Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began by Libby Hathorn

Miss Frankin.jpgTitle: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began

Author: Libby Hathorn

Genre: Historical Picture Book

Publisher: Hachette/Lothian

Published: 28th May 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Price: $26.99

Synopsis: A fascinating story about Miles Franklin, one of Australian literature’s most significant women, written by one of the biggest names in children’s literature.

This is a story about iconic Australian writer Stella Miles Franklin, namesake of two major literary prizes, during her brief but formative time as a governess in rural New South Wales. Teenager Stella Miles Franklin has to work to help support her family. Stella is unhappy in her job and longs for the freedom and excitement of city life. While working, she meets a young orphan girl, Imp, who is almost as feisty as Stella herself, and who spurs the older girl to follow her dreams.

Inspired by events in Miles Franklin’s lifeMISS FRANKLIN is told by multi-award-winning author Libby Hathorn and acclaimed illustrator Phil Lesnie and includes a facts page about Stella Miles Franklin.

~*~

Picture books are not something I review often – but when I do, they are ones that I simply fall in love with and that have an empowering, and important message in them. Recently Hachette sent me a new picture book by Libby Hathorn, about Miles Franklin and her journey to becoming an author.

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As a teenager, Miles Franklin had to take on a governess job to earn money for her family. In this story, she encounters a young girl named Imp, who seems disinterested in learning yet afraid of something at the same time. Miles manages to draw Imp out of her shell, and together, they both learn that it is okay to take a chance – and this leads to Miles getting her first novel published by Henry Lawson.

Picture books like this introduce children to history and people that sometimes are never encountered, and at other times, only encountered in adulthood. Now, children will have the chance to meet her at a young age and find out more about who she is as they get older. The accompanying illustrations suit the story text and the historical setting of the story.

It is as much a story about encouraging you to follow your dreams as it is about how Miles got to where she did and became such a well-known author that we now have a prize for women authors named after her: The Stella Prize. This is the kind of picture book I would have adored when I was younger because it is so different to what is usually out there and there seems to be a trend these days for picture books centred around history and significant women in history, and I hope this trend grows.

Book Bingo Eleven – A place in the title

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Welcome to my eleventh book bingo with Theresa and Amanda. This time, I am checking off a book with a place in the title. I had intended to add this in last fortnight, but checking to see how everything would fit in has me aiming to do one square per post for the next fourteen posts to make sure everything is spread evenly.

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The asterixed titles are ones that are going to appear in future posts. It looks like I only have four slots left to fill, so hopefully I can stretch what I have left to the end of the year, as we have planned with this card. However, where a text row has BINGO next to it, I have added in my bingo graphic to reflect this, and will do the same when the relevant post goes up as well.

the french photographer

My square was a book with a place in the title. This one was going to be easy to fill, but hard to choose as there are many books that have a place in the title. I chose Natasha Lester’s latest, The French Photographer. Set during World War Two, it follows the story of Jess May, inspired by Lee Miller as she heads into various war zones and camps across France, and encounters sexism, an orphan and societal expectations that she refuses to bow down to. When she meets Victorine, Jess’s life will change – i many ways. The book flashes between the 1940s and the present day, leading to a storyline that is tragically beautiful and uniting, highlighting the importance of friendship, love and family throughout the ages and generations. I also had the chance to interview Natasha as part of the blog tour, and the interview can be found here.

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

BINGO!

I have read a book for each category in Row One Down – a couple of these posts are yet to go live but this post and the bingo week posts for these books will reflect gaining a bingo.

Rows Down:

Row One:  – Bingo

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Book by an author with the same initials as you:

Themes of science fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant*

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019*

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Well, that’s another fortnight down – come back next week for more book bingo!

Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss

Lintang 1Title: Lintang and the Pirate Queen

Author: Tamara Moss

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 31st July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:Lintang dreams of having adventures on the high seas.

When a deadly mythie attacks the same day the infamous Captain Shafira visits her island, Lintang gets her chance, defending her village with a bravery that earns her a place on the pirate queen’s ship.

But they’ve barely left the island when Lintang discovers her best friend, Bayani, has stowed away. Telling Captain Shafira means betraying her friend, but keeping Bayani’s secret risks everything . . . including their lives.

~*~

Lintang of the Twin Islands is adventurous, a quality her teacher and parents are trying to keep her in line, so their worlds remain calm. Yet one day, Lintang’s island is visited by a mythie called malam rasha, or night terror. Lintang defeats the malam rasha against advice and is chosen by Captain Shafira to join her on a voyage. What that voyage is exactly, is revealed slowly, and this adds to the excitement whilst reading the book to find out where they are headed.

When Lintang discovers that her friend, Bayani has stowed away, she must keep him safe and not reveal his location to the captain. When he is discovered, Lintang finds herself relegated to a position where Bayani doesn’t share anything with her and has secrets with Shafira – secrets that will lead to the climax of the novel and unearth secrets about the mythies that nobody saw coming, nor does everyone seem to understand.

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Shafira, Bayani and Lintang are led on a dangerous journey to uncover various secrets that nobody ever knew existed, or were possible, to a land where the strict rules mean they cannot seek refuge, but must help uncover a deception that has leaked into the crew – and that will lead to events that almost have tragic consequences.

The first in a series I would like to continue, this is an exciting series with a female lead that all readers can engage with and follow her adventures. It combines diversity, with mythology, pirates, and draws on traditions and languages present in our world to create the world Lintang inhabits.

Book Bingo Ten – Book Bingo –  Set on the Australian Coast

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Welcome to my tenth book bingo with Theresa and Amanda, where I am ticking off another square no full bingo yet. Some squares are to be used in later posts as the books haven’t been published yet. This time, I am checking off a book set on the Australian coast. I was going to do a double bingo but wasn’t sure if doing so would allow me to stretch these posts to the end of the year, as all my categories are nearly checked off, but the posts just need to be written.

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The asterixed titles are ones that are going to appear in future posts. It looks like I only have four slots left to fill, so hopefully I can stretch what I have left to the end of the year, as we have planned with this card.

house of second chancesFor the Australian Coast, I have chosen The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion, which does head to Ireland in some places, but has a good chunk set on the Australian coast. It is the sequel to one I read last year, and whilst not in my top reads, it is still enjoyable and fits in nicely with this category. It is light hearted and romantic, so it would have also worked with the romance square, but best sits here for me as I wasn’t sure what other books would cross my path that would be set on the Australian coast. It continues the story of Ellen and her family, and all those interconnected with them in Ireland and Australia – though this time, focuses on Ellen’s brother, Aidan and the house he is renovating.

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019*

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019*

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

As you can see, I’ve been reading a very broad range this year and that is being nicely covered across book bingo and all my other challenges. Stay tuned for next fortnight when I feature a book with a place in the title.

Life Before by Carmel Reilly

life before.jpgTitle: Life Before
Author: Carmel Reilly
Genre: Crime/Mystery
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 6th May 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 345
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: Suspense and family secrets surround a pair of estranged siblings in a compelling debut thriller.
She knew she should talk to him. But what could she say? Once there had been blame to apportion, rage to hurl. Now she no longer had a sense of that. Who knew what the facts of them being here together like this meant. What was she to make of the situation? Scott lying unconscious here in this bed, unknown to her in almost every way. She a wife, a mother, but in her mind no longer a sister. Not a sister for a very long time now.

Lori Spyker is taking her kids to school one unremarkable day when a policeman delivers the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been injured and hospitalised following a hit and run.

Lori hasn’t seen Scott in decades. She appears to be his only contact. Should she take responsibility for him? Can she? And, if she does, how will she tell her own family about her hidden history, kept secret for so long?

Twenty years before, when she and Scott were teenagers, their lives and futures, and those of their family, had been torn to shreds. Now, as Lori tries to piece together her brother’s present, she is forced to confront their shared past-and the terrible and devastating truth buried there that had driven them so far apart.

Compassionate, wise and shocking, Life Before tells the gripping story of an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. What if the worst thing you can imagine isn’t the worst thing to happen? How do you go on? And what steps will you take to protect yourself from further pain?

~*~

Life Before opens in 1993, with a country cop, Senior Sergeant Des Robinson has to attend an accident, with one fatal, and many injuries on the backroads of Northam. It is a tragedy that will touch many families and turn the lives of two in particular upside down, leading to a mystery about the fate of one family that is slowly revealed as the book goes back and forth between 1993, when the accident occurs, and 2016, where everything slowly comes out.

In 1993, Pam and Mick are living a normal life in Northam with their kids, Scott and Loren, both still at school and with promising futures ahead of them. One day, a terrible accident changes all that and Northam is never the same again. Months later, the town has to contend with another tragedy tearing a family apart.

2019 BadgeIn 2016, Lori is married, with two kids, and on her way to drop them at school when she’s informed her brother has been in an accident. He’s in a coma, and she’s listed as his only next of kin. at this point, we discover that her parents and oldest brother, Simon, are all dead – the big question is how and when. At first, Lori keeps Scott a secret from Jason. They’ve been estranged for over twenty years, since the tragedy that tore their family apart. Yet soon, their lives, and the lives of Lori and her husband Jason, will unexpectedly intersect and the mystery, crime and tragedies that made Lori who she is, will unravel and come to light.

In a compelling mystery, Carmel Reilly reveals how a tragic accident can change the lives of a normal family, and an entire community forever, and lead to even more tragedy that drives two family members apart for two decades. It is about how a decision can change everything. Throughout the book, the two mysteries – the one in 1993, and the one that leads to Lori and Scott reuniting in 2016, are told in a way that a little information is revealed each time, yet not too much: Carmel Reilly holds back on what we really need to know until the climax of the book, like all good mysteries. It is compelling, and I wanted to read on to find out what had happened. It also ran at a decent pace: not too fast, so everything was resolved neatly, but also, not to slow so things dragged on. This is where going back and forth in what seemed like parallel mysteries worked well.

Throughout the novel, the reader is constantly wondering what happened with the accident, what happened to Lori’s family – how did they die, and when did they die? All clues point towards something unforeseen and that Lori has been on her own – apart from Jason and their kids – for a very long time. The hints are there that something awful happened, something that she feels she cannot talk about. Yet it is the careful and deliberate peeling back of the layers of the two crimes involving Scott that has made this novel a compelling and engrossing story, and a mystery well worth the read. Where some mysteries show the fracturing of a marriage due to the secrets one spouse has kept, Reilly holds Jason and Lori together, showing that both have had something rough to deal with in this case and life. The mystery really opens up and heats up when Jason goes to the ICU with Lori – what comes after this reveals much more than anticipated and even quickens the pace a little, but not too much.

Unlike most mysteries that end in a nice, clean resolution of an arrest, here, whilst we find out what has happened, this one has a unique ending. The crime may be solved, but there is still more to come for Lori and Jason, and Scott off the page. All in all, a very compelling read for crime and mystery fans.

Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip

Alice to Prague.jpgTitle: Alice to Prague

Author: Tanya Heaslip

Genre: Memoir/Non-Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 6th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:What happens when a young independent Northern Territory country girl decides to follow her dreams and go off in search of adventures abroad? An honest, often funny, bittersweet memoir of love, loss and belonging; of the hard-won understanding around where home lies.

‘I loved it! I laughed and cried and it was very hard to put down.’ Fleur McDonald, bestselling author of Where the River Runs

‘A story of love for country, for home.’ Toni Tapp Coutts, author of A Sunburnt Childhood

In 1994, with a battered copy of Let’s Go Europe stuffed in her backpack, Tanya Heaslip left her safe life as a lawyer in outback Australia and travelled to the post-communist Czech Republic.

Dismissing concerns from family and friends that her safety and career were at risk, she arrived with no teaching experience whatsoever, to work at a high school in a town she’d never heard of, where the winters are frigid and plunge to sub-zero temperatures.

During her childhood on an isolated cattle station in Central Australia, Tanya had always dreamed of adventure and romance in Europe but the Czech Republic was not the stuff of her dreams. On arrival, however, she falls headlong into misadventures that change her life forever.

This land of castles, history and culture opened up to her and she to it. In love with Prague and her people, particularly with the charismatic Karel, who takes her into his home, his family and as far as he can into his heart, Tanya learns about lives very different to hers.

Alice to Prague is a bittersweet story of a search for identity, belonging and love, set in a time, a place and with a man that fill Tanya’s life with contradictions.

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~*~

In 1994, Tanya Heaslip, who had grown up in the Australian outback on a farm, and attended boarding school in the city, heads off to live in Prague, in the Czech Republic for year – only three years after the collapse of Communism, and five years after she saw the Berlin Wall come down. Heading there to teach English, she enters a world that is unfamiliar, and in some ways, is still clinging onto the Communist past, yet at the same time, trying to embrace the new way of life and venture into a new world. Unable to speak Czech, Tanya had to rely on the generosity of the Czechs who spoke some English, and the keen students at her school like Pavel and Kamila who loved learning from her. She found ways to connect with her students through Australian songs like Waltzing Matilda, and met Karel, a man who would help her find her way in Prague, who she would fall in love with. Yet their cultural differences and understandings of love and relationships did not always see eye to eye.

The Prague that Tanya visited and lived in is very much the Prague I visited in 2007- where remnants of Communism still cling on, and where the first MacDonald’s built in Prague is opposite the Museum of Communism – which goes through the history of Communism in the Czech Republic from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution.

What we know of Communist era Prague and Eastern Europe from the Western tradition, and what the people Tanya became friends with told her have a stark difference for understanding and interpretation. Where the West – and Tanya – believed it was oppressive, people like Karel said they found it safe – they knew where they lived, where they worked and how their lives would turn out. The fall of Communism had made that uncertain for some people yet given hope to others.

Visiting in 2007, there are still elements of Communism amongst the new capitalist areas, and the old, medieval icons such as the Astronomical Clock. Each of these elements combines to create a unique city that has seen many changes, war, revolution and everything in between. Its identity is clear in Tanya’s memoir as one that has been cobbled together of all these elements, and one that continues to grow in Europe. Tanya’s story is amazing and intriguing – and the way she adapted to life in Prague illustrated how anyone might have to adapt to any environment starkly different from the one they are familiar with.

Where Tanya had the freedom to head back to Australia, and younger students expressed a desire to leave Prague and head to what they saw as freer nations, people like Karel expressed that they could not leave their lives for uncertain futures or places. In this meeting of East and West, Tanya discovered through discussions with her students at the school, legal institutions and a ministry, that both sides had been fed a narrative that suited their respective governments. That everyone had a valid viewpoint but some things simply did not translate or crossover – and only Tanya could make the decisions she needed to make about her life and her future – which she touches on at the end, and where she ends up in Australia, a decade after her journey to Prague.

This book gave an interesting insight into travelling to and around a former Communist country in the years just after the changes came forward, and the difficulties in transitioning from one to the other, and the conflicts of those who want change, those who don’t, and those who have come from an entirely different place where definitions of freedom and security are very different. It is eye opening and engaging – and I could picture Prague as she wrote about it – the River Vltava, Charles Bridge and all the ancient architecture peppered with newer, Communist bloc buildings. An interesting read for all into history and Prague, and for those who have visited or want to visit.

Children of the Dragon: The Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim

race for red dragon.jpgTitle: Children of the Dragon: The Race for the Red Dragon

Author: Rebecca Lim

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 6th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The Race for the Red Dragon is the thrilling second book in the action-packed Children of the Dragon series.

Qing sat bolt upright, her head tilted to one side as if she were listening intently. Then the interior of the van went black and a single shot rang out, loud as a cannon. 

On their way to the Wudang Mountains to discover the fate of Qing’s father and sisters, Qing and Harley make an unscheduled stop after they hear rumours of an ancient vase emblazoned with a red dragon.

Enemies are everywhere, and Harley and Qing must race evil forces across Hong Kong and Southern China to find the legendary vase. Qing’s magic is growing in power, but is it enough to counter the human and otherworldly forces that are determined to stop them at all costs?

Featuring magic, mystery and martial arts, The Race for the Red Dragon delivers more fast-paced action and adventure in CHILDREN OF THE DRAGON series.

~*~

Harley and Qing return in the second book in the series as they search China and the Wudang Mountains for Qing’s family, the rest of the dragons trapped in vases, and to find Harley’s father, Ray. As they seek the vases and Qing’s family Harley must cover up his identity to sneak into the country, and search for a stunning ancient vase that has a red dragon on it: the next member of Qing’s family. But there is more to the mystery now, and someone is after Harley’s family as well as the vases, and soon Harley is separated from his father, and must continue on with Schumacher, and someone else he has never met before until he discovers the red vase, and a threat to his family he had hoped would never come, making his quest feel like it will never end, and like he may never return to life as he knew it again.

2019 BadgeThe second in an #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseVoices series, I’m really enjoying reading a book about another culture, seen through the eyes of people connected to that culture, but also, to an Australian culture and how these intersect and come together. The combination of mystery, culture, magic and martial arts will have a broad range of appeal to many readers, hopefully of all ages. Working in children’s books as a quiz writer, I always like to see the various offerings out there, and this one did not disappoint at all – and added to the magical mystery that began in The Relic of the Blue Dragon. A middle grade book, I believe it can also be something that #LoveOzYa readers and supporters can get behind too – the fast-paced nature makes it a quick and enjoyable read because it is so engrossing, over half the book has gone by without realising it.

Harley’s adventures continue rapidly and end on an exciting cliffhanger that will lead into the third book, and hopefully the discovery of a third dragon and further thwarting of those seeking to harm Harley, his family and take possession of the vases of the dragons for their nefarious means. So can Harley and Qing find the rest of the vases in time and save both their families?

Fantasy and dragons are amongst some of my favourite things to read about, and I love reading new and diverse perspectives, because it shows the breadth of traditions that involve dragons, and how many differences there are, each with their own cultural significance. With each new book like this, I learn something new that I previously may not have stumbled across or had access to – for whatever reason – unavailability of information or lack of resources around me. For this reason, I love this series and hope to see much more from it in the coming years.