The Light Between Oceans

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After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

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I just finished listening to The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It was read by Noah Taylor and his narration was fantastic. I was surprised at first by his Australian accent – which is probably strange considering that the book is set in Australia, about Australians and written by an Australian – but it made such a difference that I would recommend to anyone that they listen to this book rather than read it. It sounded like Hugh Jackman was in my ear for 10+ hours, whispering sweet nothings. Magical. Taylor has spot on portrayals of male and female characters, particularly little Lulu, and I felt that each of the characters had their own “voice”. I would be open to listening to future audio books just based on the fact that he is the narrator.

The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written tale of love and the connections it weaves between people, often unseen over many years. It is also a story of heartache. The pain of parents who lose children, of children who lose parents, and the bitterness that can develop between two people who love each other, when life gets in the way.

Stedman pulls and tugs at the strings between a loving, committed husband and wife, and manipulates those ties. Will they break? How much is too much to overcome? And how far will someone go against their personal code, to meet the needs of the person they love most in the world?

I found myself questioning what I would do in place of Isabel and Tom. Would I have kept the child who washed up on the only shore within a day’s sailing, seemingly in answer to my prayers? More to the point, would I give her back, after learning her mother is alive and desperately searching for her?

The ending of the Light Between Oceans is sad, more than I expected it to be, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out throughout the final chapter. Prepare to have a few tissues handy if you have a sensitive soul.

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xx

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Hold Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the third of which is Hold Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I have already posted reviews of the first two books (Twist Me; Hold Me) and this review WILL contain SPOILERS for them.

Anna Zaire writes a couple of series. The one that I am going to review is a modern, new adult, (very) dark romance. The male protagonist (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will. In the second, they marry, somewhat against her will, and start to build a new life together before their old enemies kidnap Julian and torture him for information. Nora has realized that she loves him and convinces his security to allow her to risk her life to save them both, something she ultimately succeeds at, but not without some consequences.

book 3

Book Blurb:

Captor and captive. Lovers. Soulmates.

We’re all that and more.

We thought we were past the worst of it. We thought we finally had a chance.

We thought wrong.

We’re Nora and Julian, and this is our story.

***Hold Me is the conclusion of the Twist Me trilogy, told from Nora & Julian’s point of view.***

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Hold Me continues to follow the evolution of Julian and Nora’s relationship, which began in Twist Me. Now a (mostly) united front, Nora has admitted her true feelings for Julian, acknowledging her love for him and accepting the nature of their relationship. She decides it doesn’t matter how their relationship started and gives up on wondering if it can all be boiled down to psychological programming and stockholm syndrome. She wants to be with him, even though their relationship is unequal, and now accepts the dominance and submission aspects of their relationship and the power exchanges that occur. Her only remaining desire is to see Julian also admit his love for her, loving her as the person she has become rather than an object under this thumb.

Hold me is still an excellent read, but I didn’t like it as much as either of the preceding books, for a couple of reasons which will be the focus of my review.

Firstly, Nora’s parents were introduced in a limited capacity in the second installment during the webcam wedding scene, but their presence in this book is greatly expanded. I liked how the Mum and Dad had different attitudes and abilities to manage Julian and what they regard as their daughter’s brainwashed ramblings about her husband. But I would have liked to have seen Zaires expand upon the interactions between Julian and Nora’s parents, particularly without Nora present. He kidnapped their daughter, twice!, married her hastily and moved her to another continent permanently, where she now resides with him, despondent and abused (or so her parents believe). They understandably bit their tongues around Nora to keep from alienating her, but I felt that the book built to an explosive confrontation between the parents and Julian, one that never occurred.

The second thing that took away from the book in my opinion, was the high octane, overly dramatic car chase between Julian’s troops and the Irish-Chicago Mafia. Between the three books, Julian has lost well over 100 men, all of whom are supposedly highly trained and many are former Spec-Ops. So far, they only seem to be good at their chauffeuring services, and beating up unarmed teenagers. Seriously, is he not scraping the bottom of the barrel yet for men to put on assignment? He really shouldn’t have lost Peter’s services so easily. He needs the tough Russian bruiser on his side at this point.

At the end of the day, the three books have built up Julian as this unstoppable force – even with the torture by the Middle East group in book 2, he didn’t break – but the local mob and cops just about had them with one car chase. It would have been better to not have the cops and mob team up (an unbelievable plot-point in my opinion) and have Julian take care of them without losing half the men he did. The scene just made him seem like less of a badass, which is exactly how you don’t want this series to end.

Despite three paragraphs of complaints, I did love Hold Me and gave it a very good rating. It starts out differently than the others, with Julian using a much gentler approach with Nora. He will never change, but he does learn to embrace different aspects of his personality to manage her that, thus far, he only expressed while she was in hospital.

After the horrors of the second book, both characters are in need of healing, and Nora requires a gentle touch. She is badly traumatized, suffering from panic attacks and night terrors. She has always had Julian’s protection, but this development lends her the emotional protection and support that was missing from their relationship, bringing them closer together. Julian even brings a psychologist to their compound to work with Nora.

It takes some brass balls for her kidnapper to move a professional mental health expert in with them to work with the abductee and be secure in the knowledge that his own programming of Nora will not be affected!! While he may not be able to admit it yet, he has fallen in love with her.

I loved the pregnancy that Zaires wrote in. She did it differently than authors usually do, and it helped to re-establish the relationship parametres between Nora and Julian. She wonders if he impregnated her on purpose, deceiving her with the implantation of a fake birth control device in her arm, and is able to take him for his word when he assures her otherwise, because if he had wanted her pregnant, he would have made it happen regardless of her wishes and wouldn’t have hidden it, something she knows. After seeing a softer side of Julian for much of the book, this scene helps to ground them in the roles that were established in Twist Me, and that Nora has just accepted will never change.

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xx