Book Review 18: Worth Fighting For

The book exchange at the Novotel in Suva provided me with Worth Fighting For by Mary-Anne O’Connor. This book takes place during World War II, but rather than touching upon Europe it focuses on the war in the pacific (Pearl Harbor, Australia, etc.). I really liked O’Connor’s writing. The story was well told and the characters developed in a way that you really felt they were real. 

To me it was fascinating reading a story from this wartime period from this perspective/location. I had no idea the extent of the war in Australia because we’re only taught extensively about the war’s impact in Europe. In the Author’s Acknowledgements at the end O’Connor tells us that although the story and characters are fictional many things in the plot really did happen or were drawn from historical facts. This made me like the story even more.  

I recommend this novel if especially if you like historical fiction books – the story was lovely. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

From Darwin to Pearl Harbour, Sydney to Papua New Guinea, a compelling story of courage, honour and a great love set against the epic backdrop of the Second World War

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael. 

But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.

From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…

Worth Fighting For is a resounding testament to the enduring force of love: a reminder of what can be achieved if you draw on your reserves of courage and listen to the truth in your heart.”

Book Review 17: Toys

The bookshelf at Beachouse had moths fly out…literally. When you moved a book you also moved the moths and the book selection was equally sparse. My only option was Toys by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. I never thought I would find myself reading a James Patterson novel, but here I was. Even more surprising though I really enjoyed it. It was an easy, swift read with an interesting story. The novel fast-forwards to the future in 2046. There’s flying cars, clones, and lots of other toys. There’s action in a James Bond type of hero. The book was a page turner in a slightly predictable yet addictive way. 

I would categorize this as a good, but not a must read to run out to pick up. I enjoyed the read , but wouldn’t have bought at a bookstore. If you stumble upon it give it a go. Since I enjoyed this one I would definitely read another James Patterson book if i come across it.

Goodreads’ Review

“Hays Baker and his wife Lizbeth possess super-human strength, extraordinary intelligence, stunning looks, a sex life to die for, and two beautiful children. Of course, they do–they’re Elites, endowed at birth with the very best that the world can offer. The only problem in their perfect world: humans and their toys!

The one with the most toys–dies

The top operative for the Agency of Change, Hays has just won the fiercest battle of his career. He has been praised by the President, and is a national hero. But before he can savor his triumph, he receives an unbelievable shock that overturns everything he thought was true. Suddenly Hays is on the other side of the gun, forced to leave his perfect family and fight for his life.

Now a hunted fugitive, Hays is thrown into a life he never dreamed possible–fighting to save humans everywhere from extinction. He enlists all of his training to uncover the truth that will save millions of lives–maybe even his own.”

Book Review 16: The Brighton Mermaid

I picked The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson up at the Radisson along with Big Little Lies, but don’t worry I left two in their place. I was drawn to this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mermaid is in the title so that grabbed my attention immediately. Second, one of the main events occurred my birth year, 1993. Thirdly, it’s based in Brighton and I’ve had a keen interest in reading books taking place in the UK recently. Lastly, the main character was a woman of color and lets be honest most books’ main character is a white woman with blue/green eyes (hair colors range, but there’s always a unique eye color unless we aren’t meant to particularly like them then they have dark eyes) – this is of course just my opinion and I haven’t put much thought into it. 

This book would also be classified as a mystery and bit of a thriller and I really enjoyed it. Did a really good job with the twists and turns and I really didn’t have much pegged once the story was unraveled. I loved that I didn’t have everything figured out so of course I’m not giving any spoilers. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

**WINNER OF THE PRECIOUS LIFESTYLE MUST READ OF THE YEAR AWARD 2018**

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…”

Book Review 15: Big Little Lies

I know I said I would chill out on reading, but then Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty was waiting for me at the Radison’s guest library. The first book I read by Liane Moriarty was What Alice Forgot for a book club a few years ago in NYC. I really loved that book. It was a captivating story and set in Australia so I knew I liked Liane Moriarty’s writing, but I haven’t read any of her other novels. 

When Big Little Lies became a HBO series it was star studded and quite reasonably became a hit. I usually try to read the book version before seeing the screen version of a story, but this was an exception. I had watched the full series (it sadly hasn’t been renewed for another season) before reading. The main difference between the print and screen versions is the location – originally set in Australia, but the series is based in California. The character descriptions also differed a bit and I just couldn’t replace Resse Witherspoon’s portrayal of Madeline out of my head. Besides that the book and series pretty much follow along the same story (of course there’s a point where the series goes off script due to the end of the book as in the last season). 

Even knowing what happens (or maybe it was because I knew) I couldn’t put this book down. Once again Liane Moriarty proved her abilities to write a captivating book. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t watched Big Little Lies I would recommend to read the book ASAP. I full enjoyed reading this one and look forward to reading more of Liane Moriarty’s novels. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

“A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place. 

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.”

Mantaray Island – Fiji

The next island stop is Mantaray Island Resort. The resort is located on Nanuya Baklava Island in the Naviti group of the Yasawa Islands, but it’s nicknamed Manatay Island because of the abundance of sea creatures during the appropriate season (May-October). I unfortunately didn’t see any mantarays, but that’s all good because everything about the stay was perfect. 

Every resort has a specific look. At Wayalaili the workers wore traditional, colorful clothes; Blue Lagoon had specific uniforms and they were all blue (naturally); at Mantaray the color of most of the staff shirts were red and black for the activity/dive staff. The red was such a good choice. It’s vibrant and therefore stands out next to the greenery of the island and the blue of the ocean. Right off the bat there’s a high air of professionalism. We are greeted with a singing Fijian welcome when coming ashore and then ushered into a beautiful outdoor bar/lounging area. 

Tree House Bure

We were staying here for two nights and booked the tree house bure. The first night was my birthday and opted for the luxury of not being in a dorm on my birthday. However, the dorms at Mantaray really aren’t that bad. There are a lot of people in the room, but it’s designed that you only see three other beds from where you sleep. The room was also air-conditioned so very cool 24/7. However, for the two nights we didn’t have to deal with sleeping in a dorm. Woo! The room was pretty small with just enough room to walk around between the bed, side tables, and our luggage. It’s not a space you are meant to spend much time in because there’s so much to do on the island. 

The rooms don’t have an ensuite bathroom and have a bathroom area. There’s three showers on the ground area, but to access the toilets they are up a set of stairs. This is because they are compostable toilets a.k.a. not flushing toilets. Pretty unique, but they are constantly cleaned so you barely notice. I actually liked them oddly enough.

Food

Now lets talk about the best part of Mantaray. Again there was a compulsory meal plan of  $ FJ /person per day. Notice this is only a bit more expensive than the others and it was so much better. The breakfast buffet had an array of cold options (cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.) to hot options (like pancakes, beans, fried rice?, and more), and then an eggs station. For lunch you had your choice off of a menu of about 10ish options. Then dinner was the highlight – first course was a soup with bread, choice of starter, choice of main, and dessert. It was a generous amount of food throughout the day. Sure you had to walk up a lot of stairs to get there so you were working for it. 

Entertainment 

The activities staff was fantastic. They seriously created the energy of the resort and genuinely seemed happy to be there. In general people in Fiji are nice and helpful, but they turned it up a notch. I think it speaks volumes to the management at the resort. On my birthday we got so lucky with a traditional Fijian Dance performance after dinner. I can truly say this was possibly one of my favorite nights in Fiji. So many staff members threw themselves fully into the performance and it was fantastic. The second night was raining and the pulled through again with some games to pass the evening. There is quite literally something to do all day at Mantaray – village visits almost daily, snorkeling ($25 FJ for your entire stay whether it’s a stay or a week), jewelry making, crown making with leaves, fishing, etc. 

Then most notably they have incredible diving. The location of the island gives them access to so many dive sites a few minute boat ride away. They are also incredibly professional in the dive shop. I had come to Mantaray knowing I wanted to do one of the dives, but after speaking with them I signed up for three. Not that they sold me hard on it at all – the opposite really – they were just chill, knowledgeable, and passionate. So I signed up for the 3 dives for $350 FJ. 

Spa

I decided to get a massage on my birthday. It was one of those last minute, but why not decisions. So I signed up for a 90-minute massage for $108 FJ. Honestly, the best less than $50 USD I have ever spent (okay maybe being a tad dramatic, but the best in a long long time). I can’t remember a massage that was this good. I also opted for the 90 minute so it was optimal relaxation and it was perfect. One of my new friends from San Francisco had one a day after me and he was also raving. I tried squeezing in another one, but didn’t have enough time between the dives, meal times, and ferry ride.

I truly loved Mantaray. I would come back here easily if given the choice. It’s really close between Mantaray and Blue Lagoon, but I think Mantaray has a slight edge and it’s a bit closer to the mainland. 

Blue Lagoon – Fiji

Blue Lagoon is one of the furthest sections of the Yasawas. Blue Lagoon Resort is located on Nacula Island. This is about 4.5 hour via ferry from Nadi. I can honestly say the journey is WORTH it. Staying at Blue Lagoon was comparable to other resorts and quality/value is so much higher. There’s again a compulsory meal plan of $119 FJ per person per day. We stayed in an eight person dorm for $44 FJ per night. 

The dorm was super chilled and felt like a relief going in each time. All of the beds were singles (no bunk beds) and the layout was good. We ended up with all girls in the room and it really felt like summer camp for the two nights. 

The food here was top notch. For breakfast there was a continental buffet and a hot choice from the menu (eggs varieties, pancakes, etc.). For lunch you were able to choose from about eight options with something for everyone. The standard dinner was three-course (choice of starter, choice of main, and choice of dessert). One of our dinners was a BBQ buffet so there were even more options available. The food and the options here were very good and definitely up to a resort standard. 

One of the biggest perks of Blue Lagoon was all the little extras. You could rent standup paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, etc. for free. They also offered yoga twice a day and a guided morning hike. You really didn’t have to spend extra on anything if you didn’t want to. 

Of course there were the additional cost extras available too. You could go to a village visit, guided snorkeling trips (AM and at night), or a cave excursion. 

We did the morning day trip to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. It took about 20ish minutes to get there by boat. The first cave you climb down stairs and jump in. It was pretty open with lots of light. Then you swim under a small section to access the other cave. This one is narrower and a lot darker. The guides found out it was my birthday and I was sang to in a cave…how many times will I be able to say that? The sounds echoed and it was pretty epic if I do say so myself. After the caves you had the option of buying some souvenirs from the local who boated over to the area. I really liked this excursion and would recommend it. 

If you are traveling the Yasawas I think Blue Lagoon needs to be on your list of places to stop. It was such a nice resort and I truly did not want to leave. The long ferry ride can be a little daunting so an alterative is that you can take the seaplane over one way and ferry back (or just take the plane both ways). This is obviously more expensive, but an option. 

Going Old School

When you hear the word “cobbler” do you think of the dessert or the person that fixes shoes? Well the last thing I would think I knew anything about is a shoe cobbler. Back home if a shoe broke someone in my family would go to get it fixed or even more liking it would be time to retire the shoes. Well that was not an option with my Christian Louboutin sandals. These were a treat yo’ self gifted item to myself last spring and naturally they became my most worn shoes ever. I didn’t have to wait for a special occasion to wear them because they weren’t heels. Once they were worn in they also were extremely comfortable and I could literally walk miles in them. Well it wasn’t very long (about 6 months) and as the store clerk so eloquently put it, “they were very loved,” and I found myself with a hole in the sole!! I was shocked/furious/embarrassed/annoyed/sad. How could this happen to luxury sandals?! These were not a $20 pair of Target sandals. I expected better quality. Well I finally came to terms with it and then realized I could throw them out (never going to happen) or solve how to get them fixed.

When I got back to Sydney I decided on visiting Shoe Worx in Chifley (which is a lovely shopping/food center btw). I was nervous going in thinking it was going to be a huge expense and also take a long time. Then I was pleasantly surprised! To fix the hole and resole both shoes it was going to be $58 AUD (less than $40 USD) AND they would be ready in 4 days. Could this be possible? It seemed too good to be true. Maybe they would mess them up more or it was scam or this was only half of the payment. I really didn’t know what to expect when I went to pick them up. Well I was so happy with the results I had to write this post in the off chance you may be in Sydney and need someone to fix your shoes or handbag. I highly recommend them.