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.

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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.

The Starthorn Tree (The Chronicles of Estelliana  #1) by Kate Forsyth

starthorn treeTitle: The Starthorn Tree (The Chronicles of Estelliana  #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 1st May 2002

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $16.95

Synopsis:

Under winter’s cold shroud, the son of light lies.

Though the summer sun burns high in the skies.

With the last petal of the starthorn tree

His wandering spirit shall at least slip free…

Nothing can save him from this bitter curse,

But the turning of time itself inverse.

The young Count of Estelliana lies sleeping as still and cold as if he was dead. His mysterious slumber has subjected the people of his land to the harsh rule of Lord Zavion, the cold and ruthless Regent.  But when Durrik, the son of the town’s bell-crier, involuntarily prophesizes the count’s death before the entire starkin court, he catapults himself and his best friend Pedrin into the adventure of their lives.

Pursued by starkin soldiers, they must seek refuge in the Perilous Forest, home to the dangerous and unpredictable wildkin. It is only when they are forced into the company of the spoilt starkin princess, Lisandre and her servant-girl Briony that they begin to realise the meaning of Durrik’s riddle. But if they are to waken the count and save their people, they must survive the hazards of the forest where the sinister Erlrune of Evenlinn awaits them…

~*~

The Starthorn Tree was one of those books I just happened to stumble across at the age of sixteen during a visit to the big three level Dymocks in the city. I was looking for something new to read when my eyes fell on this book in the children’s section. It was the first Kate Forsyth book I picked up, and had an autographed edition sticker on it – my first for both, and as I found out from Kate over the weekend after showing her a picture, it is also a first edition – I will be hanging onto this one!

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The Starthorn Tree begins with Durrik and Pedrin listening to orders from the bell-crier, set forth by the Regent for the coming summer for all boys their age to help build a tower. But during a dinner at the palace, Durrik has a vision of the death of the count, stuck in an everlasting sleep in the palace, unable to be awoken by any remedies. He has been struck down by the same mysterious drink that took the life of his father and several others. Fleeing their home, Durrik and Pedrin soon stumble across Lisandre and Briony – and together, they venture deeper into the Perilous Forest, searching for a way to save Lisandre’s brother, the count. But with Zavion’s spies after them, and danger looming from the wildkin – can the four children – a combination of starkin, wildkin and hearthkin, find a way to work together and save their beloved country?

With each of her novels, Kate Forsyth works fairy tale motifs into them. Towers, those stuck in an enchanted sleep, princesses, and many more to create her stories. Drawing on this rich and diverse fairy tale history, she creates worlds like Estelliana that are captivating and when reading, it feels like no time has passed and as though you are within the story itself, so it felt like the pages just flew by. In this one, she sets everything up well, and the journey is both exciting and filled with peril, creating a fantasy world that has everything from Australia’s master storyteller. The amount of fantasy novels written by Australian authors has boomed since 2002 – but Kate Forsyth’s Starthorn books and her Eileanan books are the first ones I remember seeing, buying and reading – though I am sure there were others. It was these books that were my gateway into Kate Forsyth’s books and works as a whole, and I have a great many on my shelf today.

I could not put this one down and am starting the second one as soon as I am able to over the next few days. This was Kate’s first book for children as well – so many firsts with this book for her and me – which makes it really special. I am keen to see where The Wildkin’s Curse takes us – and how things have changed in Estelliana since Durrik, Briony, Pedrin and Lisandre’s original journey.

The Glimme by Emily Rodda, Marc McBride (Illustrator)

TheGlimme.jpgTitle: The Glimme

Author: Emily Rodda, Marc McBride (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia/Omnibus Books

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 384

Price: $34.99

Synopsis: Lone Annie sees dragons in your future…She sees giants. She sees fire and water. She sees death.

Finn’s life in the village of Wichant is hard.  Only his drawings of the wild coastline, with its dragon-shaped clouds and headlands that look like giants, make him happy. Then the strange housekeeper from a mysterious clifftop mansion sees his talent, buys him for a handful of gold and then reveals to him seven extraordinary paintings. Finn thinks the paintings must be pure fantasy – such amazing scenes and paintings can’t be real!

He’s wrong. Soon he is going to slip through the veil between worlds and plunge into the wonders and perils of the Glimme.

The author of international best-seller Deltora Quest.

The artist who painted Deltora’s world.

An award-winning team.

A spectacular new adventure

Scholastic sent me a copy for review purposes.

~*~

Finn’s world is small and har, yet through his drawing abilities, he creates worlds beyond his own to cope. But his life changes completely when the Housekeeper buys him so he can recreate the seven paintings of dragons and another world in her house – yet in time, he discovers that the paintings are not what they seem, and he is drawn into a fantastical world of the Glimme, where he joins a band of humans, and lions, and other fantasy creatures, who are hiding from a trio of dragons who wish to destroy the world. From here, Finn uncovers a hidden mystery – those who had been drawn into the world before him and someone he thought he’d never see again.

Having read the first Deltora Quest series, and with the next two on my shelf, I knew this was right for me, and it evokes the wonder and magic of Deltora Quest through the magical illustrations that are extremely lifelike, combined with the wonderfully enchanting words of Emily Rodda. It felt like I was back in Del, even though it is an entirely separate world, and I devoured it within two days.

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The illustrations tell the story as much as the written word – giving life to Emily Rodda’s words and evoking a sense of being there, along with Lori, Finn, Teller and everyone else trying to stop the dragons destroying their home and bleeding into the world Finn has come from.

It is an engaging and exciting read for readers aged eight and over, and perfect to read after or even before reading Deltora Quest. It is unrelated, but still lots of fun and feels like it could easily fit into that world as a side story or as part of the narrative itself. As Finn and his friends work to defeat the dragons and save the world, the world within the painting and the real world bleed together and it soon seems all could be lost unless Finn can use his skills to save everyone.

This is a fabulous book and I am grateful to have been able to review it for Scholastic. It is a work of art to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come, and well-suited for anyone aged eight and older. In a country where there other genres seem to dominate the lists and shelves, having Emily Rodda’s fantasy is wonderful, and uses the traditions of fantasy often seen in British books to create a unique world that could be anywhere, but through the genius of an Australian author. A wonderful book, and one that I will love for years to come.

September 2019 Round Up

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

 

This month, I reached my overall reading goal of 150 books with Whisper by Lynette Noni. Overall, I have reached 71 books in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge, and am nearing the end of my PopSugar Challenge, with only a few categories left. I also filled out my Book Bingo card for the year, with my final wrap up post to be written after my final post for that goes live.

#Dymocks52Challenge

Here is a breakdown of what I read.

September Round-Up – 15    

Book Author Challenge
The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle Kate Forsyth General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Lighthouse in Time Sandra Bennett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
New Coach Tim Cahill General, #Dymocks52Challenge
488 Rules for Life Kitty Flanagan General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Silver Chris Hammer General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

 

Maia Chance General, #Dymocks52Challenge
There Was Still Love

 

Favel Parrett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Rebel Women who Changed Australia

 

Susanna de Vries General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo
Binder of Doom: Boa Constructor Troy Cummings General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Deathless Girls Kiran Millwood Hargrave General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth Philip Pullman General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Book Bingo
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch Tom Fletcher General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon Tracey West General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Mitford Scandal Jessica Fellowes General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
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Lynette Noni General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,

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  1. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth
  2. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett
  3. Tiny Timmy: The New Coach by Tim Cahill
  4. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
  5. Boa Constructor (Binder of Doom) by Troy Cummings
  6. Silver by Chris Hammer
  7. Beauty, Beast and Belladonna by Maia Chance
  8. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
  9. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries
  10. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  11. The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
  12. The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher
  13. Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon by Tracey West
  14. The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes
  15. Whisper by Lynette Noni

 

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Book Bingo

 

Rows Across:

 

Row One: BINGO

 

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

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

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

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

 

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

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

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

 

Row Three: BINGO

 

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

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

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

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

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

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

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 Five: BINGO

 

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

 

Row Six: BINGO

 

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

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: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

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 Two: BINGO

 

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

 

Row three: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

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

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

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

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

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

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

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

 

Of these, due to work obligations, not as many were Australian Women as I would have liked but will aim to get more read in the coming months. Other challenges will hopefully be filled in then as well so I can add those lists in towards the end of the year and in my final wrap up posts for each challenge.

 

Until next month!

Whisper by Lynette Noni

Whisper3D_withSticker.pngTitle: Whisper

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: 2018 Must-Read Novel – ABIA Winner of Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year 2019

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me. “It’s for people just like you.”

 I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different.

I’m an anomaly.

I’m a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes… Subject Six-Eight-Four, ‘Jane Doe’, has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

Life at Lengard follows a strict, torturous routine that has never changed.

Until now.

When Jane is assigned a new—and unexpectedly kind—evaluator, her resolve begins to crack, despite her best efforts.

As she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, Jane discovers that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot …. And one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

Bestselling Australian author Lynette Noni is known for crafting compelling stories that appeal to devoted fantasy fans and general-interest readers alike. Stepping away from the much loved Medoran ChroniclesWHISPER is an unforgettable series full of suspense that explores the power of words and the importance of finding your voice.

~*~

Imagine a world where if you Speak with intent, you can make things happen with your words. You can create an animal, stop a bullet or harm someone. Would you speak?

This is Jane’s reality – and for over two years, she has refused to speak, stuck in a secret facility below Sydney called Lengard, as her evaluators – especially Ward – encourage her to speak. They want to find out if their theory about her is correct and initiate her into the program. As she breaks, and begins to talk, she becomes friends with Cami, Sneak and Ward and several others. Yet at the heart of Lengard is a dark secret, and soon, it becomes clear that the things Jane has been told might not quite be true as rebellion begins to bubble beneath the surface of what she knows, and what her new friends know.

Jane soon finds out why she is wanted at Lengard – and the discovery of a sinister plot, as she uncovers many truths, will set in motion a flurry of activity that will change the world forever, and where a single word can change everything – and maybe not for the better, either.

Whisper has been on my shelf for about a year – and I have only just managed to get to it after the publisher asked me to participate in an upcoming blog tour for the sequel, so I decided to read it now, so I could do this. I devoured it within a weekend and loved the way it used a similar start and ending, with just a few tweaks to tie in – this was amazingly clever and suited the book perfectly. For the first several chapters, the only dialogue comes from Ward, Cami, Falon, Manning, Vanik and several other characters, who either befriend Jane and help her Speak, or who have an ulterior motive and want more from her than just a few words, and this sinister aspect is woven eloquently throughout, building to something much bigger than what I, as a reader, initially thought. It is these shocks that make it such a good book, especially when the people you trust, you should doubt, and the people you doubt, you should trust.

As Jane, known as JD, Chip, and Jane to her friends, begins to feel confident in her abilities, she also uncovers several truths, slowly revealed in a way that keeps the reader’s attention until the end. It’s powerful because in a way, it is exploring ideas of consent, and having your own power, and your own voice to speak out and speak up when you need to. To be who you are, and also, in a world where the different people are shut away, ideas of trust and faith in humanity and knowing where you stand. It also sets up a mystery that I hope reaches a conclusion in the next book, because there are so many unanswered questions that need an answer. I’m looking forward to reading the next book and participating in the blog tour for Pantera Press in November. Lynette Noni knows how to tell a great story for her readers, and continues to do so.

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

there was still loveTitle: There Was Still Love

Author: Favel Parrett

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 215

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The profoundly moving new novel from the critically acclaimed and Miles Franklin shortlisted author of PAST THE SHALLOWS and WHEN THE NIGHT COMES. A tender and masterfully told story of memory, family and love.

Prague, 1938: Eva flies down the street from her sister. Suddenly a man steps out, a man wearing a hat. Eva runs into him, hits the pavement hard. His hat is in the gutter. His anger slaps Eva, but his hate will change everything, as war forces so many lives into small, brown suitcases.

Prague, 1980: No one sees Ludek. A young boy can slip right under the heavy blanket that covers this city – the fear cannot touch him. Ludek is free. And he sees everything. The world can do what it likes. The world can go to hell for all he cares because Babi is waiting for him in the warm flat. His whole world.

Melbourne, 1980: Mala Li ka’s grandma holds her hand as they climb the stairs to their third floor flat. Inside, the smell of warm pipe tobacco and homemade cakes. Here, Mana and Bill have made a life for themselves and their granddaughter. A life imbued with the spirit of Prague and the loved ones left behind.

Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight and stellar literary talent shine through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. It is a tender and beautifully told story of memory, family and love. Because there is still love. No matter what.

~*~

Most novels that deal with World War Two and its aftermath are often focused on the Holocaust, and in Australia, Changi, and the camps that imprisoned any Australians – civilian and military in places like Singapore during the 1940s. Very rarely have I read one set in the Communist era that goes between Communist Prague in 1980 and Melbourne in the same year, telling the story of the same family, and their vastly different experiences in each place – linked by grandmothers who were sisters, and photographs of each other, and the untold stories of how the branches of the family were separated in the months leading up to World War Two in 1948.

In Prague, Ludek lives with his Babi, and his grandfather. His mother is travelling the world in a ballet company, and occasionally writes to him, but cannot visit because of the strict rules dictating circumstances should she return to Prague. Ludek has only known Prague, but whenever his great-uncle and aunt visit, he gets gifts from Australia, and an unknown cousin who lives with her grandparents.

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Mala Lika lives in Melbourne, she lives an Australian life of freedom, away from Communism, but with the scars of war-torn Europe and a family torn asunder by war and post-war Communism and its impacts. The family is united because they are Czech, and because they do not speak of their experiences to the children – so the understanding of how the war years affected their family is filtered through the eyes of the children, and their experiences and understanding of language as well as the questions they ask. But the language of love crosses generations, language barriers and cultural barriers, and is the driving force behind this novel.

The familial love throughout this novel is what makes it more powerful and also what drives it forward. It is realistic – not everyone meets and nor are they always reunited – but they all love each other and are all linked together as a family. Eva and her sister are, alongside Ludek and Mala Lika, the driving forces and central characters of the novel, as their history and relationship is slowly revealed, leading up to what separated them and kept them apart for the rest of their lives.

 

Using first and third person for different characters, splitting each section up for each character makes this easy to follow, and also fits with the characters, their lives and what they observe. Sometimes mixing first and third person doesn’t work, but in this case it does, as does having different narrators.

Reading about how post-war politics affected families was interesting and gave new insight into what happened – the war didn’t just end. There were consequences for all, and not everyone was able to be reunited with their families. They might have been apart forever, but they would always have love.

Thus was an insightful, short and succinct story that allowed the characters to be true to who they were, within what they knew without another entity questioning it. Shown through the eyes of two child narrators for the majority of the book, apart from the flashbacks, it is accessible to all and each reader will have a different understanding, depending on how old they are and when they read it, as well as their own experiences. A nicely written book that reflects family life for what it can be.