The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

the paris secretTitle: The Paris Secret

Author: Natasha Lester

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 460

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A wardrobe of Dior gowns, a secret kept for sixty-five years, and the three women bound forever by war… from the New York Times bestselling author of THE FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER.

England, 1939
 Talented pilot Skye Penrose joins the British war effort where she encounters her estranged sister, Liberty, and childhood soulmate Nicholas Crawford, now engaged to enigmatic Frenchwoman Margaux Jourdan.

Paris, 1947 Designer Christian Dior unveils his extravagant first collection to a world weary of war and grief. He names his debut fragrance, Miss Dior, in tribute to his sister, Catherine, who worked for the French Resistance.

Present day Australian fashion conservator Kat Jourdan discovers a secret wardrobe filled with priceless Dior gowns in her grandmother’s vacant cottage. As she delves into the mystery, Kat begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her beloved grandmother.

An unspeakable betrayal will entwine all of their fates.

THE PARIS SECRET is an unforgettable story about the lengths people go to protect one another, and a love that, despite everything, lasts a lifetime.

~*~

Skye Penrose dreams of flying and following in the footsteps of her mother and Amy Johnson – yet when war breaks out, and all civilian flying is grounded, Skye finds another way to help the war effort with the ATA – transporting planes between bases for repairs and when they need to be turned into scrap metal. During her tenure doing this, she is reunited with her childhood friend from Cornwall, Nicholas Crawford, and the sister she hasn’t seen since she was eighteen – Liberty. Skye then meets Margaux Jourdan, and from here, it weaves in and out of World War Two as Skye and her fellow pilots fight for their right to fly, fight discrimination and eventually, find that they have to hide their own secrets as the novel progresses and the war heads further and further into darker days and eventually, towards the end.

In between the stories of Margaux, Skye and Nicholas and those they work with, is the 2012 story of Kat Jourdan, Margaux’s granddaughter, who uncovers a trove of Dior dresses in her grandmother’s Cornwall home, and a link to the well-known designer. It is here that she starts unravelling Margaux’s past when Elliott Beaufort starts asking questions about a Margaux Jourdan, an ATA pilot and SOE agent who helped the French Resistance and survived imprisonment and escaped. As Kat delves further into the mysteries with Elliott, and finds out about Skye, Margaux, Nicholas, and Liberty, she begins to question what she knows.

AWW2020The novel weaves in and out of the years leading up to World War Two, World War Two, the years just after the war and 2012, telling the reader and Kat the story as it moves along – as though Kat is reading the diaries of those from that time. Each part and perspective is richly brought to life through all the senses and a range of emotions as the war lurches on, and Skye faces loss over and over again, in many ways, tearing her apart from what she knows.

Cleverly, Natasha Lester ensures that the reader does not get lost in the changing characters – each part is clearly marked as to whose story it is, and each part is told in third person, making the transitions seamless and at times, they feel like they are sitting side by side – as something in the past happens, it feels like it might relate to the future.

Fashion plays a big role in this book – the Dior dresses are key to Kat finding out who her grandmother really is, and what happened to Margaux, Skye and Liberty – and why Elliott is determined that Kat’s Margaux is the one he is looking for.

Natasha Lester does something amazing with her books – she puts female history front and centre – and makes this the focus of her book, and leads us gently, and delicately into the romance at the end – much like Kate Forsyth and Jackie French in their historical novels where women are front and centre. The story is about what the women did, and how they coped in the face of sexism and discrimination, and assumptions about what they could do. This is what draws me to these books – seeing the women like Skye as active participants in history and learning about topics and perspectives that I had never known about even with all my reading. These are perspectives that are not always shared widely and books like this give an introduction to this history and for me, a deeper and further interest in trying to find out more. The happy ending was great too – and left me with a huge smile on my face.

Natasha also drops her clues very carefully and cleverly, and I enjoyed trying to work out who was who with what I was given – a very nicely written mystery!

I hope all of Natasha’s fans enjoy this book when it comes out, as it covers so many things – war, friendship, family, and love of all kinds, and illustrates the complexities of history in an accessible manner.

Bookish Podcasts

In the last year, I’ve discovered podcasts, and the ones I mainly listen to revolve around books, history and popular culture. Because podcasts are generally short – usually no longer than an hour for the ones I listen to, I find them great to pop on whilst working or writing and just listen to them in the background and absorb the information in them. Podcasts cover just about every topic you could ever imagine, but in this post I am focusing on the bookish ones I listen to most days and weeks.

The Book Show

the book show

The Book Show is an ABC RN podcast, of a radio show hosted by Claire Nichols. The show airs live on Monday at ten in the morning, and repeated at nine p.m. on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons at two p.m.  Claire interviews authors from Australia and around the world and conducts in-depth conversations with them about the book and how they wrote it, what influenced them and lets the interview flow, so there are some very interesting discussions with authors I know and many I do not know. I listen via podcast on the ABC listen app, and the website if you’d like to access the show through there.

The Bookshelf

the bookshelf

Another ABC RN Show, hosted by Cassie McCullagh and Kate Evans, where they review the latest fiction books from Australia and around the world. Sister programme to The Book Show, Cassie and Kate sometimes feature snippets of The Book Show on their show, and at times, interview authors, and record from writer’s festivals from around Australia and in other places at times. It airs Fridays at eleven in the morning, and is repeated on Monday at eleven at night, and Sunday afternoons at three. As with the Book Show, I listen via the ABC listen app as a podcast. The website also has it if you prefer to access the show here.

Good Reading Magazine Podcast

good-reading-podcast 

In this podcast, various Good Reading employees interview Australian authors (so far) about their books, writing and what inspires them. Their very first interview was with Sulari Gentill, and many of my favourite authors have been interviewed. This is one I am still listening to the backlog of as I write this post in fact, and it can be accessed via a podcast app, such as the Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud or via the Good Reading Website. Like with many of the interviews, some episodes are more interesting than others, but it is nice to listen to all of them, as sometimes there are gems in there and lots of random trivia to store away.

 

Words and Nerds

words and nerds

I came to this one quite late – after it had been going for about two years, and spent a lot of time binge listening to it and now have one or two to catch up on, as with many of my podcasts, so I use my days where I don’t go anywhere to listen to as many episodes as I can. In this one, Dani Vee interviews authors from Australia, and sometimes overseas, who write for a myriad of age groups and in all genres, which makes it very interesting and she has interviewed some of my favourite authors and I think those are my favourite episodes. Some she has even had on more than once! Dani’s podcast can be accessed via the linked website, or via a podcast app such as Apple Podcasts.

Middle Grade Mavens

middle grade mavens

Middle grade books are a genre I enjoy reading, reviewing and close to the genre I work in as an educational quiz writer. I am yet to start listening to it, but their website says they interview key stakeholders in the industry, and it can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Podcasts or Google Podcasts, or on the website. I look forward to hearing from Julie Anne Grusso and Pamela Ueckerman in the coming weeks as I get into listening to this podcast.

These are the five main bookish podcasts I listen to, and all are suitable for what they do. I’m looking forward to exploring Middle Grade Mavens, and hope you find something you like in these recommendations.

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Pop Sugar Challenge Wrap Up 2019

In 2019 I also participated in the Pop Sugar Challenge. I missed out on completing this by one, mainly because time just ran out and I never got to it. Below is my list of categories that I completed. I am thinking of trying a different one this year, as I feel the categories are getting too specific and I may struggle to find books to fit some of them, if not many, and whilst it is meant to help expand my reading, I’d be too worried about finding something to enjoy the process. So all of these have been read, and many reviewed in 2019.

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – 20th Anniversary House Editions
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
  13. A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title: Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
  17. A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors: The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins, While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Split edited by Lee Kofman – recommended by Myf Warhurst
  29. A book with LOVE in the title: With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story)
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl, Explorer’s Academy: Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
  36. A ghost story: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game: Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale: The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth – based on Chinese fairy tale, The Blue Rose

2017 – A steampunk book: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book: Choose Your Own Adventure #2: Journey Under the Sea by R.A. Montgomery
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season), The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green (parts are set during Autumn), While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus (Winter), The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel (Winter)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights – Open Sesame
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

2019 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Completed,

2019 Badge

At the start of the year, I pledged to read fifteen books across the year, and ended up reading one hundred, and reviewing about ninety-seven of those – as some were read for my job as a quiz writer and I didn’t get a chance to review them all.

Of the one hundred, it is hard to choose a favourite, however one highlight was meeting the author of the Ella and Olivia books, and the Puppy Diaries books, Yvette Poshoglian, and getting to read and review a book I edited earlier this year. I read quite broadly, in various genres, as well as kids, young adult and adult books.

I completed the Matilda Saga this year – and hope to reread the entire series back to back soon. It was a journey of one hundred years of the people of Gibber’s Creek, and has to be one of the most well written and well-researched series I’ve ever read. Below is my list, and linked reviews.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed

  1. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  2. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  3. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  4. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne– Reviewed
  6. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed/Revisited post
  7. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  8. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  9. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  10. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  11. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  12. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  13. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer– Reviewed
  14. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor– Reviewed
  15. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte– Reviewed
  16. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  17. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  18. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  19. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  20. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career Began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  21. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  22. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  23. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton– Reviewed, Interview
  24. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  25. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  26. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip– Reviewed
  29. Life Before by Carmel Reilly– Reviewed
  30. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green – Reviewed
  31. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley – Reviewed
  32. The Lost Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  33. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss– Reviewed
  34. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  35. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin – Reviewed
  36. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee – Reviewed
  37. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda– Reviewed
  38. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  39. Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  40. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers– Reviewed
  41. Eco Warriors: Microbat Mayhem by Candice Lemon-Scott – Work book, not reviewed.
  42. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer – Reviewed
  43. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  44. Fled by Meg Keneally – Reviewed
  45. The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8)– Reviewed
  46. The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins– Reviewed
  47. Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #6)– Reviewed
  48. Deltora Quest: The Maze of the Beast by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  49. Deltora Quest: The Valley of the Lost by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  50. Deltora Quest: Return to Del by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  51. Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  52. Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – Reviewed
  53. Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail– Reviewed
  54. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey– Reviewed
  55. Firewatcher #1: Brimstone by Kelly Gardiner – Reviewed
  56. The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades– Reviewed
  57. The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus– Reviewed
  58. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  59. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  60. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  61. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  62. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  63. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson– Reviewed
  64. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  65. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed
  66. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  67. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan– Reviewed
  69. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett– Reviewed
  70. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – Reviewed
  71. Whisper by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  72. The Glimme by Emily Rodda-Reviewed
  73. The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch – Reviewed
  74. Weapon by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  75. Total Quack Up Again by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  76. The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  77. With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story) – Reviewed
  78. The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  79. Christmas Lilies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  80. The Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  81. The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  82. Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  83. Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  84. The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  85. The Drowned Kingdom (Impossible Quest #4) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  86. Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  87. Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  88. Ella and Olivia: Reef Explorers by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  89. Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  90. Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  91. Gom’s Gold by S.L. Mills– Reviewed
  92. Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  93. Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  94. Mermaid Holidays #4: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  95. Ask Hercules Quick by Ursula Dubosarsky – quiz book, not reviewed
  96. Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest: Shadowlands #2) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  97. The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  98. Deltora Quest Shadowlands Omnibus by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  99. Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell – Reviewed

Next year, I am aiming to read twenty-five – and will post my official sign up post soon.

Best Books of….2019

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

As the year comes to a close, many in the book blogging and reviewing community, and the book community in general – radio shows, podcasts, authors – have been posting and recording about this. And let me tell you, it is hard, and often, so many good ones are left off, and to me, ranking them is just mean because how can you rank books? Especially all those ones that stayed with you.

I had hoped 2019 might be easier to start with – not only do I have the list with me now, but for 2010-2019 I need to go back into other lists and hope I have those records. Or at least be able to work out what books I read that were published between those dates. 2019 seems to be the easiest place to start – as I have that list easily at hand for now. Out of 196 read so far, I found fourteen I loved – and the majority are by Australian women. Of course, these are in no particular order of favouritism, simply the order I read them throughout the year as that was easier to copy across.

vardaesia_3d-cover

Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

the french photographer

The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

kensy and max 3

Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

women to the front

 Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee

the blue rose

The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

Kensy and Max 4

Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

there was still love

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

rebel women who shaped australia

Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

TheGlimme

The Glimme by Emily Rodda

Weapon_3Dcover

Weapon by Lynette Noni

tilly 2

Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

The Lily in the Snow

The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French

clancy of the overflow

Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

3D-Cover_C-format_ATTIC

All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

Even though we still have two weeks left in December, I’m trying to get as many of these posts ready as possible – with my full wrap up posts appearing at the very end of the month or early in the new year, as well as the start of all my reading challenges in 2020 as well.

Choosing best of lists is always hard – there are often so many good books, but this year I went with the ones that stood out for me. Some that did were published earlier than 2019 and will possibly make it onto the 2010-2019 list – which of course, is bound to be longer and have entire series on there as I simply cannot choose only one from each year. It feels like a betrayal to a whole series to do that!

So there you are – for once I was able to choose fourteen favourites!