The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers

orchardists daughter.jpgTitle: The Orchardist’s Daughter

Author: Karen Viggers

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:A story of freedom, forgiveness and finding the strength to break free. International bestselling writer Karen Viggers returns to remote Tasmania, the setting of her most popular novel The Lightkeeper’s Wife.

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and home-schooled on an apple orchard in south-eastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.

When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.

Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.

~*~

Miki’s world has been one of isolation her whole life. She was home-schooled on a Tasmanian apple orchard, in the forests and mountains. When her life is altered by the ravages of a bushfire, she is forced into an even more isolated life by her brother Kurt. Kurt keeps many secrets from Miki – and ensures she never ventures out of the takeaway shop he owns and forces her to work in until the arrival of the new resident, Leon, a Parks Ranger whose presence starts to link Miki with other people in the town: Geraldine, and a family whose young son – Max – befriends Leon. Max’s father and friends are loggers, and Leon’s presence rubs Shane and his friends the wrong way.

2019 BadgeThe new guy in town, Leon finds he has few allies: Miki, Max, Geraldine, and Wendy – Max’s mother. They are the first people to welcome him and stick up for him in the face of hatred from the loggers, Shane and Kurt – and the story traverses several weeks and encounters between the characters, as Geraldine and Leon encourage Miki to leave the confines of her prison when Kurt is gone. Max faces a bully at school, and Wendy, like Miki, faces her own kind of isolation, and both face things that will eventually come to a head with a series of events that sees the coming together of a community.

In this story, the mountains and forest of Tasmania are as much characters as Miki, Leon and the others. It is a living, breathing, and natural character in this story. The human characters lives revolve around the forest and become connected by it – through the good and the bad, and what the forest can provide and take from them.  It is a love story of sorts – an ode to the forests and mountains of Tasmania and nature as a whole. It reveals the flaws in the people Miki and Wendy thought they loved and knew. The flaws and cracks in the small town are revealed slowly – through alternating chapters from the perspectives of Max, Miki and Leon, and the bonds that grow between them.

In this story, the focus is on personal growth, as well as community connection, and what isolation can do to someone and how it makes them feel – and the final chapters are filled with heart stopping moments that make you want to read on and find out what happens and how it all turns out. The rest, I enjoyed meandering about, and taking in the story slowly, but not too slowly, of course. It is the kind of book that can be savoured and devoured in equal amounts. Some sections need to be gobbled up, but some need time spent on them, and Karen Viggers has done this well – when you’re in each character’s life, you are wholly in their life, but at the same time, wanting to know how the others are doing. Seeing how they came together was very satisfying and I liked that the story focussed on friendships between Leon, Geraldine, Miki and Max, and used their backstories to build what it was that drew them to each other, and the flaws in humanity that can lead us to do the unexpected, and why.

I really enjoyed this novel  – it was complex and intriguing with a cast of characters who reflected a diverse selection of human nature, and showed what pressure can do to us – and the ways people respond differently to the same situation they might find themselves in.

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019.jpg

This year, I am adding another challenge to my list. This one will be more of a casual one, that I will disperse throughout the year. Inspired by a blog called Bunny’s Girl, and her challenge to read six Jane Austen novels and six Jane Austen inspired novels between January and December of 2019, I am hoping to at least read the six novels by Jane Austen and if possible, some inspired by her novels, but with this one, I have decided not to specify a number.

I plan to start with one of Jane Austen’s novels – I haven’t decided yet but I plan to read each of the following six written by Jane Austen herself:

Pride and Prejudice

Emma

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Persuasion

Following this, or perhaps in between each one, I plan to read books that have been inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, or non-fiction books about Jane Austen, such as biographies as part of the challenge. I have not decided what all of these will be yet, but here are a few that I hope to look at:

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight

Austenland by Shannon Hale

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

This will be more of a casual challenge that I am aiming for, and won’t stress if I don’t get to some of the books, or can’t find Jane Austen books I am interested in  – of course there will be many choices, but I will be looking for ones I enjoy first and foremost – this may take some of the pressure of, as I won’t be forcing myself into a specific book to check something off, and hopefully these books will also check off some other categories in my other challenges.

I’ll try and post updates here as I go along throughout the year, hopefully once a month.

Booktopia

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018 Completed Post  

AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

This year I pledged to read fifteen books – which I had completed by at least March, if not earlier. I read a total of seventy-nine books and reviewed seventy-eight – one review is due to go live in January and as a result, also counts towards my 2019 challenge. One book from this year was read in 2017, but reviewed this year, and so counts towards both years, as discussed with other AWW participants. Of these books, the majority came out this year, with a few older ones, and some that were published in new editions, such as Mary Poppins.

 

 

I read a broad range from general fiction to kids, young adult, fantasy, crime, historical fiction, non-fiction and some that mixed genres eloquently to create stories that would find a diverse audience.

 

I read picture books, entire series and some books that were just one in a series that was continuing this year. One series had two books come out, and the final book comes out next year – as I wrote this post, my reviewer copy of this book arrived, and I am now torn between diving in or saving it for January and finishing everything else first.

 

Below is a list of the books I read and reviewed for the challenge this year,

  1. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan – Reviewed in 2018 but read in 2017.
  2. The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett – Reviewed
  3. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham – Reviewed
  4. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – Reviewed
  5. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier – Reviewed
  6. The Endsister by Penni Russon – Reviewed
  7. Graevale by Lynette Noni – reviewed
  8. Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  9. Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen -Reviewed
  10. The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht – Reviewed and Interviewed.
  11. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  12. Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk – Reviewed
  13. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer – reviewed
  14. Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard – Reviewed
  15. Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  16. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan – Reviewed
  17. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester – Reviewed
  18. The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun by Emily Conolan – Reviewed
  19. The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait – Reviewed
  20. Little Gods by Jenny Ackland- Reviewed
  21. I am Sasha by Anita Selzer – Reviewed
  22. Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  23. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Reviewed
  24. Lovesome by Sally Seltmann – Reviewed
  25. Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  26. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – Reviewed
  27. Eleanor’s Secret – Reviewed
  28. Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – Reviewed
  29. The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela – Reviewed
  30. Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe – Reviewed
  31. The Jady Lily by Kirsty Manning – Reviewed
  32. The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader – Reviewed
  33. Burning Bridges and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan – Reviewed
  34. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles – Reviewed
  35. The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett – Reviewed and Interviewed
  36. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones – Reviewed
  37. Into the Night by Sarah Bailey – Reviewed
  38. The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – Reviewed
  39. Ella and Olivia: A Wild Adventure by Yvette Poshoglian – Reviewed
  40. Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  41. Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr – Reviewed
  42. We See the Stars by Kate van Hooft – Reviewed.
  43. The Far Back Country by Kate Lyons- Reviewed
  44. Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron – Reviewed
  45. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell – Reviewed
  46. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart – Reviewed
  47. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – Reviewed
  48. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2) – Reviewed
  49. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3) – Reviewed
  50. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4) – Reviewed
  51. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  52. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele – Reviewed
  53. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5) – Reviewed
  54. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  55. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6) – Reviewed
  56. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson – Reviewed
  57. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – Reviewed
  58. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios – Reviewed
  59. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Reviewed
  60. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty – Reviewed
  61. Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – Reviewed
  62. Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – Reviewed
  63. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – Reviewed
  64. Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  65. We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  66. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  67. Secrets Hidden Below by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – Reviewed
  69. The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears – Reviewed
  70. Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  71. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – Reviewed
  72. Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – Reviewed
  73. The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2) – Reviewed
  74. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Visits Santa by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  75. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers – Reviewed
  76. Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  77. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed for 2019 (to be counted as part of 2019’s challenge as well)
  78. Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington – Reviewed

 

During the course of the challenge, I completed the Chain of Charms series, and did four check in posts across the year, charting my progress every fifteen books – the way I do this may change next year but here are the four check in posts, where you can access all but one of the reviews, as that one is only going live in the new year. There are a handful of books I know I will be reading towards this and other challenges next year, as they have already landed with me as early copies for review, but typically go up on release day as per publicity instructions. My initial goal of fifteen blew out to seventy-nine – being conservative in my goal means I can plan some reads and any others that come across are a bonus – it also lessens the pressure on trying to find that many books given I get so many from publishers, and they’re not always Aussie authors, even though I do my best to make sure this is the focus of my blog.

 

Check in posts:

 

Check in #1

Check in #2

Check in #3

Check in #4

Check in #5

Signing off for the year, so Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year

 

The Book Muse

Booktopia

Book Bingo Twenty-two – a prize winning book, a book by someone over sixty, and a book with a yellow cover.

Book bingo take 2

With 2018 rushing towards its busy, and warm conclusion, and in consultation with my fellow book bingo players, I have assigned some previously read books to the following categories, and have assigned my prize-winning category is taken up this time by 2007 Aurealis Best Children’s Book winning series, The Chain of Charms by Kate Forsyth, and have utilised other books in different squares from last time for others this time.

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

Rows Across – update:

Row #2 –

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 

Row #3:  – BINGO

A book written by an Australian woman:Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

 

Row #5

A book that became a movie:

A book based on a true story:

A book everyone is talking about:

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

 Rows Down update:

Row #1 –

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #3: –

 A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book everyone is talking about:

Row #5 – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

A book with a number in the title:

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row three across and row five down are my bingo rows this time around!

Australia DayLast time, Australia Day by Melanie Cheng slotted into the short story square, and yet this time, it fits into the yellow cover category this time. A series of short stories about life in Australia, and the varying experiences within society, aiming to capture the breadth of society and the different ways people react to, and deal with how they are perceived, and what is expected from the Australian experience, or perhaps in some cases, Melanie plays on the conflict between what is expected and who her characters are – varying between race, gender, class and sexuality to try and give a well-thought look at how Australia and Australia Day, isn’t the same for everyone, whatever their identity, and that it never will be. By revealing uncomfortable truths about Australian society in a way many people can relate to and understand.

Miss Lily 1Another book I recycled this time was Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – which fitted into the over 500-page square last time. This time, it fits into a book by someone over sixty – I did this again to make it easier filling the remaining categories with books I am in the middle of, and some I am yet to find. A historical fiction novel set during World War One, Sophie is sent to London to a school to learn how to be a lady – yet it is much more than that – she learns the ways of spying and using her feminine ways to find out about the war, and eventually, play a part in the war on the front line, in a time when the world is in tatters, and where men and women are dying everyday as battles rage across Europe, leaving Sophie’s home relatively untouched by the guns of war. Jackie French has been writing for all age groups for many years, and has been a favourite of mine since I was thirteen, and read Somewhere Around the Corner, which I still have my shelf. Another good book that fit more than one square.

My final square is the prize-winning book square. Ordinarily, this would go to a single book, however, with the flexibility we have given ourselves in this challenge, I have assigned it to a series I read this year within two weeks (had I not been so sick, it would have been a week). The Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction in 2007, for the whole series, comprised of six books, and won for books 2-6, i the long fiction category:

Kate Forsyth, The Silver Horse, The Chain of Charms 2, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Herb of Grace, The Chain of Charms 3, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Chain of Charms 4, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Lightning Bolt, The Chain of Charms 5, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Butterfly in Amber, The Chain of Charms 6, Pan Macmillan

The series follows Luka and Emilia during the final days of a tyrannical reign during the time of Oliver Cromwell, trying to track down charms from each Roma family in the south regions of England, to reunite them and their families to bring back their good luck and fortune, and also, help stop the violence growing around them, and release their families from prison. It is a charming tail about friendship, and family, tying in historical fact and belief to create a world that children and any other readers can escape to.

Again, all my books are by Australian Women Writers. My aim was for each to be a unique book, but as I am cutting it fine, I’m not sure that will happen, so recycling will happen at times. Onto my next Book Bingo in two weeks time!

Booktopia

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Lennys book of everythingTitle: Lenny’s Book of Everything

Author: Karen Foxlee

Genre: Literary Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: 19.99

Synopsis: Our mother had a dark heart feeling. Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their mother, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named.

A big-hearted novel about loving and letting go by an award-winning author.

Such a big heart and not a beat out of place.‘ – MELINA MARCHETTA

Tough, tender and beautiful.’ – GLENDA MILLARD

Unforgettable.’ – ANNA FIENBERG

Karen Foxlee, you’re a genius.‘ – WENDY ORR

~*~

Lenore Spink, known as Lenny, has a younger brother called Davey who won’t stop growing – by the age of seven, he is as tall as a man, and Lenny is often mistaken as his younger sister. They live with their mother, Cynthia, and Lenny dreams of her father, Peter Lenard Spink, returning one day. In all the years Davey has been alive, he hasn’t. When Davey has to go away for tests to see why he keeps growing, Lenny’s mother enters a competition to win a complete build it yourself encyclopaedia set from a company called Burrell’s – and so, Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia becomes a crucial part in the way Lenny and Davey cope with life before, during and after Davey’s diagnosis, as they get each new set of entries for the alphabet and the covers to bind them together, creating a set on the shelf that they dip into, and re-read their favourite bits. Along for the ride with them is Davey’s imaginary pet golden eagle, Timothy, who goes everywhere with them, and will go with them when they run away to Canada to find Peter Lenard Spink. But when they find out how sick Davey is, all dreams of heading up north are quashed, and Lenny uses the Build-It-Yourself Encyclopaedia, and her attempts to find her father, and any other Spinks, to cope with what is happening, and find a way to understand it. With a touching, bittersweet ending, this book is filled with love, family and friendship.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

This was a surprise arrival with my last Allen and Unwin package, and I immediately felt it was going to be good – the cover alone is charming and exquisite – originally die-cut to create the image that overlays the title, I found it inviting and intriguing – what could these mysterious maps mean? Each section is sign posted by a year, a growth spurt in Davey, and a letter entry for the encyclopaedia, connecting each event to a specific letter, and what that meant to Lenny and Davey over the years that spread across the book. This is a book that is not aimed at any one age group – it is universal in its scope and story – with aspects that we can all relate to and recognise in our own lives. We’ve all known the joy of knowledge, of receiving something in the post that we have either been waiting for or that comes as a pleasant surprise. The act of learning something new is an experience we have all had – and encountering our favourite books or topics.

We also, most of us, know the love of family and friends, the comings and goings of people in our lives, and the fragility of life and death, and the challenges that come with caring for someone with an illness or disability and how it impacts everyone in their lives – the challenges and sacrifices, that are made, as well as the love that is shared, and the sense of community that can come about, as they do for Lenny and her family.

This is a novel with a big heart, about a different kind of love than many novels explore – family love – a love that is just as important as romantic love and deserves more focus in the stories we consume. Lenny’s journey also involves accepting what is happening to her brother and is a catalyst for how she comes to understand the world around her.

This is a book with a big heart, that teaches us about love and letting go of those we love, and the strength it can take for this to happen, and the places we can draw it from. I enjoyed this book, it was one of those rare books that refuses to leave you long after closing the last page. It is one that can be enjoyed by many, and I hope it is, and I hope it is as powerful for other readers as it was for me,

Booktopia

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

sisters and brothers.jpgTitle: Sisters and Brothers

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets

Emma
, a nurse and busy mother of three, has always dreamed of having a sister.
Michelle, at 46, wonders if it’s too late to fall in love and find her birth parents.
Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses.
Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife.
Adam can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.
These five very different people are all connected but separated by secrets from the past. Sisters and Brothers will both break and warm your heart in a way that only bestselling Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer can.

‘Her books are tear-jerkers and page-turners’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better’ RACHAEL JOHNS

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSisters and Brothers  by Fiona Palmer explores the intricacies and complexities of family, and what happens when a family grows unexpectedly and has to face a crisis together. Bill, aged seventy-two, has recently lost his wife, and isn’t well – so it falls to his daughter, Sarah, to look after him. Just before his surgery and hospital stay, he discovers another daughter, Emma. At first, Sarah resists her new sister, Emma, yet at the same time, finds comfort in her, and confides in her, allowing her to become part of the family. At the same time, Adam, whose success as a florist and with his new life is taking off, starts to look for his father, and discovers a whole new family along the way.

As Emma, Sarah and Adam find their way to each other, Michelle, who has always wondered about her birth parents, begins to look for them, yet for her, finding a way to be happy is more important as she ventures into new territory with her cake-making business.

The love story in this novel primarily centres around family and the different ways love manifests with siblings, spouses, friends and children, mothers and fathers and everything in between. It explores family dynamics and what it means to find siblings as an adult, and how this can affect you and everyone involved. It is a powerful novel about family love, and the changes that sometimes come later in life to us and our families, and how we deal with them.

With each new revelation, Sarah begins to accept the larger family she had always wanted as a child but never had. When Emma finds out after her father’s accident that Bill is her father, the initial shock wears off after she meets Bill, and eventually Sarah – with whom a bond soon forms, and she helps Sarah with the stresses in her life and overcoming them. Two sisters, who never knew each other, are soon caring for each other, each other’s families and Bill as they each gain something, rather than lose something in the wake of tragedy.

Adam’s discovery of his father and sisters brings a new dynamic – with his partner, they are looking to grow their family with a child, but never expected siblings, nieces, nephews, and the father Adam never knew plus more, whilst Michelle seeks answers to her adoption, keen to find her birth mother and perhaps someone to love.

What I enjoyed about this novel was that it focussed on familial love and friendship in all its variations and inserted a few romantic subplots that evolved from the family-oriented plot line. It is always refreshing to read these kinds of books that acknowledge more than just romantic relationships and place family and friends at the forefront of the plot line. By exploring these relationships, and issues such as adoption, single parenthood and familial conflict, Fiona Palmer has created a story that will hopefully resonate with many people.

Another lovely, moving and poignant offering from Fiona Palmer, published by Hachette Australia.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

early riser .jpgTitle: Early Riser

Author: Jasper Fforde

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Adventure/Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel – full of the imagination, wit and intelligence that has made Fforde a Number One bestseller.

The new standalone novel from Number 1 bestselling author Jasper Fforde. 

Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.

Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder.

Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…

~*~

It has been many years since a Jasper Fforde novel has been released, and of all his books, my two favourite series are the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes books – both of which I hope get updates soon, so I can find out what happens to my favourite characters. In Early Riser, the first stand-alone novel by Fforde, which is filled with the same satire, the same references to history, popular culture, entertainment and reading, as the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series his readers have come to know and love. Yet this is a different world to that of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, set in another alternate United Kingdom, this time in Wales, where humans spend the entire winter hibernating – and where a select few have volunteered to stay awake through winter to ensure everyone makes it through.

Charlie Worthing is one such volunteer. It is his first Winter awake, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is an outbreak of viral dreams that start to kill people, and Charlie must work with the Winter Consul, and contend with the Wintervolk and those infecting the dreams of the hibernating folk and killing them.

This is a sort of dystopian, alternate universe that is quintessentially British, and charmingly so, with the presence of After Eights, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a tongue-in-cheek humour that I have come to expect and love in Fforde’s works. It is a humour that knowing some of the references, such as his cheeky nods to The Sound of Music, that knowing where they are from helps you appreciate them all the more, and it is so typically Fforde – he manages to get the balance of respect and satire just right, and it suits the book and the character of Charlie so well -one wonders if Charlie has ever crossed paths with the Nursery Crime Division and Thursday Next – books I must read again, and am hoping for continuations of.

The cruelty of Charlie’s first Winter is evident in how the Consul treats him, in the hints at hazing and how different departments perform this – where one might be akin to pranks and drills, Charlie’s hazing is said to be more like making tea and doing laundry – that is, until he is given a promotion to take on heavier duties and investigations into the dream deaths. Fforde cleverly shows how this happens but using subversive and discreet language – nothing is obviously stated, and Charlie is constantly warned about the consequences of falling asleep. Part mystery as well as satire as Charlie investigates what happens, he soon finds himself uncovering secrets about people he thought he knew and finding out things he never thought he would.

Fforde manages to capture something unique about the world, about history and literature, and British culture that is entertaining, informative and amusing. He uses the punching up rule of humour, mixed in with equal delectable dollops of parody and satire to complement the seemingly insane and odd mystery that makes sense in the dystopian alternate universe of Wales that Fforde has created for Charlie to live in, with an ending that is both conclusive and open enough for readers to imagine what happens next. It is a novel that will appeal to Fforde fans and hopefully those who appreciate a tongue in cheek humour and nods to things we’ve all encountered or heard of at some stage, which makes the reading experience richer and more enticing when you can understand these references.

Jasper’s first novel in about four years, Early Riser is the beginning of what will hopefully be a barrage of new books, and updates on our favourite characters and stories. I enjoyed being back in the world of Jasper Fforde and can’t wait for his next offering – which I hope will be soon. In the meantime, I plan to re-read the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, that latter of which only has two books at this stage.

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