The Lily in the Snow (Miss Lily #3) by Jackie French

The Lily in the SnowTitle: The Lily in the Snow (Miss Lily #3)

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 1st April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The world is at war, and women are working, often behind the scenes, in areas from nursing to espionage. And despite their many successes, these are the women the men don’t see.

Unimaginable danger creeps ever closer to Miss Lily and her loved ones . . .

Amid the decadence and instability of Berlin in the 1920s, a band of women must unite to save all that is precious to them.

With her dangerous past behind her, Australian heiress Sophie Higgs lives in quiet comfort as the Countess of Shillings, until Hannelore, Princess of Arneburg, charms the Prince of Wales. He orders Sophie, Nigel – and Miss Lily – to investigate the mysterious politician Hannelore believes is the only man who can save Europe from another devastating war.

His name is Adolf Hitler.

As unimaginable peril threatens to destroy countries and tear families apart, Sophie must face Goering’s Brownshirt Nazi thugs, blackmail, and the many possible faces of love.

And then the man she once adored and thought was lost reappears, and Sophie will be confronted by the girl intent on killing the mother who betrayed her family in the war: Miss Lily.

The third book in the Miss Lily series, The Lily in the Snow is a story filled with secrets that also explores the strength of friendship and the changing face of women in this new Europe.

 

~*~

 

The third book in the Miss Lily series starts moving into the end of the 1920s, with the looming economic crisis that will become The Great Depression, affecting the whole world, and creating the foundations for the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s in Germany. Sophie and Nigel have not seen Miss Lily for many years – and their twins, Rose and Danny, who are nearly three. They are living their lives when a young girl named Violette – claiming Lily Shillings is her mother. Her arrival disrupts Shillings just as Hannelore and David, Prince of Wales, start trying to get Sophie, Nigel and Miss Lily to meet with the politician, Adolf Hitler. Forced into a trip to Germany, Sophie, Nigel, and their family are drawn into a world of espionage, Brownshirts, anti- Semitism and various other ideas about what Hitler called “degenerates” through blackmail, as people question Miss Lily’s absence amidst political and economic turmoil.

Sophie’s ideas of love will be tested as she grapples with love for home, love for family, and love for those who have shaped her life since before the Great War. During their travels, the man Sophie loved during her time in Australia after the war reappears. Sophie is caught between all these people she has loved – and what everything she is facing in Europe and the coming threat from Germany will mean for her.

2019 Badge

As the Miss Lily series moves through the twentieth century, the politics of the time start to shape what the characters do and who they are. Sophie has changed since she first arrived at Shillings in 1913 – in many ways. She has fallen in love, is married and is a mother to beautiful twins. But she’s still not content to sit back and let men tell her what to do. She is determined to see if she can help convince David to pull his support from Hitler, and not support the National Socialist party of Germany, to prevent another war. She wants to convince Hannelore that Hitler is not going to help Germany. Helping Violette is important too – and Violette was a really lovely addition to this series – there were lots of things I loved about her as she grew into her role in Sophie’s life, and the way she at first, came across as impulsive and dangerous, but once she had a home and security, she proved her loyalty to Sophie, Green and the rest of the Shillings family over their time in Germany.

I have loved the Miss Lily series since it first came out a few years ago, and I am working my way through the Christmas stories as well – with a couple to go to read and review. These novels approach the first half of the twentieth century – so far up to the start of the Great Depression – through the lens of the women of the era and what they did – and the stories that are untold. Many people know women served in various ways on the home front or as nurses in World War One, but what is less known is the role of women as spies, collecting intelligence and tracking troop movements, or blowing up bridges. These women were known as La Dame Blanche – and would use knitting to send codes and messages – which is woven throughout the Miss Lily novels intricately. It is these actions that helped defeat Germany.

In this novel, Jackie French delves into the dark, horrifying mind of Hitler and Nazi ideals – repeating them for context, and distinctly showing Sophie and Nigel’s discomfort and unease with these ideas – as Nigel is both Nigel and Miss Lily – comfortable as both, it seems, and they support Doctor Hirschfeld, who tells them about his theories about sexuality and gender, and identity and acceptance. It is these ideas, and Nigel/Miss Lily – that are an example of what Hitler dislikes – and the results are heartbreaking. We know what is to come, and we know what happens within ten years of this novel closing. These conflicting ideas show how one man can twist a country to believe what he tells him, and how he can alter so many lives – and take the world in an entirely different direction than if he had perhaps been stopped, if the ideas of someone like Dr Hirschfeld had been allowed to flourish beyond the secrecy Sophie and Nigel witnessed in 1929.

Economic turmoil is present in this book too across Europe, and this unease is always at the back of everyone’s minds as they settle into relative peacetime – and work towards preventing another war. As Sophie plans to take her family back to Australia, she prepares to protect those closest to her. Even as she does this, there are still some secrets that are kept from her – all for her own protection, she is told. These secrets drive the novel, and there are hints towards things coming in the next book. It is interesting reading these books in hindsight, knowing what happens, and what is to come, and wanting to warn the characters. Ever astute though, Sophie can see what must be done, with the knowledge she has. And Jackie French has cleverly managed to combine what she knows with what her characters would have known or felt they would have known in the 1920s to create a realistic world and one that I can’t wait to get back to when Sophie Vaile returns next year.

Total Quack Up Again! Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck

total quack up again.jpegTitle: Total Quack Up Again!

Author: Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, Illustrated by Jules Faber

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 15th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: It’s the return of the quack! A hilarious new collection of stories from some of Australia’s funniest children’s authors.

Following on from the success of Total Quack Up! authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome new line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up Again! features stories from Nat Amoore, Felice Arena, Adam Cece, Jules Faber, Tim Harris, Kim Kane, Belinda Murrell, A.L. Tait, Shelley Ware, Michael Wagner and Nova Weetman, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

In the second Total Quack Up collection, twelve Australian authors have teamed up again to write a collection of stories to raise money for Dymocks Children’s Charities. This time, Nat Amoore, Felice Arena, A.L. Tait, Belinda Murrell, Michael Wagner and Adrian Beck, Adam Cece, Shelley Ware, Tim Harris, Nova Weetman, Kim Kane and Jules Faber, as well as a story from a child. These stories are filled with lots of things kids love – animals, friends and many, many jokes that kids enjoy. From dads who turn into dogs, to sibling rivalry, aliens and a dog who is naughty for the kids but an angel for a father who would rather not have one, these stories are full of fun for all ages, and can be read alone, out loud or with other people.

2019 Badge

These kinds of stories are the sorts that kids who are already readers and fans of these authors will enjoy, and that will hopefully encourage reluctant readers to explore a world of reading, or new authors that they will go onto read further works from. Each story is unique, but there were two that I absolutely adored.

The first, written by Adam Cece – Stop Reading Right Now, has the animal kingdom, specifically a duck, taking editors, Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck to court, resulting in a hilarious case that looks at the role of animal sayings in literature and writing. The ensuing hilarity of animal-based idioms and sayings coming to life results in one of the most entertaining stories of the anthology, as it referenced the Quack Up series quite cleverly.

The second story I thoroughly enjoyed was by Belinda Murrell, about kids who took a puppy home from the nursery, and spent their time running after it as it wreaked havoc, only to find it curled up, and behaving peacefully when it curled up with the one person who was the most reluctant to have the puppy, but turns out to be the one who loves having the puppy around the most – Dad. Animals are always attracted to the reluctant family members, and I found this story delightful and hilarious. It was definitely my favourite, and I hope others enjoy it as well.

These books are amazing – not only do they promote literacy, but they contribute to charities that help with accessibility to literature in a variety of ways – more information can always be found on the Dymocks Children’s Charity page on the Dymocks website. Aimed at kids, these stories can be read by anyone who wants a good laugh or a good read. Another great selection from Dymocks Children’s Charities and Australian Authors.

With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French

with love from miss lily.jpgTitle: With Love from Miss Lily

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 20th November 2017

Format: eBook

Pages: 100

Price: Free download from publisher website

Synopsis: From the author of Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies comes a moving and heart-warming story that is perfect for Christmas – and beyond.

December1918

This first peacetime Christmas should be perfect.

But this is a ceasefire, not peace. Influenza ravages Europe and the hospital supplies. Sophie ordered six months ago have not arrived from Australia.

And the old woman in Ward 3 will not stop knitting.

Yet even in war-torn Europe, Christmas miracles are possible, as a stranger reveals the extraordinary story of how thousands of female resistance workers sent coded messages, including the most important message a woman can send.

And somehow Christmas does arrive, the perfect Christmas, with love from Miss Lily.

~*~

As a fan of the Miss Lily series, it has taken me a while to get around to reading the Christmas eBooks – partly because with much of my time spent as a quiz writer writing and reading on a screen, I enjoy a good break with a nice paperback. However, these are short, and can be read in a sitting, so I am aiming to read them all and review them here on my blog as they give much more to the Miss Lily series than  we read on the pages in the longer books, the third of which I am currently reading, set in the years leading up to Hitler’s grab for power, and I predict, a few books that will delve into the tumultuous 1930s and World War Two – the war that Sophie and her friends are hoping to avoid.

In the first Miss Lily Christmas story, which I will also be trying to read again during December with the rest of my Christmas reads, Sophie is running an influenza hospital at the end of the Great War. As she nurses an elderly woman through the last days of her life, Sophie is asked to pass on a message – and some knitting. An English intelligence officer recognises what the knitting means – and reveals the chain of European spies – La Dame Blanche – who knitted codes into their knitting across Europe during the war, to help defeat Germany.

2019 BadgeI was able to read this in one sitting, as it was short, and it provides a good link between the novels. The time jumps with each book work very well, and pick up just where they need to. What this Christmas story does is show the calm after the war, and the hope that leads into the next twenty years – all whilst ripples of unease filter through. It also shows the hope that the end of the war, and Christmas brings to those still waiting to get home, and the magic of Miss Lily’s kindness through what she sends to the hospital to see them through Christmas.

Miss Lily may not be physically present in this short story, but her spirit is, and her love for her ‘lovely ladies’ like Sophie is. Europe has been ripped apart by war, but the first Christmas of peace – The Christmas after the armistice – holds hope as a special delivery arrives in the snow. As a fan of Miss Lily, Jackie French, and Christmas, I adored this book and am looking forward to reading the other Christmas stories to see what they add to the series.

Book Bingo Twenty-One – BINGO for two rows and Written by an author over 65.

20181124_140447

Welcome to week twenty-one of Book Bingo for 2019 with Amanda and Theresa. This week, as well as being able to give a BINGO to two of my rows, I am crossing off the written by an author over 65 square. Age ones are a challenge because it’s not always obvious what age range an author is in, unless there is an indication in the author biography, or through their publishing history. For this square, I had two options, but as the other option fits into another category, I went with a picture book by Libby Hathorn, about Miles Franklin and her life before she became an author.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n.jpg

Miss Franklin by Libby Hathorn is a fictionalised account of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin’s time as a governess, prior to her becoming well known as Miles Franklin, the well-known Australian author who has two prizes named for her: The Stella Prize, aimed at women writers in Australia, and the Miles Franklin Award, which recognises many in Australian writing. This was a review book, and one of the few picture books I have reviewed on my blog so far, but it was so enticing that I knew I had to include it and it was a perfect for this challenge.

Miss Frankin

BINGO!

Row Five: Bingo (Across)

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

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – 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

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

BINGO!

Row Four: – BINGO (Down)

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

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

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

2019 Badge

See you in two weeks with post twenty-two!

The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch

the orange groveTitle: The Orange Grove

Author: Kate Murdoch

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Published: 11th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 250

Price: $22.90

Synopsis: Blois, 1705. The château of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the château with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies. The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in love and domestic politics strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

~*~

Set almost nine decades before the French Revolution and the beheading of Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, The Orange Grove explores the intricacies and relationships of powerplay at a court like Versailles in 1705, as a duc takes on yet another mistress, as well as his wife, Charlotte. Charlotte, his wife, and his mistresses are aware of each other, and how they can fall in and out of favour with the duc.

When a young mistress falls pregnant, Charlotte, the duc’s wife and the one who is supposed to be producing him legitimate male heirs (but has thus far failed to do so and has her own secrets bubbling along throughout the novel that are cleverly revealed slowly), she asks another mistress, Henriette, to choose her loyalties – Charlotte, or the mistresses?

Soon, Romain de Villiers, a tarot reader arrives, and more tensions and political intrigue enter as he finds himself drawn to Charlotte, and the implications that this, and the whispers of witchcraft bring to the palace and its domestic politics as people try to keep secrets and favour.

Cleverly built around early eighteenth century gender politics, domestic politics and fears of the unknown and keeping up appearances, The Orange Grove looks at life and death, and the importance of status, and how even the slightest indiscretion can flip the narrative for anyone, and alter their lives in ways that they never thought possible, whilst coming to conclusions that were not quite expected.

2019 Badge

Most historical fiction novels focus on a big event, through the eyes of specific characters, yet this one focuses on a very tight, and deeply complicated chateau in France during the years of the ruling aristocracy, and the privileges they enjoyed and could exercise over whomever they wished, tossing people away and punishing them in ways that these days seem a bit extreme, yet made sense in the context and understandings of the world these people inhabited. These characters are all flawed – none are wholly good nor are they wholly evil. They are ruled by human emotions of love, desperation and self-preservation, which makes this a very interesting novel as we get to see how people respond to certain conditions and the lengths they will go to so they can save themselves – sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer

Maternal Instinct 750x1200Title: Maternal Instinct

Author: Rebecca Bowyer

Genre: Dystopian/Futuristic Fiction/Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Story Addict Publishing

Published: 7th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 306

Price: $22.99

Synopsis:Australia 2040. No child lives in poverty and every child is safe. But at what cost?

19-year-old Monica never wanted a baby but the laws require her to give birth twice before she can move on with her life.

Now that her first son, Oscar, has arrived she’s not so sure she wants to hand him over to be raised by professional parents: the Maters and Paters.

~*~

In 2040, a new party is ruling the country – the Equality Party, and they have been since 2020. In this new world, biological parents don’t raise their children – they are raised by professional parents under a program linked to the G.D.S – the Genetic Diversification System. This system also oversees the National Service program – where young men – at eighteen – give their sperm to be matched genetically with girls – who must produce two children as part of their national service for the good of the nation. The girls then spend six months with their babies before the children are handed over to professional parents – Maters and Paters.

Monica has just had her first baby, and her story is at the centre of this. Raised in the system, she hasn’t really questioned it until she gives birth to her son, Oscar. Her mother, Alice, was among the first women to give their children over to the system she works within. Yet following the birth of her grandson, she watches as Monica struggles to come to terms with what she has to do, and from within, watches as the system she has come to trust begins to crumble from within as she notices the flaws, and hears secrets come out that shge never thought were possible.

Set in a not too distant future, knowing this could happen, or something like this could happen with the current political environment, and nations like America stripping back the rights women have fought so hard for, is terrifying. This book shows the flaws in any political system – even democracy and how far a party will take what they stand for to extremes that supposedly help people bit might do more harm than good in the long run. No political party is immune to something like this happening either.

2019 Badge

Even though this has been likened to The Handmaid’s Tale, it is distinctly Australian, and the women are still allowed to have a life and career – as long as they’ve gone through two pregnancies and procedures to ensure they do not have any further unauthorised pregnancies outside of the G.D.S. system. People often say there should be qualifications to become parents, but what would that lead to? A situation like the G.D.S. and the Mater and Pater system that Rebecca has written about is one way it might go, and in a way that is terrifying that this could happen.

Maternal Instinct banner 2

So perhaps this should be a cautionary tale about how not to conduct business or tell people how to raise their families, as well as not forcing people to use their bodies for the good of the state over their own health and well-being. I did enjoy this novel, as it was slightly different from what I usually read. It dealt with the potential for this situation eloquently and sensitively, showing that trying to genetically alter genes, or make sure there is as little sickness and as few variables in health as possible can backfire and come back to bite those who advocate for it on the arse.

A very well written novel, that I hope many people will enjoy and is part of my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Thanks to Rebecca for sending me a review copy.

The Frozen Sea by Piers Torday

the frozen seaTitle: The Frozen Sea

Author: Piers Torday

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Quercus

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 330

Price: $26.99

Synopsis: ‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’  The second incredible instalment of a spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

‘If you can imagine it, it exists … somewhere.’ The second incredible instalment of a spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

It is 1984 and forty years since Simon, Patricia and Evelyn and Larry first stepped through a magical library door into the enchanted world of Folio. When Patricia’s daughter, Jewel, makes a mysterious discovery in an old bookshop, she begins a quest that will make her question everything she thought she knew. Summoned to Folio, she must rescue a missing prince, helped only by her pet hamster and a malfunctioning robot.

Their mission to the Frozen Sea will bring them face-to-face with a danger both more deadly and more magnificent than they ever imagined.

What Jewel discovers will change not just who she thinks she is, but who we all think we are…

~*~

In 1984, Jewel is trying to escape from school bullies with her pet hamster, Fizz, when she takes refuge in an old bookshop with peeling letters on the door, that is seemingly abandoned. Yet whilst there, she is pulled into the world of Folio by Thumb, and those seeking the help of a Reader – Jewel – to help rescue her aunt Evie, who disappeared before Jewel was born. In this strange world, Jewel finds herself caught between different forces and factions who either want to help her or hinder her, and in doing so, she must journey across Folio, through the various lands of Reads and Unreads, myths and monsters, to the Frozen Sea in search of a lost prince and her aunt.

Yet as Baby Bear pursues them under claimed they and their Folio friends know to be false, Jewel is forced to confront things about herself and who she is that will influence her journey. And towards secrets that will change Jewel forever.

Picking up seamlessly forty years after The Lost Magician, Jewel’s journey is interspersed with government communications that leave little clues as to Evie’s fate, and where she disappeared and when. It doesn’t spell it out, rather, but leaves it open to interpretation for the reader, is fun, and brings the story to life even more.

Jewel’s journey is different to the Hastings siblings of The Lost Magician. Living in the eighties, she is in a world of movies and books, and technology, and straddles each world uniquely, finding ways to separate or incorporate them where she can and needs to. It is a story that continues on, yet is also its own, and pays homage to Narnia, and books in general – even going so far as to reference Narnia itself at times, as books the characters read and enjoy.

The world of Folio has changed – and perhaps not for the better, but maybe Jewel can set things right. A Reader can only visit once – but when they try to return, what are the consequences to their actions? How does Folio respond?

This series is delightful. Lately, there have been many books and series that involve books, reading and bookstores or libraries – celebrating reading on the page in a delightful way for audiences and readers. Books in themselves celebrate reading – yet seeing readers in key roles is delightful and magical and shows that reading has a power unto itself and shows just what is special about this world of books we inhabit. It is a world of dreams on paper and falling into books like The Frozen Sea is a magical experience and one I wonder if the author will continue. Whilst we have a satisfying ending, there is also potential for further stories, and either would be fine with me. An excellent book for readers aged ten and older.