn’t time, per se, but being forced to evaluate her life in order to explain it, justify it to Iris .... For far too long she had been floating along in a sea of compromise, dammed up by walls of fear. If Iris could maintain her integrity in the face of overwhelming odds, so could she.’

The writing is sublime on so many levels. It takes a remarkable author to captivate a reader through language pertaining to a range of ages and situations. I highlighted so many passages that really struck a chord with me and made me ponder. Yoerg ties it all together so beautifully, really capturing the psyche of modern day family living with the behaviour and dynamics as seen through the eyes of each of the characters (still didn’t make me appreciate the painful daughter). Then there are the rich descriptions of the landscape - the fauna and botany that were subtle ingrained throughout as well.

This novel spoke to me in a number of ways and I raced through it in no time. Sonja Yoerg shines a wonderful spotlight through engaging prose on issues that speak to many of us. For haven’t we all, at some stage, been metaphorically lost and searched for our ‘true place’? I highly recommend this book as it will draw you and not let you go until the very last page.

‘You ought to be thanking her for showing us who we truly are .... Sometimes it takes a stranger to show you what should be obvious, how far you’ve drifted from who you want to be, from what’s right for you, your true place.’

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.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Last Days of The Romanov Dancers

Title:  The Last Days Of The Romanov Dancers
Author: Kerri Turner
Publisher: 21st January 2019 by Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns

Petrograd, 1914. A country on a knife edge. The story of two people caught in the middle - with everything to lose...
A stunning debut from a talented new Australian voice in historical fiction. Valentina Yershova's position in the Romanovs' Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks, relying not only on her talent but her alliances with influential men that grant them her body, but never her heart. Then Luka Zhirkov - the gifted son of a factory worker - joins the company, and suddenly everything she has built is put at risk.
For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfils a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As civil war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is torn between his growing connection to Valentina and his guilt for their lavish way of life.
For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other...

My Thoughts

The Last of the Romanov Dancers is the debut novel by Aussie author Kerri Turner and is a good combination of fact and fiction on a well versed topic but with a fresh twist. An intriguing historical venture into Russian ballet during the dying days of the Romanov rule.

This is a well researched book detailing lives - both real and fiction - during pre revolution Russia and branches across all levels of the social spectrum. Struggling with their involvement in WW2, the balance between the ‘have and have nots’ was coming into stark contrast in war torn Russia. Jealousy and hate at the forefront, as the lives of the royal family (with guest appearances by Rasputin) seemingly in sharp contrast to the ordinary Russian struggling to live on the street. With a focus on the Imperial Russian ballet - something the aristocracy thought would prove a worthy distraction to the war effort - all badly backfired and was held up as the ultimate symbol of everything they were fighting against.

‘He couldn’t stand to be there any more, with people who were so ready to ignore those who had already lost so much and were desperately trying to survive off less food than was left over on the silver plates they dined from. What was more, he needed to get away from them so he could try to convince himself that he wasn’t becoming one of them.’

This is where a fresh insight is provided for this well versed period in history as it is told through the eyes of the dancers. Kerri Turner (an obvious dancer herself) presents the world of ballet with everything from Swan Lake roles, to blistered feet from pointe shoes and the various ballet movements and technique. You are taken into the heart of the Imperial Russian ballet of the day where politics, deception and intrigue rule the way.

Throw into this mix of revolutionaries and ballerinas, two lovers caught in what would prove to be, a catastrophic crossfire, and you have a well rounded story.  At its core, however, this is a love story. Luka Zhirkov - a gifted dancer but from a proletariat background and Valentina Yershova who exchanges physical relationships with a ‘Protector’ in order to have influence in the ballet company. This is perhaps the slight downfall of the novel, as undoubtedly one can hazard an accurate guess of how this story will play out and the ultimate conclusion it will arrive at.

Still, I recommend this for lovers of historical fiction, particularly for the fresh perspective it brings to this revolutionary state with the interesting cultural aspect of Russian ballet.

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