July 2020 Summer Winter Sale

If you are stuck at home, bored, because of the COVID-19 situation or if you just want ebooks at a discounted price, then head over to Smashwords. They are currently holding their Summer Winter Sale for 2020 and you can grab ebooks at super lower prices.

All my books are on special at 50% off, and Land of Miu and House on the Hill are 100% free. Go to my Smashwords profile found at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/karenleefield, scroll down the page and select the ones you’d like to purchase.

For the price of a coffee, you can buy all of my books. This offer is valid between now and the end of July. Treat yourself. 😀

I Survived COVID-19 (so far)

For me, COVID-19 started when I noticed mayhem in the toilet paper aisle of the supermarket, and I wondered what was happening. I didn’t need toilet rolls, so didn’t buy any. More fool me because I didn’t see any more for six weeks. And then, I had to leave home at 6.45 am to ensure I got some (happily, I did), but it was another four weeks or so before I managed to get any more. During that time, my husband struck gold when he managed to get his hands on an industrial roll, but that got us through those tough weeks.

By the time we got used to seeing no toilet paper anywhere, other items had started to become rare commodities. Things like soap, sanitizer, flour, pasta, rice, long-life milk, cereal, oats, canned goods, and then fresh meat disappeared from the shelves as people started to stockpile. The hoarders left nothing for anyone else. Mass panic seemed to take hold. Suddenly store owners imposed limits to these sort after products. Some people turned nasty and actually threw punches over toilet rolls. Can you believe it? It was a scary time, yet my husband and I managed to eat proper meals every day. We improvised. We tried new products. But above all else, we continued to only buy what we needed.

For the world, we are told that COVID-19 started at a wet market in China. Something about cross-contamination of animals that should never be near each other and are not in the real world.

And the conspiracists believe something about worldwide population control. But I won’t go into that.

COVID-19 has changed the world. In general terms, the whole world went into lockdown. And within countries, some of its people were forced to stay within their district. While in other countries, people were confined to their own homes.

Suddenly we could not travel overseas. We were not allowed to congregate in large numbers. Family members could not visit each other, let alone their elderly relatives in nursing homes or care facilities, or hospitals. Weddings had to be postponed, while only ten people could attend funerals. Businesses closed their doors, leaving thousands of people jobless or stood down until further notice (actually, I think I could say millions here). If we went for a walk and found ourselves standing admiring the view, we were at risk of receiving a fine for loitering.

Due to an emergency eye test, I visited a shopping centre in the middle of a weekday. A majority of the shops were closed, and it felt dark and eerie walking through the deserted complex alone.

Everywhere we went (and still go) we were expected to stay one and a half metres from the people around us. And sanitizer was (and still is) thrust at us before we could step into a shop, a business, or anywhere else we want to go.

Governments asked us to do these things to stop the spread of the virus and to stop the death toll from rising.

To date, there have been over 7M confirmed cases worldwide, with over 400,000 deaths.

In Australia, where I live, we’ve been lucky. We acted quickly. One day everything was normal, the next we were working from home. We were asked only to leave our homes for essential purposes only, such as buying food and for medical reasons, and to go to work if we couldn’t work from home. Believe me, most people quickly found a way to convert an area in their home to a workspace. Children sat on one side of the room, doing their school work digitally. Meanwhile, their parents sat on the other side of the room, conducting Skype meetings and performing work duties electronically. We adapted. Fast.

To date, there have been just over 7,000 confirmed cases in Australia and 102 deaths.

For some, working from home has been a challenge, especially for those living alone. They report feeling isolated and lonely. For me, I loved working from home and would be happy to continue doing it indefinitely. I work harder, and I’m more focused. There’s less stress. But we’re all different.

In Australia, the restrictions are slowly lifting. On Saturday, I went to a shopping centre again and, this time, I found the number of people to be confronting. I felt the social distancing requirement was not adhered to and, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave the complex and get away from the mass of people. I worry that we’ll become complacent and end up with a second way of the virus that is more devastating than the first.

I believe we have had other harmful viruses. I also think there has been a toilet roll shortage once before in our history. But regardless of that, 2020 has been a year like no other. Part of me feels as if we are transitioning between what we know (the old) and something totally new. Part of me worries that life will never entirely be like it was. That may not be a bad thing, but it will depend on how the future shapes up. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

For now, I find myself hoping that the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 soon disappears from the world, never to return. Only then will we be able to start living our new normal. Fingers crossed that the new normal isn’t a bad one.

Audiobook: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

My review: I read the Harry Potter series many moons ago. I’ve seen the movies umpteen times. So why go back to Hogwarts again, after all these years? My response is, why not?

I’ve read, and I’ve watched the series. Now I intend to listen to it. At the risk of sounding tedious, I was looking for an audiobook from my local elibrary and couldn’t find anything that appealed to me. Then Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone magically appeared, and I made my decision.

I won’t tell you what the story is about, as I’m sure you already know. If you don’t, then I’d like to ask what deserted island have you been living on over the last two or so decades? Anyway, what I will tell you is that the movies pushed the details in the books to one side and I was amazed to discover all those little details that I had forgotten.

Stephen Fry reads the version I am listening to. He is excellent—top marks to Stephen.

I’m enjoying revisiting the world of Harry Potter (I’ve almost finished book 2). Recommended.

Audiobook: Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Step inside. Don’t look back. Forward is the only way. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights meets Mad Max in this unforgettable blockbuster adventure about the world between worlds.

When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home. 

But this ain’t no ordinary rescue mission. Her father is lost in a place between worlds; a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him, too. A man who knows her father’s secrets. A man who has an army. 

With a pyromaniac named Violet and a trickster named Hickory by her side, Jane is about to discover that this adventure is even bigger on the inside than it looks… 

My review: Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is another audiobook I found through my local library. Judged on the cover alone, I was intrigued enough to borrow the book. Then I discovered the author is Australian, which was a pleasant surprise. However, where the author is from actually doesn’t make a difference to me at all. A book is a book. A story is a story. But a good book with a good story is like finding gold.

And this is a good book. I enjoyed it from the first chapter.

Jane Doe lives in Bluehaven, and from the beginning, it’s clear that something is amiss. Jane and her dad, John, are treated poorly by the community. And there’s something peculiar about the Manor. Everyone is hiding something. Secrets are big in Bluehaven.

After a massive earthquake, Jane enters the Manor to save her father. She meets up with Hickory and her one and only friend, Violet. The trio is an awesome combination. But again, there are secrets and half-truths every which way Jane turns. Who can she trust, and can she locate her dad?

Of course, the Manor is no ordinary place and does not have regular occupants living there. Far from it. Jane must learn how to navigate the Manor without setting off the traps, and without being caught by creatures that want to kill her.

There’s lots of action. The three main characters are a strange combination, but they have their funny moments and are as crazy as anything. Something is always happening. Yet as the story progresses, the author allows the reader to find out bits of information to keep them anchored in the plot.

Male and female readers will enjoy this book. There’s something for everyone. I’ll be watching for book 2. I hope my library gets a copy soon.

Audio review: Redwall

Redwall by Brian Jacques

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve meant to read this book for many years. I’ve owned the paperback (twice) and then donated them as I needed to pack up and move (and I have way too many books). But this year I’ve been scanning my local library’s elibrary for new audiobooks and came across Redwall again. This time I decided to stop procrastinating and get listening.

I expected to love it, but unfortunately, found it annoying for the most part. I didn’t like the constant joking around. I couldn’t connect with the book, or maybe the characters. The interaction between the characters felt wrong somehow. Honestly, I can’t put my finger on what I found wrong with it.

Many readers love it, and I don’t want to take anything away from the author for that. I might read the second book to see if it captures my imagination more, but don’t know when that will be.

I’ll leave you to decide if you like it or not.

Audio review: Children of the Famine Trilogy

I recently listened to all three books in the Children of the Famine trilogy, and have decided to write a review for all three in one post.

Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book is written for children and the main characters are children, I had trouble associating the book for children. It felt and read like a book written for adults about children.

For a classic, I wonder why I had never heard of the book, or the series (Children of the Famine) before I spotted the cover in my local elibrary for download.

Putting these two things aside, Under the Hawthorn Tree captured my attention. It’s a brilliantly crafted work set in the mid 1800s (I believe) and tells the story of the Great Potato Famine. Of course, I had heard of the famine but knew very little about it. The author painted a clear, believable image of how the people lived and suffered during what must have been a terrifying time.

Eily, Michael and Peggy are the three children in the story. They find themselves alone and desperate when their mother leaves them to look for their father. When things turn sour, the three decide to travel across Ireland to find their great aunts. It’s a story of love, courage, determination and desperation.

It is difficult not to put yourself in their little shoes and wonder if we had to do the same, would we manage, let alone survive?

It’s a heart-warming story, filled with scenarios I never hope to experience. Recommended.

Wildflower Girl by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The sequel to Under the Hawthorne Tree, Wildflower Girl, is told from Peggy’s point of view. She’s the youngest of the three children.

Seven years have passed, Peggy is now 13 years old, and many Irish have left their country to make a new life elsewhere. Eily is to be married, and Michael has found his dream job as a stable boy. There are few jobs to be had, and Peggy fears she will always be nothing more than a helper for her older sister, Eily. So when the opportunity arrives to go to America, Peggy is keen, but her siblings are not. She wins the argument and goes on her own.

The book tells the story of hope, dreams, hardship and mistreatment. The story moves fast and gives a good account of the travel by ship from Ireland to Boston.

Once in America, Peggy is on her own and must find a way to support herself. Again, I cannot imagine anyone her age starting an adventure of this kind. I would be terrified the entire time. But, the thing is, young people of that time did emigrate to another country.

Recommended.

Fields of Home by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fields of Home is my favourite book in the series, and as far as I’m concerned, a book written for adults about children, who are no longer children.

Six or seven years have passed, and the children have grown up. Peggy, the youngest, is around 19 and she is still working as a maid. Michael is still a stable boy in the Great House in Ireland. Eily is married with two children of her own and living on a farm with her husband and Great Aunt Nano.

While the story has heartbreak and struggling, hope is strong, and the siblings still show signs of strength. The story is told from all three points-of-view. We see how the carpet is pulled out from beneath all of them and then witness how they pull their lives back together. The siblings help each other even though they have barely anything to give. It warmed my heart to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it for so many reasons, but the most important is love.

Recommended.

Ebook review: Esme’s Wish

Esme's Wish

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished this book a while ago, but have had two deaths in the family in the last month. Things are a bit all over the place and writing reviews has not been a priority at the moment.

Esme’s Wish is an in-between book. It’s not really a children’s book, but isn’t fully a young adult book.

I liked the world the author created. It is fresh and different — the words clean and bright seem to come to mind, instead of dark and gloomy. And I found that refreshing.

I also liked the characters. Esme came across as confused and uncertain, but given her circumstances that was spot on. Her friends fell in beside her well, they both had their own strengths and weaknesses, and I could see that the three of them would work well together.

The author did a good job of transporting me into her world, and that is a big thing to accomplish. I could almost see and feel the water and the huge monuments. I took a walk around the market, following the three main characters, almost seeing what they saw.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. I believe it’s enough to say that I enjoyed the book and will be looking for the next one soon, after things have settled down on the home front. Recommended.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

Audiobook: The Testaments

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Book 2 in The Handmaid’s Tale. Book 1 had a voice that drew me in and kept me spellbound. Book 2 has a different voice, which I readily accepted because different characters tell the story.

I read some bad reviews before reading Book 2. Terrible reviews. However, I must disagree with them. The Testaments revisit some well-known characters and introduces new ones. It provides more back story and fills in blanks left at the end of Book 1.

For me, the book beckoned me back to it during the hours that I could not return to Gilead. Surprisingly, I identified with the story because of what’s happening in the world right now (COVID-19).

I guess, for me, Book 1 felt as it if was seeing Gilead from the inside, leaving me feeling oppressed and worthless. Offred had no hope and surrounded the reader, me, with that same feeling. The words must be powerful to have that effect.

However, Book 2 felt as if it saw Gilead from the outside looking in. By this, I mean we approach the story from a different angle. We see how a person can appear mean and nasty but are fighting the fight behind closed doors. We witness Gilead official’s weaknesses and their enemies. And, like in every down-trodden era, we discover brave people who are willing to stand and fight against the powers of the world.

What I’m trying to say is that Book 1 took hope away and Book 2 gives it back.

Personally, I think both books are brilliant, and I highly recommend both of them.