‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller

How do I tell you generous reader, how much I’ve loved a book without telling you EVERYTHING about this book and giving away spoilers … keep reading to find out I suppose 🤣

Favourite passage: Pg. 6 “… While the doctor is inside me, he cuts off an ovary, careless, rushing to carve the death out of life. this, too, I will not learn for many years. When I do, my mother cries for me for the second time. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I should have made him be more careful …” – as if she’d had the power to change my fate, but chosen not to use it.

Later I lie in a hospital cot, arms tied down at my sides. I scream, cry, alive, livid with rage at this injustice. They will not let my mother feed me. Her milk dries up. Almost a week passes before they free my hands from their shackles. “You were always such a happy baby”, my father says. “Afterward,” my mother says, “you never stopped screaming.”

Favourite character: Wallace, Elle’s Mother

I devoured ‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller in less than 24 hours! I am not joking when I say the pacing of this book being on point, the character development and historical exposure was just right and the story had me captivated from chapter one. Our opening scene is Elle, our main character, waking up at the paper palace – her maternal families beach side cabins in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The setting throughout this novel is very ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. If you liked Crawdads, think of this books as an instant buy – you will enjoy it just as much. Here is me giving you approval to go and buy ‘The Paper Palace’ right now!!

These beach side cabins have great significance to Elle, as it is the place she first experienced love and love lost, a horrific sexual assault and predatory behaviour from a family member, family breakdowns, isolation and death. All of these experiences we dissect as the story unfolds, and it is told through the structure of flashbacks – moving from past to present.

At some points of the book, we go right back and learn about Elle’s family on a generational scale. This gives us positionally and understanding for how Elle loves, her thought process’ and behaviours – most significantly within her marriage to Peter and decisions about Jonas. We learn about her grandmother’s marital and family home decisions, and how this has affected her mother’s childhood and behaviours. We then move onto her mother’s story and learn how sexual relationships, experiences and assault have impacted her relationships, marriages, mothering abilities and connection to her daughters. This brings Elle into the picture. When we move in the present, we are learning about Elle’s marriage to Peter and her lost love (or resurrected love) with Jonas. The flashbacks with Jonas were some of my favourites and seeing the two characters grow together was very captivating. We delve in bits and pieces into Elle’s father and his marital decisions – the divorce with Elle’s mother, his remarriage and what Elle’s relationship is like with him now. All of these peoples’ stories are giving meaning and understanding of why Elle is facing her uncertainties of love and marriage in the present.

If you look into this novel deep enough, it really is focusing on the impacts of generational trauma. That being; physical and sexual assault, marital breakdowns and the impact on children, emotional attachment as a child, blended families, secrets and their longterm impacts, as well as neglect. Maybe it is the Social Work part of my brain that appreciated the rawness of the writing and grit behind Elle’s mother, in particular her self-centred behaviour. I could see why Elle and her mother’s actions were justified.

Nevertheless, Elle’s marriage with Peter is challenging and beautiful, like most. But her love for Jonas is stemmed from first love, passion and longing. Even the ending leaves you uncertain of who she chose. This was my Literature Lovers book club pick for March and we had a wonderful meeting discussing every members thoughts, feelings and final conclusions on ‘The Paper Palace’. Overall, this book was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) for me. I could not put it down, nor would I stop raving about it to one of my lovely colleagues who gifted me the copy. She knew how much I’d love it and for that, I am very grateful xx

The Monthly Wrap: February

February has been a quiet little reading month for me. February is my birthday month and this year I took myself on a holiday which involved lots of beach reading, coffee, walking and beautiful catch-up’s with long time friends.

I started my month by continuing Impossible by Sarah Lotz. I was and am still throughly enjoying this book and I’d like to see where it ends. If I were comparing this romance book to say ‘The Spanish Love Deception’, it does not read as quickly nor have it in your grasp as suddenly. I want to see where Bee and Nick’s story will end in the month of March.

I picked up my Literary Lovers book club book, ‘Infinite Country’ by Patricia Engel in the mean time. Now this is only a small book of 191 pages, but it really does cover a broad scope of life as a Colombian person seeking refugee in America. The multi-perspective narrating really threw me to begin with and I actually had to start the book over at about 25 pages. I just felt I hadn’t fully grasped the characters and their experiences. We learn about Talia, who is an incredibly resilient adolescent escaping a correctional facility in the Colombian mountains. A passage in the book that stood out to me and that I think perfectly describes Talia’s life is; “The impulse to hurt Horacio (the man she attacked to wind up in the correctional facility) must have come from somewhere, they agreed, but Tahlia was exemplary at home and school. Her record undeniably clean. They ran down the list of traumas. Rape. Abuse. Neglect. Displacement from the armed conflict. Orphaning. None applied to Talia. She told them her mother was abroad and sent her back to Colombia when she was a baby. But this particular family condition was so common it couldn’t possibly be considered trauma.”. A large portion of the book is about learning her parents story of resettlement, financial challenges, exposure to violence and how they came to be living between America and Colombia – growing a family in separated circumstances. I found this book interesting but it didn’t stand out to me greatly.

Thennn … I went on holidays to the beach!! Wooo!! And I needed an easy romantic fiction again 😊 I purchased a copy of ‘The Unhoneymooners’ by Christina Lauren before I left, and let me tell you I was so glad I brought it along! I loved it! When all of the guests at Olive’s twin sister Ami’s, wedding get immediate food poisoning from the seafood buffet – Olive is left with no other choice but to take the free 10 day honeymoon with her brother-in-law/arch nemesis/biggest pain in her butt, Ethan. Their plane ride is hilarious, their honeymooners suite is HILarious and their couples activities have them not only despising each others presence, but also starting to slightly enjoy one another’s presence. They become all very confused about their feelings but figure it out in the end, you know, the usual romance trope that I’m a sucker for at the moment. I finished this is in the two days I was away, unputdownable!

Next I picked up a super special pre-release book, ‘The Woman in the Library’ by Sulari Gentil. I feel really privileged and lucky to be reading such an early copy of Sulari’s June book, and then being able to discuss all things mystery, suspense, murder with her. Sulari is one of our local authors and excitingly, has signed her newest novel with Ultimo Press (whom I love!). ‘The Woman in the Library’ surrounds 4 strangers becoming quick friends when they believe a scream has signified a woman being murdered in their local inner city library. Soon all becoming suspects, they start to feel closely bonded, protective but not suspicious of one another until the pennies start to drop. Pieces of each person’s story don’t add up, histories become exposed and each character has their particular reasons for being in the library that day. Sulari has crafted this unique crime novel in such a way that, as the reader, you are seeing the narrative unfold through a storytellers eyes. A big portion of this books is told via two authors email correspondence and it starts to becoming a little… hmm… dangerous. The story is forming, developing and being written by an author at the same time as we are learning about the story. We are literally seeing the story piecing together! I was left reeling at the ending and had to message Sulari straight away saying “OMG NO WAY”!! ‘The Woman in the Library’ is twisty, as Ultimo describes it on the front cover of my copy – but easy to follow, a great read and just so DARN clever! Highly recommend ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now I’m going to class this next book as my February read because it was just too fantastic not to include in the wrap up – three days into March and I’m buzzing on the energy of a fantastic reading month ahead. I devoured ‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Crowley-Heller in less than 24 hours yesterday. WHAT. A. NOVEL .This is a story about Elle and her extremely strong love for two men whom have both shaped her at different stages of her life. The story flicks between past and present. In present day, Elle is holidaying at their annual home away from home, the paper palace. A small collection of costal huts in Massachusetts. She is there with her husband Peter, their three children and her mother – of whom we learn a lot about. Elle’s relationship with her mother is explored a lot throughout the novel and it provides a backstory of the mental, emotional and sexual trauma of her childhood. It becomes clear very early into the novel that sexual trauma is faced generationally for the women in this story. It is a strong theme throughout the novel, so trigger warning for those endeavouring to read. I will be posting a full review on this novel soon as I’m listing it down as another one of my favourite reads this year.

What are you guys reading into March? Any stand outs in February for you? Leave me a comment 💬

Saturday 19th February

Where am I? I am currently sitting in the most gorgeous and welcoming bookstore/cafe called Bouquiniste, Kiama, NSW. This stunning space is owned by Clayton Zane Comber, talented writer and author (you can expect to hear a little from Clay on ‘Author Talks’ soon 🎙📚) & his spectacular partner Hannah who has a wealth of knowledge in hospitality and publishing. What a duo ⭐️

What am I drinking? A delicious long back in a cup with almond milk & a mixed berry slice

What am I thinking? This weekend I am incredibly grateful and proud of myself. I decided to take myself on a holiday to Kiama, not only to catch up with a life long friend, but breathe in the beach and explore a place that I have admired for over a year now. Clayton and Hannah have created the most creatively accepting space for book and coffee lovers alike. They inspire me to keep my dream alive of owning and running my own bookstore/cafe one day – with floor to ceiling bookshelves, mood lighting, bright and eclectic decor, and above all else, a fabulous environment. I am so grateful for time to explore and grow my perspectives.

I recently discussed ‘Infinite Country’ by Patricia Engel at my Literary Lovers Book Club. This short novel expanded my knowledge and awareness of Colombian culture, common adversities, folklore and spirituality. As the reader, the change in perspectives is quite jolting in this novel. We move from hearing Tahlia’s story, of whom has just escaped a correctional school for an assault she committed, to then being thrown into her parents story. This allows you to connect and understand her disconnected and emotionally damaging childhood. There are a lot of one liners and paragraphs that I’ve appreciated in this novel – I tabbed and wrote quite a few annotations. I will admit that I can see myself recommending this to only a selective few readers, depending on their style and tastes of reading. I can appreciate the talent, personal connection and beautiful writing in this book, however it didn’t make as grand of an impact on me as other novels I’ve read this year.

The Monthly Wrap: January

Welcome to my monthly wrap series, where I will be posting all the books I have completed, attempted and considered for the month. 

For the month of January, I can easily acknowledge that I was in the midst of a book slump. Hannah Kent’s ‘Devotion’ truely set the bar high for my 2022 reading and if I’m being completely honest, I am still yet to find anything to top it. That novel is unbelievable to say the very least 🤯 (Click on the title name to read my full review)

After I finished ‘Devotion’, I attempted to start Hannah’s only other novel I hadn’t read, that being ‘The Good People’. I really enjoyed continuing the feeling of immersion and escapism that her writing provides me, however the bookish slump was creeping in and taking hold! I felt connected to the characters and the storyline but I just think after the heaviness of ‘Devotion’, I really wasn’t ready to deep dive into another emotional, literary and historical fiction. I put ‘The Good People’ down after 100 pages and moved onto ‘The Housemate’ by Sarah Bailey. 

At this point, I really do need to preface that regular reading Mel probably would have loved all these books I’ll be mentioning a lot more if she weren’t in a book slump! 

Oh how I desperately wanted to be addicted to ‘The Housemate’! I wanted to be scared, feel gripped and left gasping at the unknowns and who-done-it’s, but sadly it didn’t get there for me. I was craving something fast paced, twisted and an addictive plot with easy to read dialogue. From what I did read, there had been one housemate of three, murdered under suspicious circumstances. The main perspective is told from a journalist who has re-opened the case. This journalist is finding leads and setting up interviews when another of the housemates is found dead after she has presumably been missing for years. I’ve been told by a customer recently that this book is a great read and the ending does capture your attention. It just wasn’t for me this month. Maybe I’ll try again later in the year. From here, I moved onto Sofie Laguna’s, ‘Infinite Splendours’.

Here’s me, trying to pick up another literary fiction when it isn’t what my brain wanted – silly silly Mel 🤦🏽‍♀️ Therefore, here I am again, telling you that I got 100 pages into ‘Infinite Splendours’ and put this book down. The premise of this book captures me, as it surrounds the troubling relationship between a young boy and his uncle. Their connection to art brings then together and the young boys mother is unbeknown to the damaging actions the uncle takes with the boy. It follows the effects of sexual abuse and its impact on child development. I do believe I will finish this book one day. Sofie Laguna was recently mentioned on the ABC television program, Books that Made Us. Her book, ‘The Choke’ was mainly highlighted in this program for its raw and uncomfortable feelings it provokes in the reader. I thought by attempting her latest novel, I may feel some of that and I really did. Yet, book slumpy Mel wasn’t in the mood for beautiful and careful writing, or historical settings. No, no, no – she wanted smut! I placed ‘Infinite Splendours’ back in the TBR pile and grabbed ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ by Elena Armas.

My goodness! If you’ve read my book review for ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ (click the book title for link) you will know how much I ADORED this book! It was cute, it was sweet, it was steamy and it was exactly what I’d been looking for in a novel *que Mel’s reinvigorated love for romance novels* I finished ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ in under 24 hours – yes, that’s right. I sat down in the afternoon and just couldn’t stop! I was up until midnight unable to put this book down! Our main character Lina is single and so embarrassed to be turning up to her sisters Spanish wedding alone. Her co-worker Aaron, whom she despises (for all the obvious reasons in these types of books), offers himself to be her date. What a whirl of events from there! They travel to Spain, they pretend to be a full-fledged couple, they dance, they share a bed 😉 and they discover their feelings may not be completely made up. Of course because it was so fabulous, I then picked up another romance called, ‘The Love Hypothesis’ by Ali Hazelwood.

Ahhhh, the lovers to haters tropes really get me! I didn’t adore ‘The Love Hypothesis’ as much as ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ (which I have noted as my next “get out of a book slump re-read book”) BUT, I did find it entertaining as it filled the romance void for another week. ‘The Love Hypothesis’ is about Olive, a PhD student who wants to prove to her best friend that she is lapping up the dating scene and taking it in her stride. Although, in an attempt to actively prove this in front of her friend, she kisses a stranger in her science lab. This stranger ends up being the most disliked Professor at her University. Now that I write this, I can acknowledge it’s total smut – I know! But it was a great read to escape and it was perfect for my brain this month 🧠

To round out my strange reading month that was January, I picked up Charlotte Wood’s, ‘The Natural Way of Things’. Now, again let me preface again that I was not in my typical reading mood, therefore, I feel as if my ability to take in prose, metaphor and literary significance was lacking. Sadly, this book rated quite low for me. I wasn’t feeling like I had the capacity to see where the story was leading and felt a little confused at times. I usually like eclectic, misleading and confusing aspects in a book to some extent. I like to wait as the reader, to be lead toward the “uh-huh” moment – but I didn’t feel that with this novel. It is beautifully written, I can admire that. Charlotte Wood has strongly conveyed the message of feminist action against control and oppression in government areas, in imprisonment and sexual coercion for power. I personally just found this book was not to my reading tastes this month, however I am still glad I gave it a go!

At present, I am dancing into the beginning of February 💃🏻 I am reading a fantastic new novel released in March called, ‘Impossible’ by Sarah Lotz. This is her first contemporary romance and I’m so here for it. The book starts with a very aggressive email being send to the wrong address. Luckily, it turns out the person on the other end is really funny, totally single and happy to explore the connection that they’ve just stirred up online. Half of the book is email thread and the other is told from the dual perspectives of Nick and Bee. I am loving this book so far and I notice that before it has even been released, it’s already ranking near 5/5 stars on GoodReads! I’m excited to give you guys a review of this one soon ⭐️🎙

What does your monthly wrap look like? I would love to know – tell me in the comments 💬💬

Kindle Vs. Paperback

Here is the ongoing debate of Kindle versus Paperback books. I recently had a lovely discussion with my artistic, intelligent and avid reader friend, Elle, about this topic. We both own Kindles and we both agree that a Kindle is modern-age and portable way of reading. We discuss the use of our Kindles often and talk about the pros and cons of reading digitally.

I have just been gifted a Kindle and if you’ve read my 2022 book goals (click here to see them if you missed it), you will have seen that I am wanting to read more on Kindle for the sake of saving money and precious book shelf space – to which I actually have no shelf space left 🤣 The Kindle I received was the Paperwhite 11th Gen (click here to see this type of Kindle) and honestly, I find it so easy to read on. Here are the reasons one avid book reader may like to invest in a Kindle:

⭐️ Portability ⭐️ Storage ⭐️ Money-Saver (in the long run. Initial cost can be a hit to the bank account) ⭐️ Easily read multiple books at the one time ⭐️ Lowering your environmental footprint ⭐️ Read at night time without additional lamp or ceiling lighting ⭐️ Small and compact ⭐️ Light-weight and slim, perfect for handbags or travel bags ⭐️ Easily enlarge text ⭐️ Digital highlighting ⭐️ Dictionary & Translator built in (which is one of my favourite features) ⭐️ Connected to GoodReads reviewing app ⭐️ Can buy new books in an instant ⭐️ Size of a book isn’t as overwhelming because you don’t see your physical progress, you just keep tapping the page and see your percentage down in the bottom corner ⭐️

These pros are really cool, don’t get me wrong! But, it is only fair for us to look at the cons of reading on a Kindle:

⭐️ No book feel ⭐️ No book smell ⭐️ Can’t loan your books to other people ⭐️ Flat battery ⭐️ Cannot physically make annotations in margins or put tags inside the books ⭐️ No bookmarks ⭐️ No physical connection to the book (eg. no hugging, throwing, passionately waving 🤣) ⭐️ Cannot see the coloured book cover all the time ⭐️ Sometimes skips past the book cover and dedication when initially opening a Kindle book ⭐️ Can become too easy to spend money on new books ⭐️ Loss of connection to physical bookstores and libraries ⭐️ Spending more time on technology ⭐️ Cannot appreciate a book you’ve just competed sitting on your shelf ⭐️

At the end of our ongoing discussions about Kindles, Elle and I always agree that there is no such joy, pleasure and comfort as reading a physical book. There is no comparison. Yes, Kindles make our life easier like most technology devices that are created but sometimes the good old fashioned way is still the best. I will always be a physical book lover because I love everything that goes along with it. I love the heftiness of a book, the page turning feeling and the hugging 🤗 I also love bookstores, libraries and all things connected to the environment of books as they always seem to have a calming effect on me. I would love to hear your perspectives and why you read on either Kindle or Paper – comment below 💬

‘The Spanish Love Deception’ by Elena Armas

Okay so you know that chest caving, character loving, don’t touch me or talk to me or even breathe near me kind of feeling you get when reading a romance novel? Well, well, well – ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ will make your heart hurt SO MUCH in the best way possible!!

Not only will I gush to you online and in person at the book shop about this book, but I will also be shouting from the rooftops how DEVASTATED I am about having to wait 8 MONTHS before Elena Arma’s next book arrives on our shelves. Agh, the book pain is real! Elena’s next book is set to be published on the 6th of September and it is titled ‘The American Roommate Experiment’.

SOOooo Mel … get to the good part, the review!

Catalina is single and a short few weeks away from flying back to Spain for her sisters epic wedding. She moved to America in an attempt to reclaim her life and heal her broken heart after breaking up with her soon to be brother-in-law’s brother. Therefore, Catalina feels like the wedding will be a disaster if she rocks up alone. She needs to show her ex-boyfriend and her wide family that she is progressing with her life and achieving success. In walks her solution; office enemy, stubborn, rude and strangely attractive (😉😉) Aaron. He overhears Catalina’s ‘end of the world’ wedding scenario. Taking the plunge, he volunteers himself to be her date! This means flying to Spain together, pretending to be in love in front of her family, showing physical affection, sleeping in the same bed and well, keeping the arrangement hidden so Catalina’s family doesn’t suspect her love life isn’t as desperate as it actually is!

Que their ongoing love to hate relationship, and the cuteness that evolves to their falling in (actual) love. Aaron has a quiet persistence to prove how good of a ‘fake-date’ he is, but secretly and somewhat obviously, it is from a place of wanting Catalina to understand how much he really likes her. It takes a while for Catalina to see and feel that Aaron’s feelings are legitimate, but this just makes for more fun in their games of cat and mouse. Aaron is completely committed to investing in her happiness and wanting their relationship to evolve, regardless of their workplace conflict of interest. I really enjoyed their dynamic and seeing both their walls come down over time. I loved their trip to Spain and how much cultural immersion it allowed the reader to feel. I think this is a romance novel at its best.

Reading this book while suffering from a book slump really made it even more of a stand-out! I finished this book in less than 24 hours. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for and craving. Romance ✅ Love to hate banter ✅ Easy dialogue and world development ✅ Contemporary ✅ If you’re also looking for a book to soar you out of a book slump, ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ has all you, yes you, written all over it! I will 100% be re-reading this book before the end of the year.

‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent has not failed to rip my heart out and then piece it back together again in her latest historical fiction novel, ‘Devotion’. I am in a book slump after reading this book and I’m finding it so hard to get the fictional characters of Hanne and Thea off my mind. Their love story is one for the ages and honestly, if you have not read this book, I strongly encourage you to find your nearest book store and buy a physical copy. Your note taking (if you’re that way inclined to annotate your books) is going to be flooded with pen marks and highlighted passages.

Growing up in the German village of Kay in 1830’s Prussia, Hanne represses her expectations of female friendships and socialising. She much prefers to be a child of nature as from a young age, believing to hear the whispers of trees, the nearby stream and the movement of air. Hanne knows that her love for nature makes her different from the other teenage girls in the village. It isn’t until she meets Thea that Hanne realises her long inherent beliefs of romantic love are also different.

Hanne’s family are set to follow their local Pastor to the new found land called South Australia. Here their community of Kay can continue to practice their Old Lutheran beliefs and spread the devotion of God. However, in order to get there they must sell everything they own and sail for months on end. (This is the part of the story where your heart will break. You will be baffled, you will find it hard to believe that Hannah has put us as the reader through this much horror, but you will also find it incredibly hard to stop reading).

At sea, they travel with their village for months on end. You feel the fear and uncertainly of being in the middle of the ocean without seeing land in sight, you smell the stagnate underneath living quarters and you sense that sickness and death is looming. It is inevitable and the inevitable does happen, but to whom? We see and feel love bloom, to then be ripped away from us. Hanne and Thea’s story falls short in so many ways but it only makes you realise how quickly your expectations of life can change in one moment.

The third section of this books is a mirage of life, yet through a different and troubling lens. It is raw and harrowing and heartbreaking. I continue to be utterly amazed at how hard hitting the writing of this novel is but yet it is delivered in such a rich and vibrant way. This is a big call to make but I truely believe that Hannah Kent had produced another national and international, award winning fiction. If this book does not move you, read it again! In my eyes, Hannah Kent is the reason we read fiction.

My 2022 Book Goals

  1. Read 50 book again 📚
  2. Read 15 books off my combined GoodReads TBR and physical bookshelf that have sat unread for too long (ekk 🙈)
  3. Read more from the Literature genre (I’ve been throughly enjoying it of late)
  4. Visit and borrow from my local library each month ✅
  5. (Here is a controversial one …) Read at least one book on my Kindle each month ✅

Okay now let me explain these a little more …

Last year I accomplished one of my biggest reading goals I’ve ever set – 50 book! And I did it! 🥳 I aim to pick up more literary novels this year as it is a growing pleasure. Hopefully a large amount of this 50 will be literary.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a new book and if I’m honest with you, I will still be buying new books – just probably on Kindle or with careful decision making as to whether I really really need the physical copy. I’ve made this goal and decision because my bookshelf is F U L L !! I have no space whatsoever for more books, therefore I need to start reading through all the books I own. Some of these include, ‘Cresent City’ by Sarah J Maas, ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris, ‘American Dirt’ by Jenine Cummins & ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ By Anthony Doerr. I’m one pretty lucky girl to own such amazing books already!

My local library is awesome and they have an abundance of books, from a wide span of genres! I need to utilise my library card a little more this year 📚 And as for my Kindle, I recently upgraded to the new Kindle Paperwhite with the warming back light. I did this because it is more portable (for when I travel), it’s less harsh on my eyes than just the blue light and well… its much more affordable.

Comment down below what your book goals are for 2022? 💫

My Year in Books (2021 edition)

It’s here folks! Here you have it in all its glory – ‘My Year in Books (2021 edition)’ 🥳

2021 was such a fun reading year for me and honestly, probably the best ever in my reading life! This past year I read a total of 50 books and 17, 591 pages! If you’d like to see my individual ratings for each book, you can jump onto my GoodReads (click here) ⭐️

  • 🔦 The TORCH emoji will indicate if these books were part of my Crime Fiction Fanatic Book Club
  • 🎨 The ART PALETE emoji will indicate if these books were part of my Literature Lovers Book Club
  • 🎙 The MICROPHONE emoji will indicate if these books have a review on my blog – have a read!

‘The Friend’ by Sigrid Nunez

‘Bridie’s Choice’ by Karly Lane (re-read)

‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper

‘Before the coffee gets cold’ by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

‘The Year of the Witching’ by Alexis Henderson

‘The 100 Years of Lenni and Margot’ by Marianne Cronin

‘Can’t Say it Went to Plan’ by Gabrielle Tozer

‘Our House’ by Louise Candlish

‘Roadtrip’ by Beth O’Leary

‘Consent’ by Vanessa Springora

‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Steig Larsson 🔦

‘Those Hamilton Sisters’ by Averil Kenny *read our interview here* 🎙

‘A Court of Silver Flames’ by Sarah J Maas

‘Eight Lives’ by Susan Hurley 🔦

‘The Prison Healer’ by Lynette Noni

‘Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams’ by Anita Heiss

‘The Guest List’ By Lucy Foley 🔦

‘The Storied Life of AJ Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin

‘In Five Years’ by Rebecca Seale

‘The Last Night in London’ by Karen White

‘Scrublands’ by Chris Hammer 🔦

‘Early Morning Riser’ by Katherine Henry

‘North Star’ by Karly Lane

‘Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom’ by Dominique Valente

‘Between Shades of Grey’ by Ruta Sepetys

‘She is Haunted’ by Paige Clark

‘A Curse So Dark and Lonely’ by Brigid Kemmerer 🎙

‘A Heart so Fierce and Broken’ by Brigid Kemmerer

‘A Vow so Bold and Deadly’ by Brigid Kemmerer

‘The Wife and the Widow’ by Christian White (re-read) 🔦

‘Heartsick’ by Jessie Stephens

‘The Reading List’ by Sara Nisha Adams 🎙

‘The Memory Police’ by Yōko Ogawa

‘The Wattle Island Book Club’ by Sandie Docker *read our interview here* 🎙

‘The Tribute’ by John Byron 🔦 🎙

‘Thread Needle’ by Cari Thomas 🎙

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens 🎙

‘The Mother Wound’ by Amani Haydar 🎙

‘Defy the Night’ by Brigid Kemmerer 🎙

‘The Silent Patient’ by Alex Michaelides 🔦 🎙

‘Love & Virtue’ by Diana Reid 🎨 🎙

‘100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze’ by Clayton Zane Comber 🎙

‘The Gilded Cage’ by Lynette Noni

‘Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief’ by Katrina Nannestad *read our interview here* 🎙

‘The Night She Disappeared’ by Lisa Jewel 🔦 🎙

‘The Labyrinth’ by Amanda Lohrey 🎨 🎙

‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’ by Holly Ringland 🎙

‘Deception Creek’ by Fleur McDonald

‘Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall’ by Kate Forster

‘The Lost Apothecary’ by Sarah Penner

‘Big Little Lies’ by Liane Moriarty

Book Review: ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’

Wow folks it’s been a hot minute! Where have you been Mel, you may ask? Well, it’s a busy time for bookselling and book recommendations! This makes me incredibly happy but it is also quite tiring, leaving me with limited time to write my regular book reviews. Things will slow down soon and uploading will become more regular – I promise 😉

So, a little while back (maybe 2-3 weeks ago), I finished The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and honestly, I can absolutely see why this debut Australian novel caused a stir of positive discussion in its publication year of 2019. Additionally, I believe it is truely well worth the 2019 Australian Book Industry Award.

To begin with, a little disclaimer that this novel is strongly focused on the effects of domestic abuse and it’s long-lasting repercussions. Don’t let this put you off because it is a beautifully woven story.

Alice Hart is a young girl at the beginning of this novel. She is living on an isolated property with her whimsical, young and intelligent mother who speaks daily with love to her flowers. However her father has a consuming presence in her childhood, utilising narcissistic and abusive behaviours to control both Alice and her mother. Alice is aware of her mothers physical signs of abusive, yet it isn’t until she is on the receiving end of her father’s behavioural abuse does she realise that her childhood is not necessarily a happy one. Events occur and Alice uncovers a hidden secret of her fathers which ultimately leaves her as an orphan. Alice’s world then expands in ways she never knew possible.

Alice’s paternal Grandmother, June (a family member she never even knew existed), becomes her legal guardian. June takes Alice to live on her flower farm, Thornfield. Thornfield actually doubles as both a workplace and a safe house for women and children escaping domestic abuse. This environment of love, support and kindness is all new for Alice and quite hard to comprehend.

We continue to live through Alices’ experiences as a teenager and then as a young woman. Artistically and brilliantly, each chapter starts with an image and description of an Australian native flower. We learn to understand the language of flowers with Alice, where each flower comes from, how they look and what they mean. Without giving too much away, Alice soon becomes tangled up in her own abusive relationship. Interestingly and intelligently, Holly Ringland has peeled back the layers of emotional, mental, financial and physical abusive all in one novel. It is eye-opening, destroying and hard to put down. You want to throw the book across the room in exhausted anger but scavenge it to keep reading! As the reader, you yearn for Alice to see through the behaviours of her partner yet it is so explainable as to see why she doesn’t, creating the perfect depiction for domestic abuse. You’re a witness to her inside thoughts but you’re also weighing up the decisions she’s making from the outside as the reader. It is fantastically terrifying.

I think, if you can give yourself the time before the end of the year, read this book. Or if not, add it to your TBR for 2022. It will stay with you and make you become a full on advocate for exposing and supporting domestic abuse in Australia – maybe even around the world.