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,
Whisper

 

Lynette Noni General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,

2019 Badge

  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!

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

deathless girls.jpgTitle: The Deathless Girls

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Historical, Gothic, Fantasy

Publisher: Bellatrix/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

~*~

Kizzy and Lil are Travellers, whose lives change forever when they are enslaved by Boyar Valcar and taken from their community. Lil tells the story – so everything we see is shown through her eyes, and her understandings and feelings for her sister, and those she meets at the castle, like Mira, and her love for her brother and those she fears she will never see again.

In the castle, as they work, rumours swirl around about what happens to the girls who disappear – until Kizzy is taken, and this sets in motion a series of events that leads Mira, Fen and Lil to search for and save Kizzy and brother Kem from an unimaginable fate – but at what cost. and where will everything lead them all?

Set a few hundred years in the past, maybe three or four hundred years, The Deathless Girls follows Kizzy and Lil as they are ripped from a life they know and into one that they will ever escape from. It draws on the myths and stories of Dracula and his brides, and their untold story. The first half move slowly, as pieces of the puzzle are slowly revealed and as hints towards the fates of Kizzy and Lil are dropped for the reader to follow – and it is done quite cleverly, so whilst it is slowly, it doesn’t feel slow or meander too much.

The turning point, where Kizzy is taken, is where it picks up. More questions arise but these foreshadow what is to come and what the rest of the book had been heading towards. Whilst not the ending I had hoped for, it was perhaps what I had expected from the title and the hints that had been dropped throughout the novel – especially when it came to some of the characters.

This book is aimed at a young adult audience – and I don’t think you need to know the Dracula myths or stories to enjoy it – it can stand alone as its own story, but can also be read alongside a reading of the Dracula stories and myths that people do know. Either would make for an interesting discussion and reading, as each explore different themes. Here, the power of the women involved and their choices and lives, and what leads them to their fate are highlighted. They have agency and personhood, rather than just being a passive victim.

Whilst a vampire novel in a way, the vampire element, and Dracula element only becomes clear towards the latter half. For the first half or so, the divining by Cook and the other things that are hinted at could have led to anything, which is perhaps what makes it powerful and different to what usually constitutes a vampire novel. I’m sure there will be a very keen audience for this book, I I hope future readers enjoy it.

The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel

the unforgiving city.jpgTitle: The Unforgiving City

Author: Maggie Joel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 3rd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 425

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Secrets and lies throw three lives into chaos in the last days of the nineteenth century.

Colonial Sydney in the final weeks of the nineteenth century: a city striving for union and nationhood but dogged by divisions so deep they threaten to derail, not just the Federation, but the colony itself. There are chasms opening too when a clandestine note reaches the wrong hands in the well-to-do household of aspiring politician Alasdair Dunlevy and his wife Eleanor. Below stairs, their maid Alice faces a desperate situation with her wayward sister.

Despite sharing a house, Eleanor, Alice and Alasdair are each alone in their torment and must each find some solution, but at what cost to themselves and those they love? Evocative, immediate and involving, this is the sweeping story of three people, their passions and ambitions, and the far-flung ripples their choices will cause.

~*~

Set in the final weeks and months of the nineteenth century and the Federation campaign, Australia is still a series of colonies, each run by its own government and without a common transport system. There are divisions amongst society, those that wish to Federate to unite the colonies, and those that wish to remain as colonies. Yet beyond the political issues of the suffragettes and Federation, there are secrets kept within one household in the colony. The Dunlevy household – headed up by Alasdair Dunlevy, is rocked by a note sent to his wife, Eleanor. Whilst Eleanor seeks to hide her secrets and uncover her husband’s, their maid, Alice, has her own secrets.

2019 BadgeShe’s trying to help her sister, Milli, who has debts to pay off, and is about to give birth. In her quest to save the child, the seemingly separate secrets they are trying to protect will inevitably collide – and the fates of these three people will remain unsure until the very last minute.

An historical fiction novel that is uniquely Australian, The Unforgiving City tells the story of the struggle to unite Australia as one country, and touching on more of the story than  people might know – the struggles and opposition, and how the suffragist movement was anti-Federation – unless women got the vote – which might explain or help explain how women (white women) got the vote so soon after Federation.

Though there were many people involved in, or affected by, Federation in various ways, this book closely explores the lives of three people in particular – Alasdair and Eleanor Dunlevy and their maid Alice. It touches on the issues that affect other classes, Indigenous people, and others within the colonies, and follows Alasdair as he journeys across New South Wales as he works to convince the towns to vote yes to Federate.

Eleanor and Alice drive the majority of the narrative with their secrets, and Alasdair’s secrets are woven in and out as they forge towards a Federated nation. This story revolves around the relationships of family, and of the rich and poor, and the chasms between the poorest of the poor and those who serve the rich, in a cut-throat world where laws prohibit women from making their own decisions, and where desperate people will do desperate things to keep their secrets and get help where they need it.

There’s not a lot of romance in this book, which allows the story to have a different slant and focus that make it more powerful for me, because it is about survival in a city where what are  now areas for the rich, were once the slums and dominion of the poor and those who have, according to the colonial society, fallen from grace. Maggie Joel cleverly writes each character as dealing with their secrets separately but at the same time, united in trying to keep these secrets that will  eventually collide with tragic yet somewhat hopeful results, even if these results are not what should have happened for the individual characters.

Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer

matters of the heart.jpgTitle: Matters of the Heart

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction/Jane Austen retelling

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 27th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A classic love story about manners, men and modern romance retold by bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer

Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother’s focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.

When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy’s sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie’s best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.

Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?

Australia’s bestselling storyteller Fiona Palmer reimagines Jane Austen’s beloved classic tale of manners and marriage, transporting an enduring love story in this very twenty-first century novel about family, female empowerment and matters of the heart.

~*~

Over the years, many myths, fairy tales and classic works have been retold in many ways in books, for the stage, and for the screen. Jane Austen is no exception, and perhaps one of the stories that has been retold the most is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.Most retellings or adaptations of Pride and Prejudicetake place during the Regency period, but every so often, something new comes along, whether that is the time period or the country or culture the story is set in. Pride and Prejudice is one of those stories where you can take the general idea and characters, and it will translate extremely well into a myriad of settings with the necessary tweaks.

2019 BadgeMatters of the Heart is one such retelling, and it is set in Australia in 2019. In Coodardy, Western Australia, Longbourn is a struggling farm. Lizzy Bennet returns home from an early morning walk with her dog, Pippa, to hear the gossip about Charlie Bingley, who has bought the neighbouring farm, Netherfield. Lizzy’s mother, Margaret, is determined to meet Charlie, a very eligible bachelor that Kitty and Lydia know more about than Lizzy as a match for Jane. From here, Matters of the Heartfollows the basic premise of Pride and Prejudice, where the romance is a result of the arguing over manners and expectations.

Mrs Bennet – Margaret – still wants her daughters, especially Jane and Lizzy – to make a good match in this one, yet she is also a woman who has a complex role as well, who encourages her daughters’ passions, but much like the Bennet matriarch of the original, is overly concerned about money and how people see her, and unfortunately, as in the original, the way Mrs Bennet acts and speaks starts to  impact how the Bingleys and Will Darcy start to see and understand Jane and Lizzy as being just like their mother, whilst Lizzy judges Will because he is reserved and seemingly cold – until she sees him come to life on the farm and hears him talk about his sister.

Not only did this retelling and the original have a touch of romance in it, but the main premise is the idea of manners and what happens when we prejudge people based on minimal interaction or gossip. Also, many of the events are similar, just with a twenty-first century flavour, and a uniquely Australian flavour that makes it exciting and enjoyable to read. It also deals with modern ideas of the roles of men and women in a country town, and preconceived  notions of who makes a good farmer or not, and all the surprises along the way that make the story ebb and flow to the pattern and timeline of the original Pride and Prejudice. Placed in the twenty-first century, the climax happens quite differently, and is effectively done so that it works within the original base narrative and the new setting.

Like Jane Austen’s original characters, these ones are flawed and complex, and not entirely perfect, though some seem to think they are. Lizzy and Jane are my favourites, because they are true to their modern selves, but also their origins from the 1800s. As the main focus of the novel, they get the most attention with sisters Mary, Kitty and Lydia popping in and out as they are needed in the story. It has a bit of everything – humour, romance and most importantly, the strength of women and their ability to stand on their own two feet, even in the face of people thinking they are unable to do certain things – old prejudices that in some areas have not gone away.

Overall, this was a very interesting take on an older story, and one that I would recommend it to fans of Fiona Palmer, and fans of Jane Austen.

The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades

the burnt country.jpgTitle: The Burnt Country

Author: Joy Rhoades

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Bantam

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The stunning new novel from the author of The Woolgrower’s Companion, whom the Australian Women’s Weekly described as ‘a wonderful new voice in literary rural fiction’.
A scandalous secret. A deadly fire. An agonizing choice.

Australia 1948. As a young woman running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd knows she’s expected to fail. And her grazier neighbour is doing his best to ensure she does, attacking her method of burning off to repel a bushfire.

But fire risk is just one of her problems. Kate cannot lose Amiens or give in to her estranged husband Jack’s demands to sell: the farm is her livelihood and the only protection she can offer her half-sister Pearl, as the Aborigines Welfare Board threatens to take her away.

Ostracised by the local community for even acknowledging Pearl, Kate cannot risk another scandal. Which means turning her back on her wartime lover, Luca Canali …

Then Jack drops a bombshell. He wants a divorce. He’ll protect what’s left of Kate’s reputation, and keep Luca out of it – but for an extortionate price.

Soon Kate is putting out fires on all fronts to save her farm, keep her family together and protect the man she loves. Then a catastrophic real fire threatens everything . . .

~*~

Set on a farm in country NSW, The Burnt Country is unique amongst rural fiction I have read. It’s 1948, and World War Two has been over for three years. Kate Dowd has been running the sheep station Amiens alone since her father died and her husband, Jack, left her. Left to support herself, her half-sister, Pearl, Pearl’s mother Daisy, and another relative, Harry, Kate is faced with decisions about selling and rumours floating around town about her family.

Yet it is a time of drought as well, and whilst the fires of what people want from her and expect from her start to flicker around her, a very real fire threatens her home and community, and leads to investigations and events that could change Kate, her community, family and Amiens forever.

Her wartime lover, Luca, and ex, Jack return at about the same time. Yet this storyline does not take over, rather, the romance bubbles beneath the main storyline of family and home, and what it takes to protect what you hold close. Throughout the novel, the dark spectre of Jack looms as he comes in and out of Kate’s life with threats, demands and conditions to go along with a divorce he demands. He knows Kate cannot pay the price he demands, and Kate and her friends use their knowledge and skills to uncover what Jack is after – so there is a bit of a mystery in this book to go along with bubbling romances – two, it turns out, and one of which I felt was a lot more prominent between another couple, and it was one I quite enjoyed,

2019 BadgeDetermined to help her family, and stand up for herself, Kate does what she can to get them through a bushfire that sweeps across the region. I was swept up in this book, because it allowed Kate to be a woman of her time, but at the same time, she stood up for what she believed in, and what was right. She did not let what many people saw as normal and right dictate what she should do, and she showed compassion and strength in the face of accusations that at one point, she feels she cannot defend herself against.

Kate faces blatant sexism and disrespect as she does things her way, from her burning off method, to hiding Daisy and Pearl from the Aborigines Welfare Board – determined that they won’t be separated and determined to make the necessary sacrifices to save her family and her farm. It is a story about a woman who finds herself in circumstances she never foresaw, much more than a romance. It is a very human story, with circumstances and a setting very real to many Australians, as the threat of drought and bushfire linger all the time in rural communities. This aspect was my favourite, because I believe it really allowed Kate to shine and grow as she stood up to those who doubted her who blamed her for things beyond her control and knowledge. It showed that those who are loyal to you in times of trouble are important and true family will always find a way to come back together.

Populated with a diverse group of characters from several backgrounds and attitudes, like many books, The Burnt Country is a snapshot of a community, illustrating a variety of views that we see as abominable today, yet would have been accepted in the post-war years.  Including these is undeniably uncomfortable, but at the same time, we shouldn’t shy away from a very real reality that many faced in the mid-twentieth century in those conditions. It is a great novel, because Kate does not allow what society expects dictate what she does, and she is a wonderful character, and her story is powerful. It is always good to see women in fiction front and centre beyond romance, perhaps with romance bubbling on the side or in the background. Seeing them in other positions and plots shows there are many more aspects to these characters than might be present in some places.

The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

the-book-ninja-9781925640298_lgTitle: The Book Ninja

Author: Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Australia

Published: June 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons.

Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person will do.

It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment.

Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams.

Enter Sunny, and one spontaneous kiss later, Frankie begins to fall for him. But there’s just one problem – Frankie is strictly a classics kind of gal, and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Like really.

A quirky and uplifting love letter to books, friendship and soulmates.

~*~

I bought The Book Ninja ages ago – the blurb on the back about a book lover using her favourite books to find dates was something different that no other romantic comedy in books or movies has ever done before. This month, I finally got to it after getting on top of all my review books, and I must say, Frankie Rose is one of my favourite millennial characters.

In her late twenties or early thirties like me, Frankie Rose works in a bookstore with her best friend, Cat, and Cat’s husband, Claud, and high school student Seb. They play a game – which I absolutely loved – where they’d guess what books a customer read when they entered the store. It made me wonder if other people working in bookstores do this during the day.

2019 Badge

Frankie is also a writer, and when she decides to release her favourite books into the wild in the hopes of meeting someone, Cat convinces her to blog about it. As a result, the authors use a combination of prose, blog posts and texts – which combined, are effective and tell a well-rounded story, and give insight into the characters.

During her experiment, Frankie meets Sunny in the bookstore – he loves Young Adult, a genre Frankie does not enjoy. At the same time, she continues with her experiment. And this is what I loved about the book – the little quirks that made Frankie who she was, and the fact that no character was perfect – they had flaws, they made mistakes and were allowed to make those mistakes.

Also, the characters are very well developed. Frankie is more than just the romance heroine – she has a love of books, writing and she’s also not ashamed to be herself, and is embarrassed by her mother – yet another quirk that makes this book relatable because Frankie is human, not some stunning twentysomething in love with the broody, handsome man. And Sunny – Sunny was equally amazing. I loved that we actually got to know him as more than just the attractive boyfriend. And all of these things is what made the story so rich – it combined everything I love about books and writing with characters I could relate to and want to be friends with, and the stumbling blocks they faced were real, not contrived or out of the blue like some romance stories – they made sense with what was happening, and the characters were allowed to deal with them organically.

An enjoyable read that I hope to revisit one day.

The Last Dingo Summer (Matilda Saga #8) by Jackie French

Last Dingo SummerTitle: The Last Dingo Summer (Matilda Saga #8)

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 16th November 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A body has been found in the burned-out wreckage of the church at Gibber’s Creek – with older skeletons lying beneath it.

The corpse is identified as that of Ignatius Mervyn, the man who attempted to kill Jed Kelly and her unborn child.

Newcomer Fish Johnstone is drawn into the murder investigation, convinced that the local police are on the wrong track with their enquiries. But as she digs beneath the warm and welcoming surface of the Gibber’s Creek community, more secrets emerge.

And Fish must also face her own mystery – the sudden appearance and then disappearance of her father, a Vietnamese refugee she never knew.

Set during the Indigenous rights and ‘boat people’ controversies of the late 1970s, this haunting story shows how love and kindness can create the courage to face the past.

~*~

Picking up soon after the events of Facing the Flame, The Last Dingo Summeris the second last novel in the Matilda Saga. The final one – Clancy of the Overflow – will be out later this year. The novel starts with tragedy – Sam McAlpine, Jed’s husband and Mattie’s father – is injured in a farming accident. Soon after his accident, Fish arrives in Gibber’s Creek, and several skeletons, including the skeleton of Ignatius Mervyn, who, a year earlier, tried to kill Jed Kelly just before she gave birth to Mattie.

2019 Badge

Fish is drawn into the murder investigation – particularly the unidentified bodies lying below the church, but also wants to help prove who killed Merv while she stays with her grandmother and the Great aunts and uncles. As Fish digs below the surface, the secrets of Gibber’s Creek emerge, and Nancy starts to relive her years in an internment camp in Malaya during World War Two. Yet Fish has her own mystery – her missing father, someone she never knew.

At the same time, the residents of Gibber’s Creek are hearing about Indigenous rights, and the controversies of ‘boat people’ from Vietnam and Cambodia in the years after the wars in the Indochina region. Together, they will face the past and their differences, and come together to support each other when it seems like everything is going to fall apart.

I have been following the Matilda Saga for the past ten years, roughly since it first started, and have seen the characters move from the Sydney slums of 1894, to Federation, the suffragette movement, and into the First World War, the Depression, the Second World War and into the 1960s and 1970s – the years of hippies, another war, political change and the moon landing. Matilda, Flinty, Blue, Nancy, Jed and Fish and their families. It has been one of those series where each instalment builds on the previous ones, and highlights aspects of history once hidden, or not spoken about much in a fictional setting, and one where as I read, it simply swept me up in the story, taking me back to a well-known place, and familiar characters I always want to return to and know what they have been up to.

The stories told in the Matilda Saga are the ones that are usually hidden from history. The stories of women, of the poor, and the disenfranchised, as well as those whose race is used against them in laws and legislation. It is these untold stories and the way they form the backbone to Jackie French’s Matilda Saga that make the series and the ongoing story powerful. It is a series where readers get to experience a different voice to what is usually represented in history, and also, get to see themselves and possibly some of the struggles they have gone through in their lives reflected through Matilda, Scarlett, Nancy, and all the other fabulous characters, whether this be race, gender, class or disability, through characters like Flinty and Scarlett. Each of these intersections shows how women like those who populate the Matilda Saga have often had their voices erased or ignored. The Matilda Saga brings them to life, and brings to life the environment they live in, and makes the land as much a character as the human ones.

Across the series, we have lost beloved characters to war and other tragedy, and sometimes just to natural deaths. Here, the shadow of some of these deaths haunts the characters throughout, delving into a mystery reaching back into previous books and plotlines as the book has moved through almost a century of cultural, social and legal change in Australia, and how it affects the small community of Gibber’s Creek. Starting to come together to finalise the series, Jed is writing Matilda’s story, to show the world what Matilda managed in a time when women were not allowed to vote, when Indigenous people had no rights. She built a diverse community to help her biological and adopted family, and these novels have reflected this. In The Last Dingo Summer, Matilda’s presence is still felt by all those who loved her and lived with her. It is filled with intrigue and mystery, and the coming together of a community in times of drought, personal tragedy and a mystery that has left many people feeling unsettled in the face of the unknown.

This is a series I want to read again in its entirety once they are all out and follow the journey of all the characters closely as they evolve and develop across the end of the nineteenth century, and the first seven decades of the twentieth century, exploring Australian history across almost an entire century. It is a love story to a nation, and to people who need to have their stories told. It is a saga that gives a voice to the forgotten, and that is why I love it, because the stories are untold, unknown and that makes them extremely interesting, and I am eager for the conclusion coming out later this year.