Russia, 1854: the Crimean War grinds on, and as the bitter winter draws near, the battlefield hospitals fill with dying men. In defiance of Florence Nightingale, Rosa Barr – young, headstrong and beautiful – travels to Balaklava, determined to save as many of the wounded as she can. For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa’s cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from Henry, her fiance, a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns. When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon their arrival at his lodgings, she and her maid make a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared. Following the trail of her elusive and captivating cousin, Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol. As she ventures deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, Mariella’s ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness and love.

rose-of-sebastopol

This is the first book I have read by Katharine McMahon, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was convincing and engaging. At no point was I bored or struggling to continue. McMahon writes in a wonderful way, with humour, description and character. I easily slipped into the story and felt I was there.

The story does jump between different locations and years, but I did not find this troubling, in fact I feel it enhanced the story. It was fascinating to read about how people at home viewed the war, how to them it was only a small part of their lives and how they thought it should go, compared to what was actually happening out there.

I didn’t have a favourite character, all of them touched me. I did find Mariella a touch selfish though. She managed to make the whole war centre around her, amazing! I was happy with the way most characters developed and how the story ended. I did guess what the ending was going to be, but it was still sad and a satisfying finish.

I was left asking a few questions, but overall I really enjoyed this book.

9/10

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Synopsis from Amazon:

He’s my teacher. I shouldn’t be alone with him. But I can’t help that he’s irresistible. I let the door silently close at my back. He stared at me, and a taut quiet stretched between us. “I like hearing you play,” I said, moving toward him. He turned, in sync with my slow approach. He looked up at me but didn’t say anything. I rested my clammy hand on the cold, slick body of the baby grand. “May I?” The muscles in his throat shifted, then he swallowed. “Eden.” My knees weakened, like a soft tickling kiss had just been blown against the backs of them. “Is it okay?” I asked. His gaze held mine like two hands joined. He understood what I was really asking. “Let me stay,” I said. “Please.” “You’re going to get me in trouble,” he said.

I cannot rate this book highly enough. It is the best book I have read in ages. I completed it in two sittings; I was gripped from the first page.

I loved the characters, especially Eden, the protagonist. Warwick wrote her in such an amazing way that I completely connected with her and felt all the emotions she did. I was so in tune with her that when she cried, so did I.

The story was so well written. Warwick explored friendship, love, high school, family, death and music. The description of some of the pieces James played were breathtaking, and I could almost hear them. Watching Eden mature and fall in love was beautiful. Feelings were explained magnificantly. To see broken relationships patched up and repaired was lovely, and realistic. Every issue Warwick wrote about was successful. Even the relationship between Eden and James was sensitively written, and believable. I could easily see this happening in reality, playing out just like it does in the book. James was a lovely character. I fell in love with him too, it is hard not too!

I am so happy to have read this book. Nothing has left my disappointed. I loved the ending, the sense of maturity, adulthood, and adventure into the next chapter of Eden’s life was amazing.

I don’t have a bad word to say about the book.

10/10

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Synopsis from Amazon:

In this first novel, Dr Henry (Henrietta) Metcalfe falls for a hitch-hiker, Rufus. A psychiatrist and a teacher, both are intent on concealing their true identities. To complicate this comedy of sexual role reversal, Rufus is having an affair with Henry’s brother, Hilary, who wants to be a father.

I don’t really know what to make of Kansas in August. This is certaintly not the best Gale book I have read. The book seemed disjoined, with random characters flitting in and out of the story. There seemed no definite storyline, we just seemed to follow three character, Hilary, Henrietta and Rufus through odd events which distantly relate the characters to each other. I didn’t like the ending, which I honestly was begging to come. I don’t feel the story is ended and I’m left feeling completely unsatisfied. All revelations could have come a lot earlier in the story. That I think would have made the book improve vastly. It was not a long book, 158 pages, but one I did consider putting down a few times. I didn’t really connect with the characters, there was nothing about any of them that I could relate too. I’m left disappointed really.

4/10

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The cover for A Lifetime Burning is a woman’s face in different colours, very eye-catching and chaotic, which is in a sense how the family in this book is. And the recommended quote on the front cover said:
“Disturbing themes, sensitively explored”
I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. As it happens, although the themes were not something I would have picked usually, this was an incredibly good book.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Greedy for experience but determined to be good, Flora Dunbar spends a lifetime seeking love, trying to build a future out of the wreckage of her past – an eccentric childhood spent in the shadow of her musical twin, Rory; early marriage to Hugh, a clergyman twice her age; motherhood, which brings her Theo, the son she cannot love; middle-age, when she finds brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.
“If you asked my sister-in-law why she hated me, she’d say it was because I seduced her precious firstborn then tossed him onto the sizeable scrap-heap marked Flora’s ex-lovers. But she’d be lying. That isn’t why Grace hated me. Ask my brother Rory…”

This was a complete page-turner. Gillard talks about love, religion, family, incest, homelessness and gardens. All these themes were sensitively explored, and extremely well written about.

As I was reading I wasn’t sure what I was going to write in the review. This book captured me. It spoke of forbidden and immoral love, yet it made my heart grieve a little. In these circumstances, the love that was felt was definitely wrong, but heart-breaking to read about the passion, pain and sorrow. It was written so well that I did catch a bit of the pain felt.

Maybe it was a little unrealistic with all the love-triangles in one family, but then maybe if it a close unit, why would this not happen?

My favourite characters changed as the story progressed. This would be because Gillard writes in a style where you jumped from different times and events. This didn’t bother me at all. In my opinion this allowed the characters and story to progress and grow, and was a very good tool for explaining later events and the characters themselves. I guess my favourite character was Hugh in the end. This was because even with everything going on he was hard to fault. He took the moral high ground and looked after everyone and everything. He was a true gentleman.

I recommend this book. It only took a few days to read. Gillard’s writing style flows and is very engaging. This is a must-read.

9/10

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