Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Title: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club)

Author: Monique Mulligan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pilyara Press

Published: 18th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.

~*~

Amy and Matt have moved to Blackwood to escape the vicious whispers and rumours that have plagued them for the past three years. They’re hoping Blackwood will be a new start as they try to reconnect. Yet their marriage is crumbling as Amy tries to navigate her fears, her grief, and her new café, Brewed to Taste. Here, she starts to make friends: Devi, Nick, Bonnie, Irene, and Irene’s great-granddaughter, Ashlee, June, Frank and several others. They form the Around the World Supper Club, and for a while, things seem okay.

Until local gossips, Una and her daughter Sharon, unleash Pandora’s Box – and humiliate Amy, undoing all the hard work. Despite the support everyone else gives Amy, allowing her to talk about what happened when she is ready, Matt threatens to leave. Three years ago, Amy had been in a car accident in Germany, where her daughter, Pandora, died. Amy has run from the secrets and innuendo, the accusations, and finds herself facing them head on in Blackwood.

Most books revolving around a relationship are about the couple getting together, the first delightful sparks of a new romance. The ups and downs, the magic of the first kiss. Usually, these books end with a happily ever after, fading to black as readers imagine the couple together forever. Very rarely do we find out what happens after. The what happens after, and what leads to a family or friends fracturing is sometimes more interesting. A tragedy, perhaps, has created a rift.

This is the premise of Monique Mulligan’s debut novel, Wherever You Go, the first in the Around the World Supper Club series. Wherever You Go introduces the key characters, but mainly revolves around Amy and Matt settling into life in Blackwood and finding a way back to each other and their lives together. It is a touching look at friendship, family, grief and loss, and how people recover and work towards redemption, even if this redemption is insular, and something they need to do for themselves, not for society or legal reasons.

Monique has created a powerful and touching story that gives hope, makes you shed tears and sends readers on a roller coaster of emotions as they go on Amy and Matt’s journey. The book is told in three perspectives: Irene, Matt and Amy. We see the world through their eyes, experience their emotions and their reactions. It doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of depression and anxiety, or the frustrations that some people feel when faced with this. It allows for all characters to express themselves and slowly, come to terms with what is going on in a powerful, emotive and significant way that acknowledges that grief affects everyone differently.

This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful. It allows readers to acknowledge their own anxieties and worries, and centres female experiences, characters and autonomy whilst at the same time, allowing Irene, Bonnie and Amy to who they are within what they want in their lives and society.

The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley

the wild way homeTitle: The Wild Way Home
Author: Sophie Kirtley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Slip
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 15th September 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: When Charlie’s longed-for brother is born with a serious heart condition, Charlie’s world is turned upside down. Upset and afraid, Charlie flees the hospital and makes for the ancient forest on the edge of town. There Charlie finds a boy floating face-down in the stream, injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off back to the hospital to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. For Charlie has unwittingly fled into the Stone Age, with no way to help the boy or return to the present day. Or is there?

What follows is a wild, big-hearted adventure as Charlie and the Stone Age boy set out together to find what they have lost – their courage, their hope, their family and their way home.

Fans of Piers Torday and Stig of the Dump will love this wild, wise and heartfelt debut adventure.

~*~

Every so often, a book comes my way that has an intriguing and mesmerising cover, that invites you to dive in and enter the world within the covers. Sometimes these are books that must be savoured, and other times, the story just pulls you along for the journey, and before you know it, you’ve read the entire thing in one sitting. The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley is one of those books that will fit into both categories – to be savoured, yet also one of those books that can be devoured.

Charlie’s brother Dara is born with a serious heart condition, and Charlie runs, afraid of what is going to happen. He ends up in the forest near his home, yet it is vastly different to what he knows – no path, no access to the road, and a young boy dressed in animal skins is lying near the river. Charlie soon works out he has been transported to the Stone Age. Lost and alone, he helps Harby, the boy he tries to help, find his family and baby sister, facing unknown dangers along the way as he tries to get home to his time and his family.

Sophie Kirtley’s first novel is a historical fiction time slip with a difference – not many time slip books are set in prehistoric times like the Stone Age, and this is what makes it stand out. Where most timeslip books explore the difference in dress or how characters understand the world, this one takes it a step further, throwing in a language barrier – the language of Stone Age people, and the English that Charlie knows in 2020. It presents challenges at first as Charlie and Harby get to know each other and find a way to communicate so they can help each other ‘make safe’, as Harby puts it.

It is an adventure as well, and the world is showcased in a clear and concise way that builds a mental image for the reader – and contrasts the Stone Age of Harby with the 2020 world that Charlie lives in, through Charlie’s comparisons of the two and how he identifies areas – the names he knows them as. It also touches on what they mean to Harby and Charlie – but mostly Charlie as the story is told through his eyes and perspective as he navigates this strange world and his journey home to his family.

At its heart, this book is about family and friendship, and the love of family and friends, and the support we need in hard times. It looks at the fight or flight response in the face of something unbearable and something that cannot be controlled, and the differing responses we have and how far we will go to be with those we love. It is a wonderful, and touching debut that has the power to inspire and comfort – showing that in thousands of years of humanity, the desire to protect one’s family has never really left us. Middle grade readers and above will enjoy this story.

Books and Bites Bingo Update Two

In the past four months, I have managed to fill in twenty out of twenty-five categories in Books and Bites Bingo with Monique Mulligan. I have a few of the others planned, and others I need to decide. I have three months to complete this and my other challenges and hope that I can make it through and get as many as possible read by the thirty-first of December!

It’s been a slow process at times – especially with the specific categories, as finding these books has sometimes been a challenge. Especially during a pandemic when we can’t all get to libraries or bookstores, there are times when I have read what I have and sometimes found ways to make the book fit into my challenges where possible.

Looking forward to reading the others I have, but for now, here are the ones I have completed!

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Books and Bites Book Bingo Wherever You Go

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

One of the squares in Books and Bites book bingo with Monique Mulligan was Wherever You Go, her debut novel in the Around the World Supper Club series. Monique kindly sent me a copy to review, and it is linked here. When I first saw this bingo card, I wondered what this square could mean, and it turned out to be a specific book, but the topic had me wondering if it meant something else and was open to interpretation.

This powerful story of grief and redemption is beautifully written, very evocative and delves into themes that people don’t often talk about, or sometimes, want to talk about. It is about a marriage after the happily ever after – and how tragedy can alter someone’s life, and moving past this, if they can. My review for the 18th of September goes into more depth.  

I have now completed three rows in this challenge and have five books left to read – with a couple chosen, but I still need to read them.

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Eco-themes: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

A Neil Gaiman book:

Short story collection: Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen app

Published the year you were born:

Makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

Someone you love’s fave book:

Made into a TV Series:

A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Fave childhood book:

Book Bingo Nine 2020 – Themes of Culture

Book bingo 2020

For September’s Book Bingo with Amanda and Theresa, I am marking off the themes of culture square with The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller and can report that the first row down has hit BINGO.

republic of birds

Themes of culture was always going to be an open topic as well – there are so many ways to go with this and so many ways to interpret this square, and in this instance, cultural aspects of the real world and Russian folklore is married with a fantasy culture to create a world where magic is banned, and there is the threat of a place known as Bleak Steppe for girls who exhibit signs of magic.

Yet the difference is that the culture that condemns magic is in stark contrast to Bleak Steppe, as Olga will find. This is a celebration of magical culture, of female culture and of sisterly love and culture that flies in the face of traditions that the girls are often thrust into in the world they live in.

It was a delightful read and one I recommend to lovers of folktale and magic, and was released in March this year.

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Title: The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder

Published: 20th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The No.1 Bestselling Series. Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

The No.1 Bestselling Series Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Witches are creating havoc in the Wildwoods and danger lurks behind every tree trunk.

Wish is in possession of a powerful, Magic Spelling Book; Xar has a dangerous Witchstain on his hand. Together they can save the Wildwoods from the curse of the Witches but they are separated by the highest wall imaginable, and time is running out …

It was unlikely that these heroes should meet in the first place. Is it possible they are destined to meet TWICE?

~*~

Picking up several weeks after the first book, Twice Magic begins with Xar trapped in a prison for dangerous Magic people. Wish is back at the Warrior fort. As they grapple with their new situations, the Wildwoods are attacked by Witches. Xara and Wish reunite – and begin to fight the curse before time runs out – but can they convince their parents to put aside their differences?

Wish and Xar visit a dying giant as part of this journey, where all fairy tale and fantasy tropes are combined to tell a unique story and series, aimed at middle grade readers. But readers of all ages will enjoy this series. I’m working my way through this series and am halfway through at this point – with book three ready to go as soon as I can start it.

The continuation of the themes of friendship, unity and acceptance are ever present in this novel, and build on what has come before. Wish and Xar are powerful and unique characters, who promote creativity, intelligence and empathy, and the role these play in problem solving, friendship and understanding each other. The world is also exquisitely detailed, and the illustrations by Cressida add something magic and unique to the text, creating a story that is full of life and joy.

Danger lurks beneath the surface of Xar and Wish’s fun. They’re on a quest to defeat the Kingwitch, and remove the Witchstain from Xar’s hand, and they are accompanied by a band of sprites, including Squeezjoos, a raven called Caliburn and Wish’s bodyguard, Bodkin. Together, they are going to save the world!

I’m in love with this series – the good thing is, I have all four to read, so I don’t have to wait to find out what happens, but at the same time, a little sad that there are only four books to enjoy. It is an imaginative series, and I think the use of an Unknown Narrator telling the story is a powerful and creative way to draw readers in. With each book, the mystery of just who this narrator is intensifies and becomes a driving force to hook readers of all ages in, along with the magical quest Xar and Wish are on.

This series manages to have an ongoing thread as well as a separate narrative for each book, which adds to the magic and intrigue, and ensures that readers remain engaged and the plot is steadily built upon effectively. I’m looking forward to delving further into this world, which is in a way historical, if we are to believe the Unknown Narrator, that this is a world before the British Isles were known as the British Isles. Cressida also cleverly draws on folklore and pulls it into the story effectively and ensures that whilst it is still recognisable as folklore, there are also unique twists on each characteristic and the individual characters, especially Wish and Xar.

A fantastic series about acceptance for readers aged eight and over.  

August 2020 Wrap Up

In August, I read twenty-one books. Thirteen were written by Australian Women Writers, and all contributed to my challenges across the board. Several were part of series, and many were review books. Some I had been looking forward to, and one from Scholastic Australia, by comedian Rove McManus was a surprise arrival, and one that I found enthralling and engaging. Some challenges are almost finished, and I am hoping I will be able to complete them by the end of the year.

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

I read a few diverse books this month as well. It’s always hard to choose favourites, but I really loved The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford, The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner and The Firestar: A Maven and Reeve Mystery by A.L. Tait – these were ones that really stuck with me and that I wanted to read again immediately. Looking forward to another productive month in September!

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 – 91/25
Book Bingo – 12/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 48/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25
Books and Bites Bingo 19/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –150/165

August – 21

Book Author Challenge
Lapse Sarah Thornton Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Monstrous Heart

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Moonflower Murders Anthony Horowitz Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Piranesi Susanna Clarke Reading Challenge
Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie Fin J Ross Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Rocky Lobstar: Time Travel Tangle Rove McManus Reading Challenge,
House of Dragons Jessica Cluess Reading Challenge
The Firestar (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) A.L. Tait Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Maggie Tokuda-Hall Reading Challenge
The Wolves of Greycoat Hall Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daughter of Victory Lights Kerri Turner Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
When the Ground is Hard Malla Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Society – Victorian Premier’s Literary Award –
Winner Best Young Adult Literature, Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 US; Shortlisted Best Book for Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2020 AU; Highly Commended Best Young Adult Novel, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 AU

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm Sally Odgers and Christina Booth Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern and Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Girl Made of Air Nydia Hetherington Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge

Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

meet matildaTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival

Author: Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Matilda from the ACT.

Hi! I’m Matilda!

Today there’s a festival at the Japanese Embassy. That’s where my friend Hansuke lives. We’ll have lots of fun. But Hansuke is going back to Japan soon. How will I be able to say goodbye?

~*~

The final book in this series takes us to Canberra, and the world of embassies and Parliament, seen through the eyes of a child. Matilda is friends with the son of the Japanese Ambassador. But Hansuke is about to move back to Japan, and Matilda must say goodbye to her friend at a special Japanese festival at the embassy. She will miss him forever, and wonders if she can say goodbye.

AWW2020Most of the other books in this series are told in first person, but this one is told in third person, and has a few days with relevant time jumps to make the passing of time and major plot points work well for kids, and the characters. Like many of the other books in the series, Meet Matilda at the Festival is filled with diverse characters, and celebrates different nationalities and cultures, and the power of friendship. It evokes the same emotions we all had as kids when we had to say goodbye to friends, and the realistic way Matilda reacts will give comfort to kids that they are not alone when they farewell friends or go through changes in their lives.

With this book, the breadth of Australia and its diversity has been represented, and hopefully, all kids will have found something they can relate to in these books, whether its location, culture, race, or the activities the characters enjoy, and the universal feelings we all have linked to friendship and family.

The beauty of these books is in the simple way they evoke emotion and setting for younger readers who are starting to learn to read or reading independently. Whilst we only see a small portion of each state or territory, it is a relevant section to the character and what the setting means to them, which fits in with the theme of the series and what it is aiming to achieve for readers.

A great addition to this series!

 

Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie, Illustrated by Sharon O’Connor

JinxedTitle: Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell
Author: Rebecca McRitchie
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 19th August 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Magic awaits around every corner …
Cora is eleven years old and missing one eye. She lives with an elderly lady named Dot in a room hidden behind a wall. In a crowded, industrial city, where everyone looks out for themselves, Cora and Dot hunt and sell rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish. Until one day, Cora finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper.
She takes it home and says the words aloud. Then two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx. Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. But Cora isn’t a magical being . . . is she?
Quickly, Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants.
Richly illustrated throughout by Sharon O’Connor, this is a very exciting magical new series from the talented author of Whimsy & Woe.

AWARDS
Shortlisted – 2019 Aurealis Awards (Best Children’s Fiction)
~*~

Cora Bell has lived with Dot for years. She has one eye, is eleven years old and unless she is collecting with Dot, lives behind a wall. She’s out collecting one day when she stumbles across a strange piece of paper. It seems harmless enough, yet when she reads it out loud, two fairies – Tick and Tock – appear with a warning and whisk her away on an adventure to find out what magic she has. Tick and Tock take her across the magical land that Urt is part of as they try to outrun the Jinx.

Along the way, Cora meets witches, wizards, hobgoblins, giants and fairies, as well as enchantresses and nightwalkers and many more as she seeks to uncover her identity.

Jinxed is the start of a magical, energetic series about Cora Bell, whose life has been quiet and normal for eleven years, until everything changes. The world she lives in is filled with dangers, from Jinxes to the warlock, Drake, to those who fear anything they don’t know, or want to know about. Cora sits within this latter category. For years, she’s only had Dot and her cat, Scratch. But Tick and Tock stick with her, and never give up.

AWW2020They’re determined to help her and find the Jinx. In this rollicking fantasy adventure, combined with an industrial feel to the world, which is fresh, unique and at the same time familiar to fans of fantasy. It pulls together well-known tropes present in many fantasy novels and fairy tales, such as magical gateways, and fairy kingdoms, but puts a unique twist on them, pulling together a story that is filled with light and dark moments, and examines what it truly means to be a friend.

Cora is alone, apart from Tick and Tock as she journeys through the various fairy and magical worlds. Her identity has been a secret for years. But will this series of events finally reveal who, and what she is, and how will the world respond to her when they find out what she is capable of?

Starting a new series is always exciting, and as the second book comes out at the beginning of September, I have that to read next. Following Cora’s journey is going to be fun, thrilling and engaging, and I am keen to see where she goes next with Tick and Tock.

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

cov-daughterofvictorylights-final_2_origTitle: The Daughter of Victory Lights

Author: Kerri Turner

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 20th January 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: An enthralling story of one woman’s determined grab for freedom after WW2 from a talented new Australian voice.

‘PART CABARET, PART BURLESQUE, AND LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE! GENTLEMEN, AND LADIES IF YOU’VE DARED TO COME, WELCOME TO …

THE VICTORY!’

1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risqué and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.

At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too do the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …

1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?

~*~

World War Two. Evelyn Bell volunteers for an all-female searchlight regiment during the Blitz, much to her sister, Cynthia’s chagrin. Once the war ends, she is lost, and for several years she is trapped in her sister’s home. She’s forced to take care of things there, and help with her nephew, Spencer, whom she loves. Her sister is traditional, but Evelyn longs for something more. When she stumbles upon a secret dance show at night, she knows she has found a way to break free and forge her own path, and her own identity away from what everyone around her expects her to do. Here, aboard the Victory, she finds her place, and she finds family, friendship and love, as well as tragedy.

AWW2020In 1963, ten-year-old Lucy is living with her aunt, unwanted and unloved, when she is whisked away to the Isle of Wight. Here, she finds a home where she is loved and accepted, but where she still has many unanswered questions. Will her new family answer them?

I interviewed Kerri at the end of April as part of my Isolation Publicity series, and as a thank you, she sent me a signed copy of her latest book, The Daughter of Victory Lights. Four months later, I have managed to get to this after managing to get on top of my very large review stack that kept coming for so long, and that will no doubt start to pile up again. This book is set partly in World War Two, but mostly during the post-war years of the early fifties and the early sixties.

Evie’s story is exceptional. She led a life of freedom and danger during the war, and going back has not been an easy adjustment for her, and nor were the years aboard the Victory, yet she was accepted in this place, as was her daughter, Lucy, whose life informs the second half of the novel. Drawing on imagination and various historical accounts and instances, Kerri has created an evocative and emotionally charged book that celebrates uniqueness, family, and the idea that family is what we make of it, not always those we are related to. It also examines the idea that sometimes, the two are intertwined, often in unique and unexpected ways.

Double narratives like this are always intriguing, and often, they alternate between the different time periods as the future character uncovers information about their relative in the past. Yet that wouldn’t have worked with this one. Evelyn’s story needed to be told in one go, as did Lucy’s, to grasp the tragedy and heroism, and inner strength of these characters and their lives. Lucy’s story was equally important and gave the novel its emotional pull and the strength of familial love and support that as a reader, I wished Evelyn had received from her family.

It is at times turbulent and there are moments filled with worry, hoping the worst won’t happen, followed by revelations that are bittersweet and hopeful. Lucy is a strong character and determined not to let anyone continue to lie to her as her aunts have done. I devoured this book within two days, engaging with the characters and their struggles.

The power in this story is in the family relationships, and the role certain people play in our lives, whether they are biologically related or not. It is tragic and hopeful, and a testament to the power of the human spirit and our ability to recover physically, mentally and emotionally after experiencing trauma, and the lengths we will go to so we can pull through.