ISBN-13: 9780062316899
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3 February 2015
Format: Paperback, 432 pgs
Source: Publisher

Set in Victorian London, A Memory of Violets is a historical story about two long-lost sisters and how their stories had intrigued and inspired a young woman's journey and changed her outlook of life thereafter. 

1876. Flora and Rosie Flynn are orphans and they sell flowers for a living. Their mother passed away after giving birth to Rosie; and their father died shortly thereafter. The girls are not close with their father as he didn't really care about them. Before their mother passed, she gave each of them a lace handkerchief with a cluster of shamrocks neatly stitched in one corner, saying that it'd bring them both good luck. 

Despite the hardships, Flora and Rosie strive on and are more than contented to have each other together. To Flora, Rosie is more than a promise to their late mother; she is Flora's everything. But what's most heartbreaking is learning that Flora is crippled and has to rely on a crutch while Rosie is partially sighted, however these do not deter Flora's faith but has made her more determined to provide a living for the both of them. Unfortunately, Flora lost her little sister in a crowded street one day and they become separated. 

1912. Tilly Harper is a twenty-one-year-old girl who leaves home for London to become assistant housemother at a Mr. Albert Shaw's Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. It is home to many orphaned and crippled flower girls and they are all trained to make silk flowers for sale. What most made Mr and Mrs Shaw proud of the girls are not only they could make replica flowers which look so lifelike but their spirit and seeing them all getting on with the business of living as if they are able. 

While Tilly is fascinated by the girls' zest in both life and their works, her mind keeps thinking about a wooden box she found hidden in her wardrobe. In the box is an old notebook and some pressed flowers hidden between the pages. As she read Flora Flynn's entries she learns about Flora's guilt and remorse in losing her little sister, and that she never stopped looking for her. Intrigued and touched by Flora's determination, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. 

A Memory of Violets is a wonderful historical novel that really speak to me. Author Hazel Gaynor is a great storyteller in the sense that not only her characters and the premise shine throughout the story but she has also done an excellent job in writing up the historical setting. I felt I was transported into that time period through the characters' perspectives. 

As much as this is the story about Flora and Rosie, it is also Tilly's story as readers get to learn about her past, her relationship with her family and how a childhood accident had affected her relationship with her younger sister, Esther. There are some paranormal and romance elements in there but they are minimal. Still, in some ways they are an equivalent part to the story. 

Finally, I like the author's writing style and the way she wrapped up this story. From the last few pages of this book, the author share with her readers that there is a real 'Albert Shaw' in real life by the name of John Groom and he grew up in Clerkenwell, London. Though he had his own engraving business, he knew his calling actually lay in helping the street sellers; people like Flora and the girls from the Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls (which existed too, in 1890). He died in 1919 and his legacy continues as Livability, the UK's largest Christian disability charity, which aims to provide disabled and disadvantaged people real choice about how they live their lives. 

How time flies! Can't believe it's the middle of February already. The wonderful hostesses at Book Bloggers International are hosting a month of wonderful posts with a theme called "February Firsts", where participants share about their reading firsts. 

I am glad to be one of their participants and not to mention having a great time writing the guest post. So, if you have a moment do head on over to their site to read my post

Thank you for reading! :-) 

ISBN-13: 9780349134284
Publisher: Blackfriars
Publication Date: 28 November 2014
Format: Paperback, 292 pgs
Source: Purchased

Lydia Lee was sixteen when she had gone missing. Her mother, Marilyn, was the first one who noticed something was amiss when she opened her daughter's door and saw the bed unslept in. 

What immediately unfolds next is learning about Lydia's death and a series of events that make the Lees family to question about Lydia and the day she disappeared. It seems none of the family members really know what she has been doing or how she was getting along with her friends. Lydia was the middle child of the family; she had an elder brother, Nathan, and a younger sister, Hannah. Lydia was the most favoured child in the family, especially her mother who had high hopes of her. 

Nathan is suspicious of a boy called Jack, who is their neighbour as well. He has the reputation of wooing girls and discarding them like used rags in school. Nathan believes Lydia was his latest target, but he didn't share his suspicion with his parents or the police. 

However, there is much more to the mystery for what also hold this story is the different ethnicity of the Lees family. Their father, James, is an American born of the first-generation Chinese immigrants while their mother is a native American. This together with their background differences have made them conspicuous in a small-town Ohio, especially in the 1970s, in which this story's time period is set. Despite James being born in America, he still finds himself an outcast and a misfit. 

Marilyn, on the other end, is a woman who has her dreams of becoming a doctor but meeting and marrying James have altered her plans. Family becomes her, and after Lydia's death she felt the world has came crashing down on her. The relationship between Marilyn and James began to waver, as each begins to wonder what would happen if she has sought her dreams or if he has married a woman of the same race. 

What makes this literary fiction a poignant read is it explores the domestic dynamics of a mixed racial family; the challenges they face with the society as well as the expectations of the parents have of their children. This is not the usual "whodunit" mystery although it does piques readers' curiosity surrounding Lydia's death, though. Nonetheless, readers will be entranced by this tale until the devastating conclusion, where the truth is finally revealed. 

ISBN-13: 9780062339485
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 24 February 2015

Format: Paperback, 272 pgs
Source: Publisher

We have all read books about stay-at-home mothers at some point but a perspective from a stay-at-home dad, well not so, at least I have not. Thus, I decided to read this when it was being offered for reviews. 

Finding Jake is a story about Simon Connolly, a stay-at-home dad who has decided to ditch his full-time job (well he does work as a freelance writer) to look after his teenage son, Jake, and his younger daughter, Laney. Simon's wife is one of the partners at a law firm and though she gives one an impression she's climbing up the corporate ladder, deep down she cares a lot about her children too. 

Initially, Simon struggles to be a full-time dad, after all what would people think about him, and on top of that he doesn't really know child rearing and he always find himself break in sweat chatting up with other stay-at-home mothers. Despite these, he grits his teeth and let on. Plus, it is always a bonus to be able to bond with your children isn't it. 

Still, it is always challenging to look after children, let alone a dad with not much experience. Jake is a boy unlike his peers; growing up he's more of a loner and seems to have a mind of his own. Simon dismisses his son's quiet demeanour, thinking it is nothing uncommon and that he is just a boy who dislikes crowds. Until one day there is a mass shooting massacre at his children's school; thirteen students are shot and Jake is nowhere to be found. The police speculated that Jake is one of the shooter's accomplice. For Simon, it is a nightmare and although he thinks Jake isn't a boy who is violent in nature, still he feels himself wavering.  

Absorbing and heart wrenching, author Bryan Reardon tells an unforgettable story about fatherhood and his relationship with his children, and how an horrific event forces him to think of Jake's behaviour and the consequences thereafter. At its core this thought-provoking story is very much about how well you know your children and how much do you trust and believe them. 

I have to say this book touched me in many ways. How many times have we, as parents, think about our children's behaviours and worry that what we teach or guide them is too much or too little? Too harsh or too lenient? This book is not about preaching, but it has made me think about the characteristics and the qualities of our children and sometimes, we do not often see things the way they are. Being different doesn't mean it is a bad thing, as long as the person doesn't hurt anyone. I closed this book teary-eyed, not only of the beautiful, powerful story but the true meanings behind all. Highly recommended. 


ISBN-13: 9780857522313
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 15 January 2015
Format: Hardcover, 320 pgs
Source: Purchased

Honestly speaking, this book isn't supposed to be on my priority reading list. Well, I do want to read it at some point but the hype and all the glowing reviews I read have made me change my mind. 

To avoid spoilers, my thoughts on this book would be vague and the characterisations is about all I could say. The story is told in three perspectives: Rachel, Megan and Anna. Three different women who aren't really happy with their life. Rachel is a divorcee but couldn't seem to get her ex-husband, Tom, out of her mind. She is also an alcoholic. Megan is a married woman who seems blissful in her marriage but she has a secret no one knows. She's also living in an area where Rachel used to live before the divorce, and there's a railway track nearby. Anna is the current wife of Tom. The three women's lives become inexorably intertwined after Rachel found an interesting couple during her regular train rides that would later change all their lives altogether. 

After reading The Girl on the Train, I can understand why it is a top seller. It is suspenseful and there is something about unreliable narrators that makes you wonder about their voices and behaviours and whether or not should you believe them. And in most cases they aren't likeable characters, either. Still, I enjoy reading books with such narrators because they are unpredictable and it is always fun to see if my guess is correct in the end. 

I know there are mixed reviews on this book, and while I felt it compelling it didn't 'wow' me the way I had wanted it to be. Still, it was a page-turner and I enjoyed reading it. I wasn't surprised that this book has been optioned for film by DreamWorks and I am curious to see how it would turn out with the film adaptation. I would definitely be on a look out for Ms. Hawkins' next release.