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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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!

“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:

๐Ÿ“– The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

๐Ÿ“– The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

๐Ÿ“– Electric and Mad and Brace by Tom Pitts

๐Ÿ“– The Opal Miner’s Daughter by Fiona McArthur

๐Ÿ“– The Vet from Snowy River by Stella Quinn

๐Ÿ“– 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? ๐Ÿคฃ

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

‘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.

Lucรฉ’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 Lucรฉ’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 Lucรฉ, 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 Lucรฉ’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.

Lucรฉ’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 Lucรฉ life, whether that be fictional or true – I do not know.

Bagged & Borrowed

My July local library borrow โœ…

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake was a must! I have already picked this up and have immediately been drawn into the witchy world. We’re following six young adult magicians as they are each hand selected for the opportunity of a lifetime. Six go in, only five come out. I love that we actually see and hear from everyone’s perspectives. It is something fresh and new to my reading habits in fantasy.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was my second borrow. Maggie is an author that’s been around for a while, however she is new to me. I recently finished her new literary fiction landing in August, called ‘A Marriage Portrait’, which was SPECtacular!! It has snuck up behind ‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent – my 2022 favourite thus far (read my review here). It is set in Italy … LOVE THIS, in the Medici era… LOVE THIS and centres around the marriage of Duchess Lucrezia of Ferrera, at the age of 15 and a 30 year old Alfonzo II, Duke of Ferrera. This was a marriage of convince, yet by the time Lucรฉ turned 16, she was dead – presumed murdered by her husband. I could not put this book down! I was addicted to Maggie’s writing from the get go and look forward to following Hamnet in the same way, all while learning about Shakespeare’s son through an accurate yet fictional lens.

Have you visited your local Library this month? They’re a place of such knowledge, care and warmth ๐Ÿ“š

Book Review: ‘Paperbark Hill’ by Maya Linnell

If you’re looking to fall in love with a new country romance writer, Maya Linnell is your gal! She just gets it – the challenges of falling in love in rural areas, small town community feelings of support and shared business, opinions and expectations. She also holds a firm grip of what the dynamics of inside a family look like. Her writing makes you feel as if you’re sitting around a dining room table, in a country home, having realistic conversations about farming, family and children.

Paperbark Hill is the conclusion to Maya’s four book series following the McIntyre sisters. All books can be read individually but have overlapping characters, environmental settings and storylines. Believe me when I say, Paperbark Hill has set me up well for devouring the rest of Maya’s books!

Paperbark Hill follows Diana McIntyre and her 4 boys as they learn to navigate and continue on their lives after the death of their stronghold, their husband and father. Diana is surrounded by her loving sisters and father, who encourage her dreams of cut flower farming, selling locally and creating a name for herself in the industry. Flower farming and raising her 4 boys is the highest priority. This remains so throughout the novel. Her thoughts and feelings do however increase when Ned Gardiner, an ex-local comes back to town after the unexpected loss of his father.

Ned is a locaum pharmacist and a bit of a gypsy. His flexible job allows him and his two beautiful, sweet and worldly children to move around. This is bit of a relief for Ned after his wife and mother to his two children, just up and left. Ned’s routines and travelling is thrown out the window when the loss of his father brings him back to his home town. His father was a keen chicken egg farmer and flower gardener. It also turns out, his father was Diana’s sidekick in maintaining and starting her flower farming. Both Diana and Ned are feeling the heavy loss of Ned’s father, which ultimately brings them together.

The warm buzz between Ned and Diana grows. Their time spent together in the flower fields, bringing their children together for play dates, stopping for afternoon tea together and chatting over salty scones, are just some of my favourite subtle ways of their relationship growing. I really could appreciate that their relationship was about stability, trust and respect. They’ve both been hurt in the past, they both have children who are the centre of their world, and they are both trying to navigate new found love at 40+. It’s slow, romantic and the development of love grows through gesture.

I think Maya was clever to include some challenges to new found love at 40. She wove the protests of children surrounding new parental relationships and the questions they ask. Diana’s teenage boy found the adjusts hard and was defiant in letting a new person into Diana’s life. He felt as if Diana would forget about his father and not acknowledge significant past birthdays or anniversaries. However, he grows to realise that it is about a balance of blending the two together and recognising that Ned is never going to stop Diana from loving, thinking of, or celebrating her late husband. Ultimately Ned and Diana show harmony within their two families individually, therefore when they bring the two together, it is just a big group of love and happiness!

Reading Diana and Ned’s story had me swept away in a matter of 48 hours – I couldn’t step away from their story for too long!! I am incredibly grateful and humbled to have received this copy of Paperbark Hill from Allen & Unwin and Maya Linnell to personally read and review ๐Ÿ’– This copy of Maya’s book has already been loaned a friend to read and also love ๐Ÿ’ซ

That growing TBR pile …

I am guilty of taking books home from work because they sound FANtastic! They sound up my ally. They sound like the kind of books I will (one day) read. And I’m sure I will one day read them …

I type these words as I glance over to my overflowing bookshelf and the pile sitting next to the bookshelf. And the two piles of books sitting next to my tv. And the pile of books in my tv shelf. And if I move my head to the side a touch, I can see the growing pile of books on my bedside … AHHHH

Okay okay, so my immediate TBR right now consists of:

Kinda wanna read a fantasy tho .. aye aye aye – the struggle ๐Ÿคฃ What does your TBR pile look like right now?

๐Ÿ“ธ @shamelesspod