WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words 📚 It is a book tag to broaden the reading community and help connect avid readers!

All you have to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

CR: ‘The Shearer’s Wife’ by Fleur McDonald jumped to the beginning of my reading pile because I had the pleasure of actually MEETING Fleur this past weekend at my local library. To say Fleur is one of the most down to earth, humble and kind authors is an understatement. I’m looking forward to finishing this book tonight.

RF: ‘Daisy Darker’ by Alice Feeney was the perfect spooky Halloween crime fiction read. I actually listened to this book on audio, making it all the more erry and addictive. Review coming this week 🎙👀👻

RN: ‘Tilt’ by Chris Hammer is next on the list … still. He’s getting closer to being read … I swear 🤣

What’s everyone reading at the moment? Are you enjoying it? Comment below 🎙

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words 📚 It is a book tag to broaden the reading community and help connect avid readers!

All you have to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

CR: – Still Life by Sarah Winman — This is our Literary Lovers book club pick for November and I’m really excited to be deep diving into Florence, Italy and at the time of the WWI. I love historical fiction but haven’t picked one up in a while. All that mood reading has not had me reaching for one, however Still Life is calling to me. Keep you posted.

RF: Marriage for One by Ella Maise *full review here* — Just YES! Read this romance book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (4.5/5)

RN: The Tilt by Chris Hammer — An Australia crime fiction that has been one of our top sellers in the bookstore this month. I really enjoyed Scrublands by Hammer so look forward to giving this one a go. I know it is set around the Murray River area and is a generational mystery.

What’s everyone reading at the moment? Are you enjoying it? Comment below 🎙

Book Review: ‘Marriage For One’ by Ella Maise

Do you want romantic angst? ✅

Do you want a NYC cafe setting? ✅

Do you love reading about broody incessant fictional males that are hard core romantics and not at all like real men ✅ (we can always hope)

Marriage For One by Ella Maise was recently picked up and her four romance novels recovered by Pip Watkins and Simon & Schuster UK. And man, have they found a whip smart novelist!

A fellow book store regular recommended this to me on Wednesday and from the get go, I was hooked. She said she instantly fell in love with Jack and Rose’s story. Also mentioning that this was her favourite Ella Maise book she’s read thus far. Tick, tick, tick from me.

Rose and Jack are complete strangers, or so Rose thinks. She’s currently going through hell trying to navigate her Uncle’s Estate and Will, in which Rose’s is surprised to find a hidden clause. Her Uncle states that her husband will inherit a very profitable but empty building that she had all intentions of renovating into a cafe. However, the husband label hasn’t gone quite to plan in Rose’s life. Her ex-fiance dumped her over text (very sus, more on that when you read the book), her money hungry cousins are out to get any inheritance Rose is left with and squash her cafe dreams, and NOW, she has some grumpy, non-smiling lawyer guy proposing to her?!

Jack Hawthorne was not about to sit aside and let Rose lose everything she’d dreamed of, or be taken advantage of. Meeting Rose a year before, Jack had admired her from afar. Jack is one of the lawyers that closely worked with Rose’s Uncle, therefore he was aware of the current complications with the Will. Jack founded a secret and permanent idea. He would marry Rose out of convenience. He would be her husband. He would then inherit the empty building. Rose could open her dream store. No complications – a simple marriage for one. All Jack asks in return is for her to attend dinners, charity events and closing deals as his wife, giving the image of a ‘family man’ lawyer. He insisted this was good for his branding but there may or may not have been some secrets swirling around …

Shocked by the proposal and in disbelief, Rose finds her life changing immediately. Next thing we know, Jack and Rose are moving to together as a ‘married couple’ to his apartment. Rose is working day and night to finish painting, planning and baking for the cafe … with Jack’s surprisingly quiet and brooding help. They’re going to business dinners where Jack is unexpectedly quite good at laying on the PDA and passing them as a very happy newlywed couple. In private however, Rose is struggling to have any kind of get-to-know-you conversations with Jack as he resists her closeness. I liked hearing from his perspective every so often because it allowed us as the reader to see that he was trying his best to give her space and grow to like him on her own terms. Rose was slowly getting used to his frowning, gruff non verbal responses and blunt stares when her health takes a turn.

You won’t find any spoilers here book friends BUT I will say, Jack came through with the goods as a fake husband and a real one 😉 I really liked the growth of their relationship and their humour. I liked the ever present romantic tension and do-they-don’t-they feelings. I didn’t feel like Jack was written as a coercive male figure in the relationship which was a real possibility due to the circumstances of the plot, however Ella Maise pulled it off. Some readers may disagree with me on this but hey, this is romantic fiction. We know what we’re going here to read.

Finishing this book in 48 hours, on little sleep and feelings of happiness about finding a book to devour – I gave Marriage For One ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars!

Books I attempted to finish in October …

Look … I know book friends, here we are again … We’re at the strung together list of Mel’s books she has yet again, not finished this month BUT hey, glass half full – am I right?

See previous update for reference.

At the beginning of October, I was still feeling the non-fiction vibes. To be honest, I’m even still feeling them now and I think after investing 😉 some personal time in an educational session on finances last night … I may pick up a money and investing book quite soon! I know – who am I?! Somebody get this reader back in line!

I digress, I did try a fantasy novels in October and it just wasn’t to my tasting at the moment. Rivers of London wasn’t bad or poorly written (in fact it was quite entertaining and humorous), just my mood reading again flicking on and off light a dance floor strobe light.

A literary fiction is in there to smooth out the palate and I’m needing to have a bit more of this done by next week when I meet the author in store, EKK! Her Death Was Also Water is great though, so I’m excited.

One Aussie YA in the mix as well, and this, I will definitely be going back to as it’s been on my radar for months. We were privileged enough to have the publishers generously send us a finalised copy for pure bookseller enjoyment. Thanks Text Publishing – you’re the bomb.com!

Let’s see what you’ve got November!

Book Review: ‘The Space Between’ by Michelle Andrews & Zara McDonald

Do you ever wonder if what you’re doing at this point in your life is right? Here’s an example;

You’re in your twenties and society tells you that this is the time to be SLIVVVING! You should be out every weekend, but still have the money to keep up with the latest trends. You should be loving the idea and options of going on different dates with different people, but so many others around your age are married with kids. You should be travelling overseas, but hold down a successful career at the same time.

There are so many implied expectations of your 20’s about who you are, what you want and what you have so far in life. But the reality is, NOBODY knows what the heck they’re doing. Hell, our brains only fully develop and construct into what health expects call ‘adults’ at 25. So that space between, yeah that, what are we supposed to do with that time.

Creators of the super successful Aussie podcast Shameless, Michelle & Zara, share their honest thoughts, opinions and experiences in this book. I finished this book in a matter of a week because right now, it resonates with me strongly, and I have a good feeling it will/does with a lot of people after that scary pandemic thing, unemployment and finance rates rising … gahh adulthood. How is a young person supposed to flash their newest pair of exercise leggings and not have to have eaten tinned tuna for a week these days?!

Admittedly, I have not listened to a lot of the Shameless pod. I was introduced to them not that long ago by one of my besties and have found myself hooked ever since. I try to listen to one of their episodes every week and I encourage you to do the same. Sometimes they talk gossip, sometimes they talk relationships, sometimes they talk health and then once a month, they do book club! It’s great. So onto the book Mel, tell us about it. Okay, so it is split into 4 parts; Love; Ambition; Mind and Body; & Voice. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite because all of them used both Zara and Michelle’s personal experiences to bring home an idea. And I must say, near all of their experiences are relatable.

Love covers the fantastic aspects of being single, like; going on however many dates you please; a night out is always full of exciting opportunities to meet someone new; watching a whole tv series to yourself and not feeling guilty having to wait for someone else before hitting resume; and not having to share your precious bed, chocolate stash, dinner meal or time, with someone else. It also covers being the breaker of hearts and the receiver of broken hearts, in both romantic and friend relationships. The benefits and bamboozling implications of situation-ships. The space between family and their beliefs.

Ambition covers finishing uni and how terrifying going out into the big wide world is. It covers the space between our expectations of a career and what our life after having a 4,5,6,7 year uni degree in our back pocket actually means to our quality of life and happiness. In the ambition section, Mich and Zara cover their huge pivot of working for one of Australia’s top female lead media and journalism companies, to risking it all to start their own podcast. For them, if you read this book and find out, it was a matter of mental survival, professional growth and a touch of ‘What the heck are we thinking, are we crazy, will this even work?!’. The answer is yes, and they’re still taking the podcasting world by storm to this day. They encourage you to trust your gut, work hard for the times when you have that sparking feeling of hey, this could actually be something truely magical. They talk success and sacrifice. They talk unequal pay gaps and appropriate workplace treatment. They talk openly about mental health, anxiety and work-life balance. It’s relatable, raw and fantastic. (… okay maybe this was my favourite section …)

Mind & Body covers, you guessed it, all things mind and body. A checklist is included to help you differentiate if you have in-fact matured beyond the point of pasta for dinner every night ‘semi-adult’ or full blown, I have a grocery list and do not wander outside of its bounds ‘adulthood’. Mich and Zara talk about sex and the uncomfortableness that can be female pleasure. They talk anxiety and what that looks like for some people who lead a day-to-day, busy and bustling life but still cope in the face of adversity and crippling mental illness. They talk fertility, endometriosis and personal experiences with family planning. One of my favourite parts of this section was their discussion on influence – it literally made me jump on my instagram and unfollow any, and all of the female and male ‘influencers’ that felt, to me, that they were not teaching me anything. They were not bringing anything new and positive into my brain. That’s not to say I went and followed all of these inspo quote type of pages – no. I followed people like Julia Gillard and Malala Yousafzai, AND Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald.

Voice covers the big things that we believe can’t be coffee table discussions or casual chats over a glass of wine (but in actual fact is totally acceptable) – and that is empowerment. Empowerment to tell a bloke when he’s taken a joke too far. Empowerment to disagree with someone even when you know they will challenge you and believe you wrong. Empowerment to say “No thanks” to another vodka soda when you know you’d rather spend your Sunday going for a walk, cleaning your house, Facetiming a friend, working on your side hustle or grabbing a coffee – instead of lying in bed all day hungover. Empowerment to stand up for your workplace rights. Empowerment on YOUR autonomy and allowing you to lead your own life. You’re a strong woman, you can make the right choices for you.

If you’ve read this book review to the end, I hope you can feel through my words just how passionate this book made me feel. It helped me and if you pick it up because you’re feeling a little lost and hopeless – don’t worry, it’s got you xx

‘The Space Between’ by Michelle Andrews & Zara McDonald

“Who has time amidst all this CHAOS?”

Moria Rose from Schitt’s Creek has been my vibe for the past month!

I have been MIA on the blog as my personal life, job and health have all been quite demanding and well … chaotic. There is no other way to describe the tasks, events and feelings of the past month that was September.

Within the bookstore we have seen a number of fantastic authors walk through our doors (and many more to come), we’ve seen unexpected pivots and I, personally, have been growing my managerial skills in leaps and bounds due to unexpected circumstances. This is positive growth for me but it does not come without exhaustion and in turn, rest.

However, we’re on the rise book friends and the future is looking bright! I am officially rostering in some reading, reviewing, friends, family and wholesome time. I’m scheduled to leave the chaos behind for a little while and just find the things I love most again.

I’ve attempted to read a number of books this month but I’ve shuffled of the bandwagon and leapt into 10 hour sleeps instead #whoops. Here’s the half September wrap:

📖 The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

📖 The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

📖 Electric and Mad and Brace by Tom Pitts

📖 The Opal Miner’s Daughter by Fiona McArthur

📖 The Vet from Snowy River by Stella Quinn

📖 Her Death Was Also Water by Allen C. Jones

I need to preface that NONE of these book are BAD! As you can see this month I’ve bounced around from historical fiction, to romance, to literature, to rural romance and back to literature again. My brain had no idea what it wanted to read, and you know what, that’s okay! Because now I have 5 fantastic books that are a quarter of the way read that I can just pick up and keep going at any time – glass half full right? 🤣

Happy weekend to you all and I hope you take the time, as I am, to leave the chaos behind … even just for 24 hours. Mel xx

Author Talks with Meg Gatland-Veness

Meg Gatland-Veness 📸 by Dane Howell via Pantera Press

Meg Gatland-Veness is a powerhouse of a modern woman. She not only inspires and teaches children in her day to day life, but she also produces works of fiction, targeted to youth and inquisitive adults, that have such feeling, motivation and passion. Meg is the author of two published novels, ‘I Had Such Friends’ & ‘When Only One’.

Welcome Meg, to Mel Reviews Her Books 🌸🎙

Meg, I’ve found the experience of reading your novel extremely compelling, funny and moving. At what point did you decide to write such a prevalent, timely and frightening topic in an Australian setting? 

When I teach creative writing to my students I give them two pieces of advice. One, write what you know and two, write about the things that make you mad. And When Only One is a combination of these two things for me. My novels are all set in an Australian context because it is where I live and where I grew up and I think we need more fiction, especially YA fiction, set in Australia, especially regional and rural Australia. And secondly, it makes me so mad that in places like America, someone can buy a gun, take it into a school and shoot a bunch of children. And maybe that sort of thing doesn’t happen in Australia, but violence still does, every single day. Women are killed by their husbands, children are abused by the people who are supposed to protect them and teenagers are still taking their own lives. So, I’m not under the misconception that this novel will end violence, but if even one person who picks up this book thinks twice before enacting violence on another human being, then it will have been worth it.

How did you take care of yourself while writing on such a topic?

I actually wrote this book during lockdown, which I know was a tough time for a lot of people, but I actually really enjoyed it! I went for walks or kayaks everyday, I spent a lot of time with my partner and my three cats, I read lots of books, I got really into gardening. So, I was in a really good place mentally while I was writing the novel which helped a lot, I was able to do some writing in the morning and then spend the afternoon in the garden or out on the water.

Seeing Australian teenage life through Samson’s eyes was a perfect, well-rounded perspective. What was it about Samson that made him stand out as your main voice and lens? When did he come to you?

My first draft pages of the book were actually from the point of view of a third person omniscient narrator, but it wasn’t personal enough and it was too removed from the tragedy, so I rewrote from Sam’s perspective. I think one of the nice things about Sam as a narrator is that he is such an optimist and even though a lot of terrible things happen during the novel, his positive outlook on life helps to make the future not seem so bleak. I also wanted to buck that typical Aussie, surfer stereotype by making him quite sensitive and empathetic. Sam is a very loving person, he really cares deeply about his family and friends which I think is also something that is important to show some of our male readers that it’s okay to show affection.

Samson’s relationship with Emily is brotherly, deeply emotional, loving and romantic in ways. Did you always plan and foresee the events that would happen in Emily’s life, or did they unfold as your writing progressed? 

The first idea I had for this story was the relationship between Sam and Emily, before there was ever a school shooting or anything else. The very first scene I wrote was Emily and Sam at the front door handing over the shoe to Emily’s mother and the idea of them making paper boats to send down the gutters was another initial idea I had. Emily was always going to come from a family that was struggling to keep things together and Sam was always going to be the opposite, having a classic loving family, loads of brothers running around, a mother who cooks all his meals and washes his clothes and a father who works hard to pay the bills. Their relationship is really at the heart of this novel and everything else that happens is grounded by them.

What’s next on your agenda Meg? You’re an accomplished writer, dedicated high school drama teacher, and a woman who holds a large passion for advocating and creating topical conversations about the adversities faced by young Australians. Where can you see this all leading you?

Well, When Only One and I Had Such Friends are actually just two books in a set of ten that I plan to write in the same universe which span from about 1965 to 2018. I am currently working on another novel set in between the first two, but there are lots more that I have planned out as well. I also want to learn to sail!

Thank you Meg for your time, thoughts and responses on the blog! I look forward to seeing the next novel 😊💫🌸

‘Go Your Own Speed’

The past few weeks haven’t been the highest in my life, but I think one of the core thoughts that got me through was “go your own speed”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard. Physical health, mental health and emotional health are all factors in a persons life that are not fixable overnight – well, at least for me they never have been.

I am incredibly grateful to live in a world, an environment and surrounded by spectacular people who support me in going at my own speed and allowing me to lean on them.

So today my book friends, I encourage you to also go at your own speed, don’t rush because if we do, somethings we miss all the little achievements in between and along the way xx

Book Review: ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell

My, oh my, oh my! Now you all know how much I ADORED and have RAVED about ‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent (CLICK HERE to read my review). If you have met me in the bookstore, I can guarantee I have put any and all of Hannah Kent’s books in your hands. For me to say that THIS BOOK – ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell, comes in as a close contender as one of my favourite books of 2022 is big. It’s BIG people!

‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell is well paced novel curated to intrigue and explore the devastatingly controlled life of Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. By the age of 15 she was married to a Duke for the purposes of political and land gain. By 16 she was dead.

Set in the mid 1500’s, our opening scene introduces us to Lucrezia and her husband Alfonzo, as they dine for the very last time together before he supposedly, *as history believes* poisons her. This scene is chilling as we’re in the mind of a 16 year old girl who is contemplating what her life has come to and what to expect will come next. We then flash back in time to Lucrezia’s birth and the disconnected relationship she has growing up within her Medici family.

Lucrezia is the somewhat middle child Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Eleanor of Toledo. If you know your Italian history, you’d know that the Medici lineage is one of the most infamous and long ruling families/Italian royalty. The marriage of Cosimo and Eleanor was a loving one, yet Eleanor’s expression of love towards Lucrezia was never the same compared to her other children.

Lucrezia had a milk mother (or wet nurse as the role is more commonly known), of whom was lower class. Lucrezia’s early life was spent in the cook room, playing with her milk mother’s daughter and not learning the skills of her royal family. This resulted in her being somewhat of an outcast with her siblings and also when it came to linear education. Her art was how she expressed herself from a very young age and it followed throughout her short life. She also has an unusually calm connection to animals.

Lucé’s connection to animals comes to the forefront of the novel when there is a piercing scene with herself, her siblings and her father, Cosimo. It was hard to remove this picture from my mind throughout the rest of the story. Maggie O’Farrell brings so much truth to Lucé’s story and it was actually rumoured that in real life, Cosmio held a collection of exotic animals in the basement of the Palazzo Vecchio. The fictional scene follows Lucrezia as she witnesses the arrival of a new animal, a tiger. She is possessed by its beauty, power and its inability to fit in with the other animals. She feel connection and comfort with this animal. They speak the same emotional and mental language. As she falls behind the group, she reached her hand in the tiger’s cage and awaits its presence. Slowly, the animal comes to her and connecting with her hand is the animals fur. It sees Lucé, it feels her, it knows her. They are two creatures but their feelings are that of one. Her Father, terrified to turn and see this animal near his daughter, seeks to destroy the animal immediately. This is ultimately a turning point in the novel.

I believe this pivotal scene mimics Lucé’s future courtship and marriage with Alfonso. He sees her as beautiful, powerful and caged. He takes advantage of this young, innocent and disconnected creature. His pure use for her is to produce heirs, yet down the line we learn that this is something that does not come easily for him.

I was seized by this story immediately and I believe you will be too. I wanted to learn about how this young girl had experienced a life completely out of her control. The 1500’s time period is one I have not explored a great deal before and Italian history is always something I will jump to read considering my own heritage. I am now adding all of Maggie O’Farrell’s books to my TBR because her writing was just spectacular. I don’t think any other author I’ve read before has made me feel the way she has. Perhaps Hannah Kent would truly be the closest. The ending of this novel was also the perfect way to close the fictional story of the beautiful Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. I am still thinking of this novel months after reading a prerelease copy – I am glad to finally place it in book lovers hands this September.

Lucé’s love for art is her saviour at different times throughout the novel. Yet, when it comes to her famous marriage portrait arranged by Alfonso, she is taken with how the different forms of art can depict a scene or moment of a person. Her own portrait is created by a collection of specialsed artists, one of whom is selective mute – or so we think. His name is Jacopo. Jacopo will go on to play an important role in Lucé life, whether that be fictional or true – I do not know.

💫 Mini Review 💫

‘The It Girl’ by Ruth Ware

This was a quick read, with cliff hangers at the end of every chapter. The chapters themselves were also short and immersive which I really enjoyed. I would highly recommend for those who have enjoyed ‘Behind Her Eyes’ and ‘Pieces of Her’ on Netflix 📺💥🌪

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah met at Oxford. She was decked out in her luxury branded clothing, exclusive haircut and performative posture. She had a particular air about her, as some may say. April is clearly the kind of girl that makes herself known. She’s the ‘it girl’.

Hannah and April are in shared uni accommodation, therefore they begin to learn the ins and outs of each other’s life. Their friendship is magnetic, twisted and dangerous. April is a dominant personality, not only within their immediate friendship, but also within their outer circle of friends, with lecturers and classmates. This power allows her to manipulate those around her for the benefit of her own desires. April likes to plays pranks on her friends to induce the feeling of confusion and control. Her pranks initially start as a way of getting back at someone for not complimenting her – but her tactics, twists and stories start becoming expert level. They’re cruel and calculated, almost like she’s a whole other person.

Then it all goes wrong. 

On the closing night of April’s theatre performance on Oxford campus, she is all glamour and shine. Until Hannah discovers April’s body in her room later on that night. April is dead … or so Hannah thinks. April has been murdered … or so Hannah thinks. 

Fast forward to the present and we have Hannah happily married to April’s then boyfriend, Will. They are expecting their first child. Hannah and Will escaped to Scotland to free themselves of the ongoing press, court case and mystery motive surrounding April’s death. The trauma causes Hannah a lot of grief, especially with her being one of the focal witnesses in the ‘so-called’ attack.

We see Hannah start to retrace her memory on the lead up, and on the night of April’s death due to the ‘convicted’ murderer presently dying in prison. Hannah starts to remember and piece together the how’s, when’s and why’s of her friendship with April. She also begins to dig deeper into her repressed memories, which then leads to the questioning of her closest and most trustworthy friends at the time of their living at Oxford. Was someone close to Hannah more involved with April than she ever knew? Was someone out to get April? Who is in danger? Is April alive?