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.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Suitcase of Dreams by Tania Blanchard

Title: Suitcase of Dreams
Author: Tania Blanchard
Publisher: 1st November 2018 by Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns


Synopsis:
From the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich, a sweeping, dramatic tale of love and identity, inspired by a true story.
After enduring the horror of Nazi Germany and the chaos of postwar occupation, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope for a new life. It’s a land of opportunity, where Lotte and her husband Erich dream of giving their children the future they have always wanted.
After years of struggling to find their feet as New Australians, Erich turns his skill as a wood carver into a successful business and Lotte makes a career out of her lifelong passion, photography. The sacrifices they have made finally seem worth it until Erich’s role in the trade union movement threatens to have him branded a communist and endanger their family. Then darker shadows of the past reach out to them from Germany, a world and a lifetime away.
As the Vietnam War looms, an unexpected visitor forces Lotte to a turning point. Her decision will change her life forever . . . and will finally show her the true meaning of home.
My Thoughts

‘I didn’t even know why we were here. It wasn’t like we were wanted when there’d been nothing but disregard, disrespect and lies since our arrival.’

Tania Blanchard wrote a tremendous debut, ‘The Girl from Munich’ (HERE) and therefore I was most excited to read her follow up story of Lotte and Erich. Once again, this proved easy to read with that familiar  mix of fiction and nonfiction, that this time, will have you disembarking on Australian shores during the years of post war migration.

After surviving the horrors of Nazi Germany, Lotte and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope to make a fresh start. After all, Australia had been presented as the ‘land of opportunity’ and they had been promised so much. This was their opportunity to give their children the future they had only ever dreamed of.

‘Look at us! We’re no better off. All the broken promises, the broken dreams.’

Once more Blanchard bases her tale on the true story of her grandparents as we follow them from their initial start at the Bonegilla migrant camp up until the time they finally are in a position to get their own house and land, ‘the all Australian dream’. It is no easy journey and Tania will shine the light on the many hardships migrants had to face at this time - everything from the language barrier to being taken advantage of in the workplace.

I loved spending time with Lotte and Erich once more, their love is so special and their life was not easy. There is a wonderful cast of characters and settings, especially their love of the Australian bush. I did not find this book to be as strong as the first. Admittedly it was difficult as the time frame was that much larger, around twenty years. This had an impact towards the end when there were jumps in time that interrupted the flow of events. I also found that some events e.g. unionism, Vietnam war etc, we were given rather large information dumps that I could have done without and certain plot twists that, although served a purpose, did not sit comfortably with me.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this book and I’m grateful that Tania gave us the second part to Lotte and Erich’s story, no matter  how heartbreaking it might prove to be. This is a window into an important episode of Australian history - the social, political and cultural ethos, that was Australia at that time.

‘All my hopes and dreams were dashed but what I said was true. What mattered was having those we loved close to us. That much I had learnt.’




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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Witches of St Petersburg

Title:  The Witches of St. Petersburg
Author: Imogen Edwards-Jones
Publisher: 25th October 2018 by Head of Zeus
Pages: 206 (400+)pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 2.5 crowns

Synopsis:

Two Montenegrin princesses, Militza and Stana, are married into the Russian aristocracy of the last Tsar by their father. Initially shunned by society and, in Stana's case, married to a man she detests, life isn't easy.

Fascinated by the occult, the sisters soon become close to the Tsarina Alexandra who is willing to try anything to precipitate the birth of the son and heir the country longs for. If she puts her faith in them, Militza and Stana promise they can help the Tsarina produce a boy.

The girls hold seances, experiment with a variety of rituals and bring various men to the Tsarina who they feel have spiritual power. Their closeness to the Empress and power in court is undisputed: until, that is, Grigori Rasputin arrives. Militza and Stana, along with most of female Russian society, are intoxicated, but by bringing Rasputin into their lives, have they taken a fatal step too far?

My Thoughts

This is a really difficult book to review - so much potential but it did not really deliver. Delving into a little bit of everything, yet ending up just going round in circles. I also seriously question the ebook page tally of 206 - try doubling that at least. It adopts two main themes, Russian court drama combined with the supernatural - but it never really hits the mark.

It is a deceptively large (remember the questionable page tally) read with a vast array of characters (listed in the beginning) all pertaining to the dying days of the Romanov family rule in Russia. The author has most certainly done her research as she details the shallowness of the Russian aristocracy. The many characters provide a great insight into the cut throat life at court. If the tales here provide any indication, it is no wonder a revolution ensued.

‘There was distinctly more than a whiff of revolution in the air. It was a stench. Like the smell of smoke before a fire, people could sense it coming.’

Secondly, the book deals with a lot of supernatural themes. A lot. It’s so overt that some readers are bound to be put off with explicit sordid details. Once more, the author does not feign the details of character traits, sexual activities or occult outcomes. Dark or black magic is certainly at play here. I love reading about the Romanov’s but found their portrayal here sad, said to be driven by drugs and the influence of Rasputin.

‘But I am the reason Rasputin is not here!’ ‘To hell with him!’ ‘He’s the only one who can help.’ ‘You don’t really believe that! You’re much more powerful than him. You made him!’

There is such potential, but it is never fully realised in this opulent tale. It’s a strange read - really strange. The pace was slow which does not bode well for a large book and the repetition of the sisters attempts to influence the royal family become boring. Conceptually there is most definitely a story, but in fruition it failed to deliver. Without doubt, the author is most passionate and well informed with a plethora of facts and details from this period. So if the final days of a dying dynasty appeal to you then this window into Russian court life is the book for you.

‘No wonder my family are haunted by death, no wonder they hide in their palaces, fearful of assassination. No wonder they cower when they’ve been hunted and shot like dogs over and over again, for centuries.’




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