The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan

*Read in 2017, published review in 2018*
sisters songTitle: The Sister’s Song

Author: Louise Allan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Set in rural Tasmania from the 1920s to the 1990s, The Sisters’ Song traces the lives of two very different sisters. One for whom giving and loving are her most natural qualities and the other who cannot forgive and forget.

As children, Ida loves looking after her younger sister, Nora, but when their beloved father dies in 1926, everything changes. The two young girls move in with their grandmother who is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talent. Nora eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny and their lives become quite separate.

The two sisters are reunited when Nora’s life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children.

Ida longs passionately for a family and when she marries Len, a reliable and good man, she hopes to soon become a mother. Over time, it becomes clear that this is never likely to happen. In Ida’s eyes, it seems that Nora possesses everything in life that could possibly matter yet she values none of it.

Set in rural Tasmania over a span of seventy years, the strengths and flaws of motherhood are revealed through the mercurial relationship of these two very different sisters. The Sisters’ Song speaks of dreams, children and family, all entwined with a musical thread that binds them together.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-rose
Most of the time when a novel contains love, it is the romantic kind, between two unrelated people, crossing paths and finding themselves tumbling head-first into a relationship, and its ups and downs, creating a much-loved genre amongst many readers. However, as someone who is not an avid fan of such novels, I always love it when I come across a novel where if there is romance, it is a subplot, or an element of the novel, and the main story shifts the important focus to something else, like family – a kind of love that is not often seen in many novels, but one that I have begun to see as creeping into books by Australian women writers, sometimes alongside a historical backdrop and some romantic love. It is this familial love that drives and instigates the plot of the debut novel by Louise Allan, The Sister’s Song.

 

Beginning in 1926 and set in Tasmania, and spanning the next seventy years, The Sister’s Song follows the lives of Ida and Nora Parker after their father dies, and their mother withdraws into herself. Nora is a gifted singer and piano player, and dedicated to faith, aww2017-badgeguided by the loving hand of her grandmother. Ida is the opposite, unsure of her place in the world, only knowing there are things she is not good at. When they grow up, their paths separate and Nora goes to the mainland to study music, against all her mother’s wishes, and Ida stays behind, becomes a nanny, weds, hoping to start a family. Their mother tries to keep Nora in Tasmania in the rural town they live in with their grandmother, pushing realism, not dreams, into their heads as the way to go. For Ida, this advice sticks with her but so does a feeling of wanting to be a better mother, a better sister. When Nora falls pregnant, she is sent home and married off to another man, and from here, the sister’s lives take a new turn, with Nora bearing the children Ida wishes she could, and each sister turning into what they never thought they would become.

Where Nora becomes more like their mother, Ida becomes more like their mother’s mother, and a supportive Aunt whose nephews and niece turn to in times of strife. Throughout the years, these sisters fight and come together, and ultimately, show the power of sisterly love through hard times. Spanning across seventy years, The Sister’s Song hints at the historical events Ida and Nora live through, but these moments are almost like passing ships as the reader becomes invested in the characters. I found that the love between the sisters, and Nora’s children was stronger, and had more depth in them than some romance novels I have read – deeper, more meaningful relationships always make a book more relatable and readable for me.

Louise Allan has created characters with flaws, that are not perfect and who make mistakes, and she allows them to make mistakes. She allows them to act and live within their time and frame of understanding as well, ensuring that their attitudes suit what they know, even if there are characters who find these attitudes shocking. Through Ida and Nora, various ways of living and thinking are explored, and understood over the years. It is a beautifully crafted story that shows everyone is human, and that everyone has the capability to follow their dreams, to fall, and to find their way back to who they once were, and the changing dynamics of family throughout time.

Ideal for readers looking for a new reader and a new author, and a refreshing take on the relationships that women have in literature and fiction. It’s always lovely to see one that doesn’t focus on falling in love, as it gives some variety and spice to female characters and their stories.

Booktopia

Angus & Robertson – Up to 25% off all Fiction titles in our Santa’s Little Helpers Showcase

Advertisements

Wrap Up #2: My Year in Reading 2017.  

Wrap Up post #2 – My Year in Reading 2017.  

2017 was a busy reading year for me. It was the year my blog picked up a little bit more, and I managed to read more review books. Overall, I read 121 books. Fifty-five of those were by Australian women writers, although I didn’t manage to read all six books I initially hoped to read for the challenge, I did read most of them, as well as many others that came across my path. There are at least two of the three I initially hoped to include that I did not get to, nor did I get to some of the books I have read but wanted to read again. I did achieve my goal to read books by Lynette Noni, Kate Forsyth and Sulari Gentill, though, as well as many others including the entire Matilda Saga by Jackie French, including the latest book, Facing the Flame.

Of the overall count, ninety-two were women writers, with more than half being Australian Women Writers. Eighteen were male authors or the exhibition catalogues for the Harry Potter exhibit at the British Library. A quick glance over my list, and my most read genres appear to be fantasy and historical fiction.

Of these books, it is hard to pick a favourite, and that will have to be another post, as there are a few that need to be included. As 2017 ends and 2018 begins, I am thinking about my next challenges. I will again sign up for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and read as many books as I can by Australian Women Writers. I will continue writing reviews from publishers with the goal of keep on top of each lot of books as they come in, and endeavour to get the reviews up by release date if they come before, or as soon as I can if they arrive after the book has been released – a system I have always used that has helped me prioritise books.

I am also hoping to stick to reading what I like, and not waste time on things I struggle with. I always let the publisher know if this happens, and so far, it hasn’t been an issue. I don’t have specific goals to focus on certain authors or genres, other than to try and read more Australian authors and more Australian female authors, and to continue supporting them.

la belle sauvage

Below is my completed list of reading for 2017. It includes all the challenge reads, and the individual lists can be seen in the wrap up posts for those challenges. I hope these lists and reviews have helped you find something new to read.

 

2017 reading log

 

  1. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell
  2. A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French
  3. The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
  4. The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French
  5. Frostblood by Elly Blake
  6. The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French
  7. The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  8. New York Nights by C.J. Duggan
  9. To Love a Sunburnt Country by Jackie French
  10. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  11. Love, Lies, and Linguine by Hilary Spiers
  12. The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
  13. The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French
  14. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  15. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  16. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French
  17. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
  18. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
  19. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  20. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
  21. Stasi Wolf by David Young
  22. Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan
  23. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  24. Frogkisser by Garth Nix
  25. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  26. Ariadnis by Josh Martin
  27. Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
  28. A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart
  29. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
  30. Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton
  31. Billy Sing by Ouyang Yu
  32. Draekora by Lynette Noni
  33. Stay with Me by Ayóbámi Adèbáyò
  34. The Mysterious Mr Jacob: Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy by John Zubrzycki
  35. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  36. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander)
  38. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet by Jennifer Gall
  39. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  40. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  41. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  42. A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly
  43. Singing my Sister Down by Margo Lanagan
  44. Under the Same Sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, and Milad Jafari with James Knight
  45. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  46. Disappearing off the Face of the Earth by David Cohen
  47. Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine
  48. Girl in Between by Anna Daniels

49, Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

  1. Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl
  2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
  3. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin
  4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
  5. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  6. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  7. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins
  8. Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
  9. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
  10. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless.
  11. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  12. The Pacific Room by Michael Fitzgerald
  13. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood
  14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw 20th Anniversary Edition)
  15. Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters
  16. Tell It to The Dog by Robert Power
  17. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  18. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  19. Siren by Rachel Matthews.
  20. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
  21.  J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook
  22. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  23. Her by Garry Disher
  24. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting
  25. Ava’s Big Move by Mary Van Reyk
  26. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  27. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  28. The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War Two by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
  29. The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War by Peter Stanley
  30. Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
  31. The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
  32. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  33. Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing by Daniel Tammet
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  36. The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan
  37. The Last Hours by Minette Walters
  38. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
  39. The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux
  40. Barney Greatrex by Michael Veitch
  41. Soon by Lois Murphy
  42. A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill
  43. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  44. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  45. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
  47. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  48. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  49. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  50. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  51. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
  52. The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington
  53. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  54. Sleep No More by PD James
  55. Five Go Down Under by Sophie Hamley (inspired by the original series by Enid Blyton
  56. Wolf Children by Paul Dowsell
  57. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  58. The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  59. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  60. The Boy Made from Snow by Chloë Mayer
  61. Harry Potter: A History of Magic – British Library exhibition catalogue.
  62.  Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  1. Facing the Flame by Jackie French
  2. Murder on Christmas Eve by Cecily Gayford
  3. Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow
  4. After I’m Gone by Linda Green
  5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  6. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan (2018 Release)
  7. Rain Fall by Ella West (2018 Release)
  8. Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett
  9. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

121. Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

 

Books 117 and 118 are to be released on the 2nd of January 2018, so the reviews will be live on the blog on that day.

Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

 

 

aww2017-badge2017 was the first year I took part in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and it was the sixth year it has been running. Keen to read more Australian Women Writers and raise the profile of our wonderfully talented female authors, I signed up in early January 2017, as a way to keep myself occupied whilst building my blog, and to read more local literature. To start, I initially made a list of books I wanted to read, including The Beast’s Garden (a re-read that I never got to), anything new from Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill, a couple of books I had obtained over Christmas, and A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French. This list was my base, and from there, within the first month, I had completed my goal with the entirety of The Matilda Saga by Jackie French, and several review books that weren’t quite my style, but that I passed on to those who did enjoy them. From there, many of the books I read were review books from publishers, all genres, growing my list substantially, so I had more than doubled my initial goal by April of the year – perhaps even tripled it by then. So I kept reading, devouring fantasy, historical fiction and crime as my favourite genres for the year.

Three of my favourite authors – Kate Forsyth, Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill released new books this year, all read and reviewed. I was lucky enough to participate in a series of reviews to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2018 of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and discovered a new favourite author, Jessica Townsend, author of Nevermoor. Book two will hopefully be out in 2018 and it is one I am eager to read when it does come out.

nevermoor

I pledged to read six and review at least four books – Miles level. However, as is evident by the list below, I far exceeded that, reading and reviewing fifty-five books in total. I have no plans to purposely surpass this next year, though if I do, it will be a lovely surprise and an accomplishment for me. I have linked each review in this post as well so clicking on a title will take you to that review.

Bring on 2018 and many more reads!AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

  1. A Waltz for Matilda (Matilda Saga #1) by Jackie French
  2. The Girl from Snowy River (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  3. The Road to Gundagai (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  4. To Love a Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French
  5. New York Nights by CJ Duggan
  6. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  7. The Ghost by The Billabong (Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French
  8. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle (Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French
  9. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  11. Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3_ by Lynette Noni
  12. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  13. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
  14. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  15. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  16. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  17. The Song of Us by JD Barrett
  18. Singing My Sister Down and other stories by Margo Lanagan
  19. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  20. Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood
  21. Girl In Between by Anna Daniels
  22. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  23. Beauty in the Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  24. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless
  25. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  26. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #4)
  27. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  28. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  29. Siren by Rachel Matthews
  30. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  31. Ava’s Big Move by Mary van Reyk
  32. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  33. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  36. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  37. Soon by Lois Murphy
  38. A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair #8) by Sulari Gentill
  39. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  40. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  41. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  42. The Green Mill Murders by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #5)
  43. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  44. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  45. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlpie by May Gibbs
  47. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  48. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  49. Enid Blyton For Adults: Five Go Down Under – text by Sophie Hamley
  50. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  51. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  52. Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  53. Facing the Flame by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #7)
  54. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  55. Vasilisa the Wise by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

Booktopia

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

 

In my third wrap up post for 2017, I am looking at my favourite reads of the year. Over the past twelve months of reading so many books, narrowing down my favourites has been quite hard. There are definitely a few that stick out, though. Deciding how many to include in my favourites for the year was a challenge as well. Three wasn’t enough, five barely covered them and ten seems like the next logical number. However, when it came to ranking the books I chose, I found that it was impossible to do so, because I loved them all equally and for different reasons, so to place one book ahead of another didn’t feel right. With a goal of at least ten favourite reads, more if I need them, I have compiled this list. I have listed them as I thought of them, and linked my review. My one stipulation was that the books on this list had to be published this year. I settled on … books in the end, as these were the ones that really stood out to me as exceptional for a variety of reasons.

 

nevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend – a debut Children’s and YA novel about a cursed chid,Morrigan Crow, who is whisked off to the Wundrous land of Nevermoor to compete for a chance at a place at the academy there, and to escape the death that all children born on Eventide must face at the age of eleven. It has been compared to Harry Potter, and it has that some wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. With book two out later in 2018, I am anxious to find out what will happen to Mog, Jupiter North and Fen the cat, who became my favourite character rather quickly. I devoured it in two days, and look forward to reading it again.

 

 

Facing the FlameFacing the Flame by Jackie French – the seventh book in the Matilda Saga takes place a few years after the solemn end of If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Jed Kelly is getting married, and is going to have a baby. In the final days of her pregnancy, Jed must run from the fire and an old adversary to save her life, and her baby. As the fire closes in on Gibber’s Creek, lives will be lost and found, and Jed’s world changes forever. The Matilda Saga is one of my favourite series, and with a new book out each year, I look forward to reuniting with the families of Gibbers Creek each December.

 

 

stars across the oceanStars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman – The story of foundling baby, Agnes Resolute, determined to find her birth mother, whom she thinks is Genevieve Breckby. A journey from the foundling home to London and across the world will lead her to her real mother. It is a story about a strong young woman, determined not to let anything stop her, but a woman of her time as well, finding ways to fit in whilst taking her fate into her own hands. It also tells the dual storyline of a young woman in the 21st century, caring for her mother, and following the journey of Agnes that her mother has been researching. It has a touch of romance that happens as a result

of events in the story, rather than driving the plot. It was a good read, and definitely one of my favourites.

 

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – a favourite

BeautyinThorns_Cover

reads list of mine would not be complete without Kate Forsyth’s latest fairy tale infused historical fiction novel.  Beauty in Thorns is about the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art society, primarily the women w

ho inspired the words and paintings of their husbands and lovers and fathers, and what they contributed. In a world where women were expected to raise children and run a household, the Pre-Raphaelite women did this and inspired the men in their lives, and some even contributed their own artistic talents to exhibitions. Exquisitely told, with the flaws as well as the strengths present, Kate Forsyth is a master at telling the little-known stories of women in history, and bringing historical characters such as Lizzie Siddal to life with her words.

 

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill another author whose books I eagerly await each year is Sulari Gentill, primarily her Rowland Sinclair series. Eight books in, and poor Rowly keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting embroiled in murder and mayhem, and involved in the left side of the political spectrum, far from what his brother, Wilfred, wishes he would do. Several months after the total destruction of his Mercedes in a race that almost claimed his life, Rowland is car shopping in Melbourne with Milt, the Jewish Communist poet, and Clyde, a working-class painter, for a new car. On the drive back from Melbourne, they stop in Canberra, where a Communist is murdered, and soon, both Rowly and Milt find their lives in jeopardy. Set in the 1930s as worldwide political tensions lead to the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the devastation of the Second World War, each book gets more political, and Sulari manages this with great skill, ensuring an engaging series that I feel gets better with each book.

 

into the worldInto the World by Stephanie Parkyn – Another historical fiction novel by a debut Australian female author, and another book I read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as all the books so far have been. Set during the French Revolution of the 1790s, Marie-Louise Giradin leaves her son with a trusted friend, and, disguised as a man, travels on a journey to find La Perouse, lost at sea in the Southern Oceans around the newly colonised Australia. Her journey takes her to Tasmania, where the stories she has heard are far from the truth of what she sees here and on stops along the way, where she tries to speak out, horrified when she sees the slave trade in full swing. It is a journey that is full of surprises – where Marie Louise and the crew find that they may never reach the shores of their beloved France again after Louis XIV is beheaded. It was delightful to read a novel where the woman’s primary role was one of strength and courage, and where women were shown to do things beyond what society expected them to do. A great story, and an enjoyable one.

 

draekoraDraekora by Lynette Noni – Returning to Akarnae and its world each year is a pleasure Set just after the events of Raelia, Alex, Bear and D.C. must find a way to save Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven, the Meyarin Prince who seeks to reclaim their world at any cost. Sent to Meya, and thousands of years into the past, Alex must find a way to get back, and complete her testing and training before she can face Aven. In this fantasy series, each book has been engaging and enthralling, with a strong focus on friendship as the primary relationships in the novel. With Graevale out in a matter of months, this is definitely making my list of favourite books I have read this year, and I am looking forward to Graevale.

 

baby ganesh 3The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan Up until now, each book has been by an Australian female author, and mostly fantasy or historical fiction. The Baby Ganesh series is set in Mumbai, and revolves around a private detective, Chopra, investigating crimes with his trusty elephant, Ganesha, who loves Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate. The pair often insert themselves into investigations, much to the dismay of Chopra’s formidable wife, Poppy, and end up getting into scrapes that young Ganesha manages to get them out of. In the third book, a famous Bollywood star has gone missing, and Chopra and Ganesha are on the trail. A few rough turns take them to unexpected places, and with an ending that was surprising this series has a character to it that few I have read do.

 

bedlam stacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – In what I feel can only be described as historical fiction infused with magical realism, this was one of the most interesting books I read this year. As smuggler Merrick Tremayne is at home, he is summoned to go on an expedition to South America to find quinine to help with malaria outbreaks in East India. What Tremayne and his companions find has them questioning what they know, and how to deal with the world as they have understood and known it. What was clever about this book was that it felt like a historical fiction until nearer the end, when the subtle hints towards the magical realism in the book started to come together. Cleverly done so the reader gets a surprise, I hope that Natasha Pulley writes some more books like this.

 

rotherweirdRotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – This one, set in a town that lives in the current times but whose lives mimic those of Shakespearean times, made the list for its inventiveness, and clever execution, much like Bedlam Stacks. It is part historical fiction, part fantasy, with each section opening and closing with a snippet of the history of the town that history teacher, Jonah Oblong has come to teach in. Cast away from Elizabethan England, Rotherweird seems to have moved on in years but is stuck in a time when a Virgin Queen sat on the throne and a playwright who charmed audiences in the Globe Theatre. It is a place full of anachronisms, cleverly used, and where local history and pre-1800 history is not taught. I look forward to the next book, and what it brings to the mystery and intrigue of this anachronistic little town.

 

Of course, there are many more that I loved, but these are amongst my favourites and the ones that made me think and that offered something a little bit different to some other books out there. Bring on 2018!

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Book Muse, Ashleigh

 

 

 

Sunday Spotlight via Australian Women Writers, interview with Kate Forsyth and Theresa Smith

Welcome to Sunday Spotlight. Today it gives us great pleasure to bring to you a conversation with Kate Forsyth about her exciting new book, Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women. I read on your blog that Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women was born out…

via Sunday Spotlight with Kate Forsyth on Vasilisa the Wise — Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

Booktopia

Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Illustrated by Lorena Carrington

Vasilisa the wise.jpgTitle: Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women

Author:  Kate Forsyth and Illustrated by Lorena Carrington

Genre: Fairy tales, children’s literature

Publisher: Serenity Press

Published: 14th December 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 100

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: For many young women, the only fairy-tales they know are the ones that have been retold by Walt Disney Studios.

Once upon a time, these stories of magical transformation were meant for young women as they grew away from childhood and towards adulthood. They were told by their mothers and grandmothers and the wise women of the clan as they spun and wove and stirred their pots and made their potions. The heroines of these old tales set out on a difficult road of trials to discover their true destiny. And, contrary to popular opinion, marrying a prince was not the only goal. These ancient tales of wonder and adventure are about learning to be strong, brave, kind and true-hearted, and trusting in yourself to change the world for the better.

Meet the brave young women from tales of yore …

Vasilisa who must try to outwit the fearsome witch Baba-Yaga.

Katie Crackernuts who sets out to save her sister from dark magic.

Flora, the gardener’s daughter, who marries a giant serpent to save a prince.

Fairer-Than-A-Fairy, a princess who is kidnapped by an evil one-eyed enchantress.

Lullala, in love with a prince cursed to be a lion by day and a man by night.

Rosemary, a Scottish lass whose baby is stolen by the wicked faery folk of the Sidhe.

Ursula, a princess replaced by a walking, talking automaton.

These are not your usual passive princesses, waiting forlornly for their prince to come …

~*~

aww2017-badgeWhat a joy to read another new Kate Forsyth book this year. Of the three she published – Beauty in Thorns, Vasilisa the Wise with illustrator Lorena Carrington, and The Silver Well, I have bought them all and read two – with The Silver Well having to wait until the New Year. Like me, Kate has a fascination with fairy tales. As children, the first fairy tales we are exposed to are Disney retellings, or sanitised versions that have the names of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Charles Perrault or Hans Christian Andersen stamped on them. If we are lucky, we get to read the dark, original versions, often more terrifying and much darker than the originals. However, it is rare to see female characters with as much power as some modern retellings give them. There are examples, such as Hansel and Gretel, where Gretel saves her brother, yet it is often through the actions of being saved by the prince that the princess can finally exert her power. In Vasilisa the Wise, Kate Forsyth has retold traditional fairy tales by Andrew Lang, The Brothers Grimm, and from Scandinavia with the strong female characters at the forefront, who take charge of their own fate using what is available to them within their worlds.

It was a pleasure to see Kate’s version of The Singing, Springing Lark included, as I enjoyed the original and her fairy tale infused historical fiction, The Beast’s Garden. I think it was my favourite of all the tales, however, as they were all filled with amazing characters who took charge of their own fates, it was very hard to come to this decision. I also enjoyed the Pre-Raphaelite tale, The Toy Princess by Mary de Morgan – it would be lovely to read some more fairy tales by women, and to have studied these tales would have been amazing too.

Kate’s stories are accompanied by amazing artwork by Lorena Carrington, comprised of photographs, items from nature and layered to create evocative images that sing the song of the words they sit next to, and carry the heart of the story within their simplicity and beauty. Alone they tell a story as well, showing the reader what is to come, and what has come before, capturing the essence of characters and the tragedy of consequences of the actions of others, contrasted with the happier outcomes for the main characters of Kate’s tales. These exquisite silhouetted illustrations suit these stories perfectly.

As a lover of fairy tales, I can always find something to enjoy about oral tales recorded by figures like Jacob and Wilhelm, the literary fairy tales of Charlotte Rose de la Force, Mary de Morgan, Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde, and their various reincarnations and retellings throughout time. Kate’s retellings are special, and words that evoke the same magic of the tales they were inspired by, and keep the integrity of the original whilst giving it wings and a new voice through the courageous and loving women she has focussed on. These stories will endure, and become part of fairy tale canon and the wonderful library of Kate Forsyth stories. It is an amazing book that can be read alone or out loud to younger people and shared with young women of all ages to show them how to be courageous and brave.

This is my final read for the 2017 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and I don’t think I could have finished on a better note.

Booktopia

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

light between oceans.jpgTitle: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Steadman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: Vintage

Published: 3rd December 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: This mesmerizing Australian novel has been a bestselling book around the world, and Hollywood movie rights were recently snapped up by DreamWorks, with David Heyman (Harry Potter) set to produce. It is the winner of three prestigious ABIA awards, including their ‘Book of the Year’, and also won the Indie Awards’ ‘Book of the Year’. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. Then one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads. Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

Winner of three ABIA awards for Best Newcomer, Best Literary Novel and Book of the Year – 2013 ABIA Book of the Year, 2013 ABIA Literary Fiction of the Year
Winner of two Indie Awards for Best Debut and Book of the Year – 2013 Book of the Year

Winner of the Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award for 2013
Recently voted Historical Novel of 2012 by GoodReads
reading community

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe Light Between Oceans opens in 1926, when Isabel and Tom Sherbourne discover a boat washed up on the shore of their home, Janus, with a dead body and a baby inside. Torn between doing the right thing according to the laws of Australia, Western Australia and the code of being a lighthouse keeper he is bound by, and what feels like the right thing as humans, yet under the law is wrong, Tom and his wife Isabel make the decision to keep the baby and raise her as their own, and not notify anyone of her presence. Lucy grows up in this isolated place, studying the land and the stars, and the sea, learning the boundaries of this place, and slowly becoming a little person with curiosity, but also immense trust in the two people she thinks of as her parents. A chance trip to the mainland for her baptism will set in motion a series of events that lead to the discovery of what really happened to the man in the boat, and the fracturing of a life that seemed so perfect – and what happens when the truth comes out, and for both sides, right and wrong look like the same thing – the best place for a little girl who had been washed ashore in a strange place, and whose family had thought her gone.

When Tom and Isabel are faced with having to give Lucy back to her real mother, everyone is affected by the lies and deception, and the fallout that leads to tragedy and separation. Their lives have been impacted by several miscarriages, the arrival of the boat, and Tom’s service in World War One – the scars of the war are ever present throughout the book, and threads of the story hint at these deep physical and emotional scars that have impacted a generation sent away to a war to end all wars. This backdrop gives insight into how the characters make decisions and why, and who they end up becoming. Tom and Isabel are good people, who thought they were doing the right thing, in a place where communication with other people might not happen for months at a time. When they are caught up in the legalities and returning Lucy to her mother in Partageuse, their lives take an unexpected turn, and the happy ending for Lucy that they’d all hoped for looks like it might not come. The life that Isabel had imagined for Lucy is lost as the truth comes out, and the little girl is returned to the family who thought her lost forever.

I’ve described this as literary fiction mixed with historical fiction – set in a time and place between a war, and the Great Depression, The Light Between Oceans uses history as its backdrop but is heavily driven by the characters of Tom, Isabel, Lucy, and the character of the lighthouse, and Janus. Slowly, the mainland characters come in but they’re more peripheral in Tom and Isabel’s journey. The conflict of morals and the right thing to do – as a human and legally – drive the conflict of the plot and the characters. As a reader, I was always thinking about why a character did what they did, or reacted the way they did – and M.L. Steadman has created flawed, imperfect characters who are at war within themselves and whose react to what is happening in a very human way. It is a story of human hope, trust and emotions, and what we can be driven to do when caught in a tricky situation where no answer feels like the right one.

Booktopia

Angus & Robertson – Up to 25% off all Fiction titles in our Santa’s Little Helpers Showcase