The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

the passengers.jpgTitle: The Passengers

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A luminous novel about love by an acclaimed rising star of Australian literature.

‘A stunning exploration of hope and desire, fear and control, this story is full of heart and heartbreak’
ASHLEY HAY, author of The Railwayman’s Wife


‘A compelling novel about the bruises inflicted by fate and by ourselves, and the blessings to be found in resilience, determination, and love.’
DEBRA ADELAIDE, author of The Household Guide to Dying

Sarah and Hannah are on a cruise from San Diego, California to Sydney, Australia. Sarah, Hannah’s grandmother, is returning to the country of her birth, a place she hasn’t seen since boarding the USS Mariposa in 1945. Then she, along with countless other war brides, sailed across the Pacific to join the American servicemen they’d married during World War II.

Now Hannah is the same age Sarah was when she made her first journey, and in hearing Sarah tell the story of her life, realises the immensity of what her grandmother gave up.

The Passengers is a luminous novel about love: the journeys we undertake, the sacrifices we make and the heartache we suffer for love It is about how we most long for what we have left behind. And it is about the past – how close it can still feel – even after long passages of time.

‘Two women, two generations, two countries, two journeys. Eleanor Limprecht gracefully navigates the crosscurrents of history and creates vibrant characters from the extraordinary true experiences of Australian war brides. Sarah and Hannah’s urgent search for love and wholeness moved me in both senses: they touched my heart and I still feel I am churning across the Pacific with them. A deeply satisfying novel.’
SUSAN WYNDHAM, former literary editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSixty-nine years after leaving her home in Australia, Sarah is heading home with her granddaughter, Hannah, on a cruise, the same way she left at the end of World War Two, to join the man she married, Roy, an American soldier serving in the Pacific theatre of the 1940s war. Up until the age of sixteen, Sarah had lived on a farm, and attended school, but just before World War Two breaks out, Sarah and her parents and brothers move to the city, where they must find work. When her brothers sign up for the war, Sarah watches them leave, and finds herself working as a typist for the Americans when they start to arrive. Caught between falling in love and loyalty to her family, Sarah has a choice to make when Roy proposes to her. They wed, and it is several years before they can be reunited in Roanoke, Virginia, and their reunion is not without its struggles – struggles that are not helped by Roy’s conservative parents. Soon, Sarah finds herself separated and alone. She soon reconnects with Jim, the Navy officer who was kind to her on her journey from Sydney.

Hannah is in her early twenties, and at constant war with anorexia. For her, this trip is a way to have time away from the stresses of her nursing course, and help her grandmother reconnect with the home she hasn’t seen for almost seventy years, having left when she was the same age Hannah is now. Struggling to keep up appearances and hide her reasons for not eating on the cruise, Hannah listens as Sarah tells her the story of how she became a war bride, and when the war hit the shores of Australia in February 1942, when Darwin was bombed by Japan. Both journeys have been on ships, one on the SS Mariposa, a luxury liner that had been repurposed for military personnel, and then again at the end of the war for the war brides and any children they had with them from Sydney to San Francisco, and the other a cruise ship taking them back to Sydney. Both journeys are transitions in the lives of the women, points at which things change for them, and alter their lives dramatically.

The Passengers is part historical fiction, part family drama, with two engaging female leads with vastly different experiences and lives on a journey to connect the present with the past and reconnect with family and homelands. With touches of romance that add to the story but do not overtake it, it is a nicely written book, and well researched, showing that not every war experience and not every war bride experience was the same. Eleanor Limprecht has shown the complexities of human nature and isolation in its various forms through each of the characters and their struggles to show how life can affect people and what can come out of it to make things better and the importance of family.

Read my interview with Eleanor here when it goes live.

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Adelaide Writer’s Week 2018

The third of March, 2018 marks the beginning of the six-day festival of authors and writing in Adelaide, South Australia. Eighty-Four Australian and international authors will attend the event for a variety of talks, across a diverse range of authors, books and genres to discuss literature and how the world impacts the stories we tell. The Adelaide Writer’s Week is part of the Adelaide festival that celebrates art and culture.

This celebration allows the community to engage with authors and the arts, and with each other. The various events will appeal to people of all ages and in all groups.

Hachette Australia has several Australian and international authors attending, and they are as follows, with the works they had published by Hachette last year:

Mark Brandi, author of Wimmera, appearing at the Small Towns event on the 3rd of March, 2018 at 3.45pm – East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. Wimmera was published in 2017, and tells the story of Ben and Fab, and the body that is found twenty years after summer in 1989, and the mystery that unfolds. It is one I am yet to read and hope to do so soon.

terra nulliusClaire G. Coleman author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction that looks at the effects of colonisation, and displacement in a suggested future where humankind has been colonised and invaded by aliens. It draws parallels to the effects of real world invasion and colonisation on Indigenous populations, and it was an interesting read, as it started out as what felt like historical fiction, but the reveal half way through was quite a surprise, and admittedly, took some getting used to. It was an interesting read though, and one that will hopefully start conversations or make people think about the issues it draws upon. Claire will be appearing at 2.30pm on the 7th of March, West Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Thomas Mullen, author of Lightning Men, The Revisionists, and Darktown, will attend three events: American South, on the 3rd of March, East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, at 2.3opm, Making history, East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, at 12pm on the 5th of March and Darktown, at 10.45am on the 6th of March at the East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Louise Penny, author of Still Life
, Dead Cold, The Cruellest Month, The Murder Stone
, The Brutal Telling
, Bury Your Dead
, A Trick of the Light
, The Beautiful Mystery, How The Light Gets AWW-2018-badge-roseIn, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, and Glass Houses ­– the Inspector Gamache series, will be attending two events on the 4th and the 5th of March: Glass Houses at 9.30am on the 4th of March, at East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, and Into the Woods on the 5th of March at 5pm, at the East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

see what i have doneAnother Australian Author published by Hachette attending will be Sarah Schmidt, author of See What I Have Done, a fictional retelling of Lizzie Borden and her murdered parents, planting seeds of doubt and suggesting that there may have been other suspects, but not coming to any full conclusions, and working with the evidence provided from research. A strange and intriguing read, it gives insight into the people behind the history, as historical fiction aims to do. Sarah will be appearing with Thomas Mullen at Making History on the 5th of March at 12pm, at the East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Much-loved Scottish author, Alexander McCall-Smith, whose extensive backlist, including the latest in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, The House of Unexpected Sisters, has been published by Hachette, will also be attending. The main event he will be attending will be Love and Tartan, on the 8th of March at 5pm, at the East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. The House of Unexpected Sisters is book eighteen of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man, A Year of Marvellous Wats and When God Was a Rabbit will also be attending and taking part in two events. She will be attending Friends on the 3rd of March at 9.30 am at the at the East Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden. and Tin Man on the 5th of March, at 9.30 am at the at the West Stage Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Links:

http://artsreview.com.au/2018-adelaide-writers-week-program-announced/

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/writers_week_blog/

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Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen

OLMEC_B_SML.jpegTitle: Olmec Obituary

Author: L.J.M. Owen

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Echo

Published: August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 342

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Archaeologist Dr Elizabeth Pimms thoroughly enjoys digging up old skeletons.

But when she is called home from Egypt after a family loss, she has to sacrifice her passions for the sake of those around her.

Attempting to settle into her new role as a librarian, while also missing her boyfriend, Elizabeth is distracted from her woes by a new mystery: a royal Olmec cemetery, discovered deep in the Mexican jungle, with a 3000-year-old ballplayer who just might be a woman.

She soon discovers there are more skeletons to deal with than those covered in dirt and dust.

Suitable for readers young and old, Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a delightful cosy crime series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseElizabeth is having the time of her life in Egypt, delving into tombs, uncovering new secrets, and searching for the women of antiquity amongst all the evidence of male rulers. When family tragedy strikes, Elizabeth is summoned home, and must give up her archaeology career for the stability of one in the National Library of Australia (referred to as the Mahony Griffin Library in the book) and support her family. In pain, and curious as to a fellow librarian’s behaviour towards her, Elizabeth finds herself volunteering to help uncover the secrets of a three-thousand-year-old Olmec cemetery. But all is not what it seems, and there are more than just bone-related secrets to uncover. What is the head of the project, Dr. Carl Schmidt up to, and why? Who is he covering for? And why does Mai hate her so much? Back at home, Elizabeth is grappling with younger siblings and grandparents who need her to work to support them, but also need her to help around the house and be there for them. Between work, and her family, Elizabeth hopes she can solve the mystery of the Olmec women, and prove to the university and library what has really been happening – and perhaps even why.

The first in what I am sure will be a wonderful new cosy crime series with cases so cold, nobody is left to speak for the dead but archaeologists and historians, Olmec Obituary brings a new sleuth to life, who deals in cases so cold, finding a witness would require a time machine. However, without one, Elizabeth settles on solving the crimes and mysteries of the past from the future, using her skills as an archaeologist, and with the help of Alice, a PhD candidate, and friends who study ancient languages, will make discoveries that will alter perceptions and cause Elizabeth to look to her family, and uncover more than just the skeletons at work. Olmec Obituary introduces us to a cast of characters who are unique and diverse, to a family with Welsh, Chinese and French heritage, with a female led cast of characters, with female-centric narratives driving the story, both the story of the Olmec burial and Elizabeth’s story, where she comes up against sexism in her voluntary position, and an unexpected altercation with a library employee she has never met – Mai – and who gives no indication as to why she has decided to hate Elizabeth – something I am intrigued by and look forward to finding out. I was just as surprised as Elizabeth at the instant hatred – it added another mystery to the story as I wondered what the hatred was about. It added a layer to the story and characters that contributed to the mystery.

Not only is the story-line compelling and interesting, Olmec Obituary’s diverse cast of characters, and female-led story brings a new voice to Australian literature in the last few years, offering up something meaty and intriguing for new readers who want their women doing new and interesting things, and seeking diversity. Combined, these work, and Elizabeth’s love life is present too, but already established and not at the forefront of the plot, which makes for exciting reading. As stubborn as she is, Elizabeth still has weaknesses and flaws that she tries to keep guarded and hidden, but it is these flaws that make her an intriguing character to read about.

The genre of cosy mystery, where the murder happens off page, without gratuitous violence and sex is becoming a favourite – and in this genre, all my current favourite authors are Australian women writers, with one being a British male – Vaseem Khan, author of the Baby Ganesh Investigation series. My other favourites which are by Australian women are:

LJM Owen, Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth

Sulari Gentill, The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries – and the series that got me into this genre.

Kerry Greenwood, Phryne Fisher Mysteries

Janine Beacham – Rose Raventhorpe Investigates.

So, in my vast collection, Elizabeth is in good company, and she is an intriguing character, much like Rowly, Rose, Phryne and Inspector Chopra and his baby elephant. Where Rowly has his artist friends, and Phryne has trusty maid Dot, and Rose, the Silvercrest Butlers, and Chopra has a baby elephant, Elizabeth’s companions are her cats, named for Egyptian gods and goddesses, who are there when Elizabeth is working at home, always watching, and always faithful.

This is a great start to what I am sure will be an engaging and educational series. Elizabeth looks to be a character whose secrets will be revealed across the series and watching this happen will be intriguing. I liked the way Olmec Obituary ended with a touch of a mystery to come and be resolved, whilst wrapping up key aspects of the main plot and revealing characters for who they truly are not the facade that they put on for everyone else.

A great read, and I can’t wait to get stuck into book two.

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The Last Train by Sue Lawrence


the last train.jpgTitle: The Last Train

Author: Sue Lawrence

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Sue Lawrence serves up a brilliant historical mystery, meticulously researched and densely plotted, with plenty of twists and a gripping climax.

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of a large local jute mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a shocking sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train after all. If not, where is he? And who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

~*~

Three days after Christmas in 1879, the Tay Bridge is battered by a violent storm that destroys the bridge and takes all the passengers on the train down to a watery grave. At home with her children, James and Lizzie, Ann Craig is waiting for her husband Robert to return from visiting an elderly relative in Edinburgh. Ann sees the tragedy as it happens, convinced her husband is aboard and in a watery grave, never to be seen again. Living in a town of mourning, Ann’s doubt that her husband was aboard the train starts to grow, and after a young woman is washed ashore, a mystery surrounding her death, and Ann’s missing husband begins.

Over a century later in 2015, Fiona Craig awakens to find her partner, Pete missing, and all their savings gone. She and her son move in with her parents, Dorothy and Struan, whilst trying to rebuild their lives after Pete has disappeared. What Fiona discovers as she looks into Pete’s whereabouts and disappearance are strange parallels to the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. What will the mysteries of time and space reveal to these two women, generations apart?

Based on the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879, The Last Train combines historical fiction elements with intrigue, and elements of mystery. Told in alternating third person perspectives in the days following the Tay Bridge disaster in late December 1879 and early January 1880 and in 2015, the stories mirror each other in some ways with subtle differences to the stories, and more than one mystery to be solved along the way. What connects Ann and Fiona is the desire to keep their children safe, and a desire to find out the truth of what has happened to the men they share their lives with, even if they go about it in rather different ways. Fiona’s interest in the local history pulls her into a job helping curate a memorial for the 1879 disaster, uncovering names and stories that bring light to those who perished, and will solve the questions of Fiona’s secretive father Struan as the novel’s climax brings it to a dramatic and satisfying close, that sews together all the strands that have been dangled.

An enticing historical fiction novel tinged with two mysteries that allow secrets to be revealed and families to become close. Scotland’s landscapes and history are as important as the characters of Ann and Fiona, and the nation itself, in particular Dundee, play an important role in the story and who the characters are. A well-rounded novel for fans of historical fiction and mysteries.

Stella Prize 2018 and #StellaSpark

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There are many major literary awards that cover genres, styles, and various nationalities, and some that are international. However, there is one significant award in Australia that has been running since 2013. The Stella Prize is a major literary award that champions and highlights Australian women’s writing, and as a result, is an organisation that champions cultural change. It is named after one of the most iconic female writers in Australia – Stella Maria Sarah “Miles” Franklin. Fiction and non-fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry. Below is a list of what the Stella Prize seeks to do, quoted from their website:

The Stella Prize seeks to:

  • recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literature

  • bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales

  • equip young readers with the skills to question gender disparities and challenge stereotypes, and help girls find their voice

  • reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing

AWW-2018-badge-roseA prize that works to highlight the voices of women writers in Australia is highly commendable. It serves the purpose of allowing women of Australia, regardless of age, ethnicity, race and so forth, to be represented and be heard in reviews, in writing and across all avenues of connection about Australian Women Writers. Reading has always been a passion of mine and I have always enjoyed Australian literature, and in particular, literature written by Australian Women Writers. In the last two years, I have started to pay more attention to Australian Women Writers that I read, out of curiosity to see what kind of authors populate my list more, whilst still realising that there are many other authors that do not necessarily fall into the category of Australian women writers that I will read and enjoy.

One thing that the Stella Prize works on is the Stella Count – a survey of how many Australian women versus male writers are reviewed by major publications and literary magazines. To build up the profile of Australian women writers and when I can, women writers in general, I try and review as many of them as I can on my blog. To work out my count, I keep a log, not only of every book read during the year, but a separate log for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, to see how I fare in my goals.

This year, there is a new campaign – The Stella Spark Campaign, where people can share their favourite book they have read written by an Australian woman in the past year on social media using the hashtag – #StellaSpark. This is an amazing prize and imitative that works to amplify the voices of women writers in Australia and raise their profile. Each year I peruse the long and short lists of the prize to see if something jumps out at me, and sometimes to see if I have read one of the nominees or the winner.

The long list will be announced in February, with the shortlist announced in March.

My #StellaSparks

Facing the Flame by Jackie French

Facing the Flame

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

BeautyinThorns_Cover

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

nevermoor

A Dangerous Language

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017

Draekora

draekora

Book Bingo 2018

At the start of this year, I had decided to undertake the annual Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge. As I will read some books that will work for both, this shouldn’t be a massive undertaking, apart from a few categories that won’t coincide with the #AWW2018.

AWW-2018-badge-rose


Whilst perusing some of my favourite blogs today, I came across a Book Bingo, that Theresa Smith Writes and Mrs B’s Book Reviews are taking part in. I decided to give this a go, deciding that I would be more casual, and try to fill as many squares as I could. Rather than actively seek out all the squares, I am aiming to see where books for the other challenges fit into them to make it easier for me. I do have some books that won’t fit the #AWW2018 but might fit this and the other challenge I can do.

As today is launch day, there is no review for today. I aim to have one up on the 20th though, possibly scheduled. Keep an eye out for it and a note about which square it has filled.

To try and keep involved with Theresa and Mrs B, I will aim to complete a bingo review on the first and third Saturday of the month, whichever square happens to be have been filled at that time, and that will be the review I post.

I will be aiming to complete this over the course of the year, however, if I miss a few squares I won’t worry, though filling them all would be a very cool achievement. As part of this year’s reading journey, being able to use books across a few challenges will help me complete as many reviews and as many categories as possible.

If I double up with Theresa and Mrs B, that will be entirely coincidental, but also rather fun and interesting to see how we manage to fill the squares, and as some categories are open, what we choose to read for these ones.

My focus is of course, the #AWW2018 challenge, but this is just a bit of added fun.

Here is the bingo below, and ping-backs to Theresa and Mrs B are in the second paragraph.

book bingo 2018.jpg

If you want to join me, as a blogger, ping back this and the other posts, and share your reviews!

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

AU FB Illustrated-AU-Book-Jacket (1)Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated Edition)

Author: JK Rowling (Newt Scamander), Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

Genre: Fantasy, Chidrens and YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 7th November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 160

Price: $45.00

Synopsis: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic!

This glorious new edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (considered a classic throughout the wizarding world) features an extraordinary array of magical creatures, from Acromantula to Yeti via ten different breeds of dragon – all beautifully illustrated in full colour by the brilliantly inventive, Greenaway Medal shortlisted Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander’s years of adventure and exploration have yielded a work of unparalleled importance, admired by scholars, devoured by young witches and wizards, and even made available to Muggles in the early years of this century. With this dazzling illustrated edition, readers can explore the magical fauna of five continents from the comfort of their own armchairs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is essential reading at Hogwarts.

This new edition features the fully updated 2017 text – which includes new profiles of six magnificent beasts that inhabit North America and a new foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.

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hp20_230As part of the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter last year, JK Rowling re-released a special edition of Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Previously published in several different editions for Wizards and Muggles separately, this illustrated version is an exquisite addition to any Harry Potter library. Several new creatures have been added, such as the Thunderbird, the Wampus Cat and various other creatures found during Newt’s travels across the world when he first wrote the book, giving a larger scope to the wizarding world. Within these covers, there are new introductory notes from Newt by way of JK Rowling, discussing the differences in attitudes to magical creatures and wizards in different places. Each creature has a specific description and Ministry of Magic Classification, ranging from not so dangerous to extremely dangerous, as shown below.

X- Boring

XX – Harmless/may be domesticated

XXX – Competent wizards should cope

XXXX – Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

XXXXX – Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

A previous edition in 2017 included the new creatures and the first editions made available through Bloomsbury and Comic Relief provided only text, and a few pictures by Tomislav Tomic, whose illustrations where wonderful, and the new ones by Olivia Lomenech Gill are beautiful.

Neither artist can be fairly compared, as they each have their own style, and each style, much like Jim Kay’s style in the illustrated novels contribute something unique to the book, and these full-colour illustrations bring the creatures to life in a new and vibrant way for fans of the Wizarding World of JK Rowling.

Olivia’s illustrations evoke the same magic and wonder as the words they sit with on the page, giving a better scope to the world of magical creatures. Though some have shorter descriptions, in the world of Newt Scamander, this would be down to what he could find out, especially during his time in America, where he was shown how secretive the world was in the movie. All in all, this is a delightful companion to the Harry Potter books to coincide with the 20th anniversary in 2017.

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