The Winter Soldier – my new gentleman friend

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.97/5

Published September 11th, 2018


I have indicated a spoiler-free and spoiler-included section.


“Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.

But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever…” – Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Winter Soldier by Pan Macmillan SA.

Trigger Warnings:
  • Violence and Gore



I have read many a World War II story, but this is only my second World War I novel.  When a book is praised by authors like Anthony Doerr and Elizabeth Macneal, it has a certain appeal.  Daniel Mason did not disappoint.  Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, All the Light We Cannot See and The Girl You Left Behind will adore Mason’s writing style.

Lucius only ever wanted to be a doctor. He has visions of breakthrough medical discoveries and exploring the human anatomy (and fleeing from his awful mother), but war is not something he is prepared for… at all. Lucius is posted to a remote field church-turned-hospital, far removed from hygienic operating rooms and state-of-the-art medical technology. His only salvation is a single nurse who has learned what it requires to survive not just the war, but also the aftermath. But the 1914 Austro-Hungarian Empire has unforgivable winters; add to that, brutal war and Lucius is completely out of his depth.

The writing is impeccable.  Mason weaves a story that flows smoothly, is interesting and lets you feel deeply for each character.  The setting is well-crafted and adventures.  There are luscious evening dinners and harsh, gruesome battlefields.  It is a time where PTSD was not considered a medical diagnosis and the only priority is showing up, fighting the war and staying alive.  The story is both heart-warming and heartbreaking.  Part mystery, part war story, part romance – there is something for everyone.


Lucius’s character development is relatable.  By the end of the book, I felt that I had made a new gentleman friend and was proud of the young man he had become, even if his story did not have a happy ending.





The Confession – First 5-hashtag read of 2020!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

My Rating: #####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

Published September 24th, 2019

“Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .”Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Confession by Pan Macmillan SA. This is an unpaid review.

At one point in your life; if you haven’t already, you will read a book that steals your heart, breaks into a million pieces and leaves you broken. This is not that book. This book is the opposite of that. The Confession rips your heart out of your chest, shatters it, leaves you aching and in anguish and then slowly and lovingly puts it back together. Jessie Burton uses Rose Simmons and Constance Holden to wrap their arms around you while you cry for their pain, comforts you with their confessions and helps you put your heart back together whilst piecing together their journeys into a story so beautiful it leaves you breathless.

Trigger Warnings:
• Child abandonment
• Abortion

“I don’t tell people about the yearning. The wonder. I tell them, You can’t miss what you never had!

Rose has always wanted to know about her mother, but her dad has never wanted to talk about Elise. As a little girl, Rose made up stories about her mother; who Elise was, where she came from, why she left… or how Elise died. But as an adult, having grown up without a mother leaves you incomplete. Having grown not knowing one single thing about your mother, leaves you completely incomplete. Rose is unhappy, lost and with no sense of self-awareness – it’s heartbreaking.

“Self-consciousness in a woman’s life is a plague of locusts!”

On a trip visiting her father, he finally provides some information about Elise. A woman named Constance Holden. As Rose tries to contact Constance to find out about her mother, her world is upended most unexpectedly. Who is Constance Holden? Does she have any answers? Does she still have contact with Elise?

“In both books, Holden seemed preoccupied with mothers and daughters, love, the nature and conditions of emotional punishments, and missed opportunity.”

This book is dazzlingly written; it’s like picking up a piece of poetry and seeing each anapest clearly and feeling the rhythm of each verse in your soul – without anyone having to explain it to you. Burton takes what she describes in her quote above about emotional punishment and missed opportunities and crafts a story of self-discovery and redemption. But it’s not for the faint of heart. If you loved books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, you will adore this powerful novel about secrets, story-telling, motherhood, and friendships.


The Ten Thousand Doors of January – A Goodreads Choice 2019 Nominee

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

My Rating: ####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.16/5

Published September 10th, 2019

“When I was seven, I found a door. I suspect I should capitalize that word, so you understand I’m not talking about your garden- or common-variety door that leads reliably to a white-tiled kitchen or a bedroom closet.
When I was seven, I found a Door. There – look how tall and proud the word stands on the page now, the belly of that D like a black archway leading into white nothing. When you see that word, I imagine a little prickle of familiarity makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You don’t know a thing about me; you can’t see me sitting at this yellow-wood desk, the salt-sweet breeze riffling these pages like a reader looking for her bookmark. You can’t see the scars that twist and knot across my skin. You don’t even know my name…”
– The Blue Door, The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

I was gifted a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Must Read Books YA SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

One of my favorite books from 2018 was The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. When I read the synopsis for The Ten Thousand Doors of January I felt the sentimental longing to go back to Anthony Peardew’s mansion, meet Laura for the first time and discover the story of The Keeper of Lost Things all over again. I had to know if TTTDoJ was going to leave the same wistful affection in my heart.

“But you still know about Doors, don’t you? Because there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names.”

January Scaller is an orphan of sorts. She doesn’t belong anywhere; she doesn’t come from anywhere and she doesn’t know what the future holds. She feels ignored and alone and out of place. When January discovers a strange book that talks about Doors (with a capital D), other worlds, love, and adventure, how can she not read it? With each turn of the page, January’s whole life changes and she discovers there is one door that she will never be able to enter – the door before The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

“But I was done with the fanciful nonsense. No more doors or Doors, no more dreams of silver seas and whitewashed cities. No more stories. I imagined this was just one those lessons implicit in the process of growing up, which everyone learns eventually.”

I get a lump in my throat just telling you about January’s story and this book. It’s not like anything I’ve read before. Alix E. Harrow transports you into a world so magical and so full of adventure, you feel a little like the son or daughter of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, meets The Keeper of Lost Things.

Alix E. Harrow delivers the twists and turns of this magical, fantastical plot with elegance and confidence. Narration in sections of TTTDoJ nods to the narration at the start and end of The Age of Adeline (2015) and these were truly my favorite part(s) of the book. The narrator imprints on you that time weighs heavily on all the characters and for good reason.

“She became something else entirely, something so radiant and wild and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obligated to find others.”

Every chapter is named for the Door discovered in the chapter and gives insight on what to expect throughout the chapter. Will it be a wonderfully lovely Door or a worrisome Door to be wary of? There is the Unlocked Door, the Door to Anywhere, the Door of Blood and Silver, the Burning Door and the Door in the Mist.

January’s Doors is going to stay with me for a long while still…

“…not every story is made for telling. Sometimes just by telling a story you’re stealing it, stealing a little of the mystery away from it.”


The Guardian of Lies – A perfect read for the upcoming holidays.

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

My Rating: ###/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.85/5

Published August 22nd, 2019

Fans of Tom Clancy and Kate Quinn – this one is for you.

“Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolizes her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive. 

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.” – Goodreads 

I was gifted a copy of The Guardian of Lies by Must Read Books SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

What an enjoyable story. This story has all the right ingredients for an intensely satisfying and captivating spy meets historical fiction tale. The writing is fast-paced, the dynamics between the characters are intense and interesting and just the right amount of romance is present so that everyone will enjoy it. I often found myself trying to predict the outcome, but just when I thought I knew who “the bad guys” were, Furnivall introduced a new twist and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Most Historical Fiction novels are based in WWII (which I absolutely love), so it was refreshing to read a story set in post-war France where new history was being made. In this story, we are introduced to the start of the Cold War, Joseph Stalin, the creation of nuclear weapons and The Space Race. 

My absolute favorite thing about this book is the Southern France setting. The region of Camargue is some of the most natural and most protected regions in all of Europe, so I can just imagine how beautiful it was 65 years ago with The Mediterranean Sea on one side and full, luscious marsh plains in-land. 

Murder, lies, spies and secret agents, loyalty, betrayal, more secrets, more lies, fear, guilt, courage, and French wine – this book has it all!

It’s the Rockin’ and the Rollin’ of it.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Rating: #####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5

Published March 5th 2019 by Ballantine Books

Trigger Warning(s):

  • Addiction to alcohol
  • Addiction to drugs
  • Un-abandoned nudity
  • Self harm
  • No sexual violence
  • No domestic violence

What makes a 1970’s rock and roll band, at the height of their career, walk off stage and never return?

7 band members; and they all remember it differently.

HOLY SHIT! This book!  Ya, sorry, that curse word is there and it’s going to stay there…

“Making music is never just about the music.  And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops, and the feelings begin.”

The book is written as an interview journal and the story is told in an oral biography format.  The narration is an account of each member’s experience and point of view.  The producer, agent, other crew members, and friends and family are also noted.  The 70s were all about drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is all about Daisy Jones, drugs, sex and rock and roll. 

The Six is a talented, albeit somewhat mediocre, rock and roll band.  They do fairly well but they haven’t hit the big time. In walks Daisy Jones – she is a young, gorgeous, spoiled, barefoot, wild-child with a voice that lays the proverbial “golden egg”.   No one’s lives are ever the same.

It was completely normal to do rehearsals, record songs and perform in front of thousands (if not millions) of fans, stoned and stupefied.  Especially if you were one of the biggest bands in the world. 

But what happened behind the scenes?  Did they get along?  Did they hate each other’s guts?  Did they have normal lives, with hopes and dreams or did they just care about where their next fix is going to come from or writing that NEXT BIG SINGLE??

“But that’s because it’s easy to disguise almost anything as a love song.”

Reid takes you through the ups and downs of band dynamics, sleazy agents and producers, relationships inside the band, attempting relationships outside the band, addictions, rehab, marriage, children, travelling the road, hitting the big time, reaching your lowest point and performing. 

Nothing has been left out of this book.  You experience sobriety with Billy in era where no one is sober… ever.  You root for Camila, the woman fighting for her marriage and the father of her children.  But above all, you feel stubborn with a devil-may-care attitude with Daisy, you cry with Daisy, you feel so intensely and without inhibition with Daisy, that it breaks your heart!   That is just how good Reid’s writing is. 

It’s Evelyn Hugo meets rock and roll!!

The book is loosely based on the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac and their iconic Rumors Tour.  If you’ve never listened to Fleetwood Mac, you’ll want to listen to every single song after reading this book.

Read more about how Fleetwood Mac influenced Daisy Jones & The Six on Reese Whitherspoon’s book club – Hello Sunshine.

Amazon has ordered 13 episodes of a TV series adaption for Daisy Jones & The Six, to be co-produced by Reese herself.

The Professor and the Madman – for the love of words.

Director: Farhad Safinia (as P.B. Sherman)
Writers: John Boorman, Todd Komarnicki, Farhad Safinia & Simon Winchester (author)
Stars: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn & Natalie Dormer

The Professor and the Madman is a biographical drama set in the 19th century Ireland.  The movie is based on the 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words written by Simon Winchester.

Have you ever wondered how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be?  Who wrote it?  How was it decided which words to include and their meaning?

This is about recording the evolution of meaning.”

James Augustus Henry Murray (eventually knighted Sir James Augustus Henry Murray), portrayed by Gibson is assigned the daunting task of gathering all the words in the English language, their origin, translation and meaning and compile what we now know as the Oxford English Dictionary. To assist with this enormous assignment, he enlists the help of the public. The public is asked to submit words to be included in the OED, along with quotations from books, newsprint, bibles and any other sources of literature.   

While being held at a psychiatric hospital, the brilliant, but very disturbed, William Chester Minor (Penn) comes across the invitation and devotes most of his time (and eventually his life) reading, researching, cataloging and submitting words and quotations to Murray and his team.  As such, Minor becomes one of the OED’s most effective and significant contributors.

Disclosure: I have not read The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words, but the film is brilliant.

The characters are well thought-out, interesting and likable.  The Victorian era is profoundly illustrated through dark, somewhat gloomy and cold spaces for those lower-; and middle-class families suffering poverty and hardship; contrasted with rich, warm and comfortable settings depicting the educated and upper-class society.  Sean Penn truly shines as The Madman and I cannot think of a better actor for Minor’s role.  Penn portrays calm, intelligence, anguish, wretchedness, lunacy and love in such an intense way, you feel it as if you were in the room with him.  Mel Gibson compliments Penn’s character with consistency, stoicism and true Gibson-style perseverance.  Seeing them together on-screen, makes you want to yell: “You can do this, just keep going!!”.


Book lovers: you’ll love this film with its passion for words and it’s beautiful and historical books #bookshelfappreciation. Minor’s ingenious cataloging system will make you want to unpack your bookshelf, read every single book and start your own cataloging system.

“James Murray: Who’s she?
Dr. William Chester Minor: The impossible.
James Murray: The more impossible, the greater the love. “

The technical stuff:

Genre: Biography, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Run time: 2h 4min
Parental Guidance: No sex or nudity, moderate graphic violence and gore and mild profanity.