Blog Tour: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

differently normal.jpgTitle: Differently Normal

Author: Tammy Robinson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 345

Price: :$29.99

Synopsis: Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.

Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .

‘A funny and poignant tale about first love. Tammy Robinson is a natural storyteller.’ Nicky Pellegrino

~*~

Differently Normal 4Differently Normal is the story of first love, but also about the love of family and what people are willing to do for each other. Maddy Baxter’s life is about routine: the routine of work, and the routine at home she and her mother have to follow to keep her younger sister, Bee, happy and safe. Bee’s autism and epilepsy have meant this rigid schedule has left little time for much else. Bee loves her horse riding though, and a special stable that helps kids like Bee has just taken on a new worker: Albert, saving to leave home and start a new life away from a turbulent family where he doesn’t feel like he fits in. This is where Maddy and Albert meet, and a friendship begins, slowly at first, and but soon blossoms into something else. Maddy soon finds herself allowing Albert in – cautiously at first, to protect her family. When she sees how he genuinely cares for Bee and unlike other people Maddy has known, is willing to help to put Bee first, she finds a way to be happy.

Differently Normal has elements of friendship and romance, of family love and of sacrifice. It does not shy away from the difficulties of life with a disabled family member, and Maddy’s experiences of the past colour her reactions to Albert. Albert’s relationship with Maddy and her family is a caring one – and through the novel, he consistently puts Bee’s needs ahead of his own, understanding Maddy’s need for routine and the absence of the unfamiliar. Whilst the romance element wasn’t the most important aspect for me, it felt more realistic than some others I have read, and allowed for Maddy and Albert to be who they were, and allowed for their characters to evolve together and apart. The goal wasn’t the romance – it was more about the journey and their romance that was a part of the journeys that they had to take.

What I liked about this book was that the focus wasn’t the romance between Maddy and Albert, that they were also allowed to be their own people and show vulnerabilities, and strengths to each other, but also the showed the sacrifices made for family, such as Maddy’s sister, Bee and her mother. The perfect love does not necessarily happen in this book, and that is perhaps why it resonates more – because life is not perfect and things don’t always work out the way we want them to.

In the end, it is a touching story about family to me, and what it means to live with disabilities that affect the person with them, and the way the family lives their lives. The romance between Maddy and Albert was a nice touch, but I found that Maddy’s story intertwined with her sister was more enjoyable, though all strands were in some way relatable and will be in different ways to different readers. Perhaps this is what makes it a unique story of first love – the focus isn’t the romance, there are many different focuses and each reader will get something different out of it that works for them.

AUTHOR BIO

 

Tammy Robinson is a contemporary women’s fiction author from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After years spent working her way round the world, Tammy settled back in New Zealand with her husband, their two girls and a newborn baby boy. She has published six novels through Amazon, and DIFFERENTLY NORMAL was her first novel with Hachette New Zealand. She is currently working on PHOTOS OF YOU, which Hachette will publish in 2019.

Differently Normal 56

AUTHOR LINKS

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TammyRobinsonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TammyRobinson76

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6907993.Tammy_Robinson

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tammyrobinsonauthor/

 

Find information for Differently Normal here:

GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37955669-differently-normal

MAIN LINK: https://www.hachette.com.au/tammy-robinson/differently-normal

PURCHASE LINKS – paperback and e-book

AU
https://www.booktopia.com.au/differently-normal-tammy-robinson/prod9781869713720.html
https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/differently-normal-by-tammy-robinson-9781897136898/#.WmfxpaiWaUk

NZ
https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/differently-normal-6323082

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/differently-normal-2

iBooks
https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/differently-normal/id1317276850?mt=11

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tammy_Robinson_Differently_Normal?id=RilADwAAQBAJ

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2018 NSW PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS

The NSW Government has a long tradition of celebrating and connecting the public with art and literature. The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are an opportunity to highlight the importance of literacy and literature, whilst enjoying and learning from the work of our writers in NSW and Australia. Like other literary awards, this award in highlighting the spectacular Australian Literature Australian writers produce, highlights and honours the achievements of Australia’s writers, and their artistic contributions to society, but also to highlight our literary achievements to the world. The State Library administers the awards.AWW-2018-badge-rose

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have more categories than the Victorian awards. These categories are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

2017 Winner: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

2017 Shortlist: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers by Ryan O’Neill

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2017 Winner: Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahil

2017 Shortlist:

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

Dodge Rose by Jack Cox

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

2017 Winner: Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

2017 Shortlist: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Talking to My Country by Stan Grant

The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft by Tom Griffiths

Avalanche by Julia Leigh

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

2017 Winner: Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle

2017 Shortlist: Burnt Umber by Paul Hetherington

Breaking the Days by Jill Jones

Fragments by Antigone Kefala

Firebreaks: Poems by John Kinsella

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

2017 Winner: One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Shortlist: Elegy by Jane Abbott

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French 

the-ghost-by-the-billabong

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

2017 Winner: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

2017 Shortlist: Magrit by Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Desert Lake Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize For Playwriting

 

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

2017 Shortlist:  The Hanging by Angela Betzein

You, Me and the Space Between by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Ladies Day by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

2017 Winner: The Code – Series 2, Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

2017 Shortlist: Down Under by Abe Forsythe

Sucker by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessel

The Kettering Incident episode 1 by Victoria Madden

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Cleverman Episode 5 “Terra Nullius” by Michael Miller

Multicultural NSW Award

 2017 Winner: The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

2017 Shortlist: Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson

Not Quite Australian: How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation by Peter Mares

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Promising Azra Helen Thurloe – on my To Be Read pile.

The Fighter: A True Story by Arnold Zable

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Royall Tyler

2017 Shortlist: J.M.Q Davies

Penny Hueston

Jennifer Lindsay

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Jan Owen

2017 Shortlist: Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial Prize Next Awarded in 2018

Last awarded in 2016.

2016 Winners: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

2016 Shortlist: Ghost River by Tony Birch

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dirty Words by Natalie Harkin

Not Just Black and White by Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams

Other Awards:

NSW Prize for Literature

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

People’s Choice Award

 2017 Winner: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

 Special Award

 The Special Award was last awarded to Rosie Scott AM in 2016.

Across these twelve categories and the three additional ones, there is a diverse range of authors and stories, that tell of personal experiences, imagined worlds and that draw on history and the world the authors have lived that led them to write these books. Each prize I have looked at so far has shown a different degree of diversity, with this one having a broader range, if only because it has more categories than the others I have looked at. Last year’s winners and nominees are in good company with past winners Peter Carey, David Malouf AO, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally AO and Helen Garner.

Each prize has a different amount of money, and further details can be found in the provided links. In 2018, the total prize money, including sponsored awards is up to $305 000, and to be nominated for any of these awards, the writer and illustrator must be living Australian citizens or hold permanent resident status.

Taken from the website:

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are presented by the NSW Government and administered by the State Library in association with Create NSW. We are pleased to acknowledge the support of Multicultural NSW and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The 2018 winners will be announced on 30 April 2018.The short-list will be announced in March.

Purchase any of the above books here:

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Book Bingo 2018

At the start of this year, I had decided to undertake the annual Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge. As I will read some books that will work for both, this shouldn’t be a massive undertaking, apart from a few categories that won’t coincide with the #AWW2018.

AWW-2018-badge-rose


Whilst perusing some of my favourite blogs today, I came across a Book Bingo, that Theresa Smith Writes and Mrs B’s Book Reviews are taking part in. I decided to give this a go, deciding that I would be more casual, and try to fill as many squares as I could. Rather than actively seek out all the squares, I am aiming to see where books for the other challenges fit into them to make it easier for me. I do have some books that won’t fit the #AWW2018 but might fit this and the other challenge I can do.

As today is launch day, there is no review for today. I aim to have one up on the 20th though, possibly scheduled. Keep an eye out for it and a note about which square it has filled.

To try and keep involved with Theresa and Mrs B, I will aim to complete a bingo review on the first and third Saturday of the month, whichever square happens to be have been filled at that time, and that will be the review I post.

I will be aiming to complete this over the course of the year, however, if I miss a few squares I won’t worry, though filling them all would be a very cool achievement. As part of this year’s reading journey, being able to use books across a few challenges will help me complete as many reviews and as many categories as possible.

If I double up with Theresa and Mrs B, that will be entirely coincidental, but also rather fun and interesting to see how we manage to fill the squares, and as some categories are open, what we choose to read for these ones.

My focus is of course, the #AWW2018 challenge, but this is just a bit of added fun.

Here is the bingo below, and ping-backs to Theresa and Mrs B are in the second paragraph.

book bingo 2018.jpg

If you want to join me, as a blogger, ping back this and the other posts, and share your reviews!

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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 #1: 2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge

Children who know adults who read

As well as the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, I embarked on this year, in which I read about fifty-five books, I also did another reading challenge in another group. Since last year, we have gathered on Facebook, with a list of at least twenty categories, sometimes more, to fill with at least one book per category. Our rules are fairly relaxed – we can use the same book for multiple categories or read multiple books for one category. Below is this year’s challenge and the books I read, mostly review books, and I challenged myself to read a different book for each category, which I achieved. I managed to read three books for the award winner’s category – a category the group decided was open to any book award. The books I read covered multiple awards in Australia and America.

One book that I scraped into the category by a year was Gumnut Babies by May Gibbs – published in 1916, and many of the other books would have fit multiple categories. For a fantasy book and a book by a female author, I could have filled each of those five times at least, if not more. A banned book – I had many options to choose from. Some categories had to be stretched a little, or were fairly open so could be stretched, such as a book that takes place in a forest – The History of Wolves has parts that take place in a forest, so it seemed to fit that category. Others were more straightforward: a book based on a fairy tale – Frogkisser is based on multiple fairy tale tropes, and turns them on their heads. This felt like a good one for this category. Each year the challenge has been different and I haven’t been stumped by a category so badly I haven’t been able to fill it yet. It will always depend on the category and whether I can find a book, so let’s see what 2018’s challenge brings. As always I will aim to fill each category at least once, twice if I can.

Here’s to the next challenge!

Below is my list from the 2017 challenge with linked reviews so you can peruse them for your own reading challenges in 2018 and beyond.

2017 Reading Challenge

A collection of short stories: Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan

singing my sister down

A Young Adult novel: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

edge-of-everything

A Book with a colour in the title: The Green Mill Murders by Kerry Greenwood, Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham

A book that is more than 100 years old: Gum Nut Babies by May Gibbs

GB-CE

A Book you picked because of the cover: Frostblood by Elly Blake

frostblood

A book based on a fairy tale: Frogkisser! By Garth Nix

frogkisser

A book that takes place in a forest: The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

history-of-wolves

A National Book Award Winner: Three read for this category

Award: National Book Award 2016 and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017

Book: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 undergroud railroad

Award #2: The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2017

Book: The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić

 the lost pages

Awards #3 ABIA Book of the Year 2013, ABIA Literary Fiction of the Year 2013, Bookseller’s Choice Award, The Indie Book of the Year 2013

Book: The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman

light between oceans

A romance that takes place during travel: New York Nights by C.J. Duggan

new-york-nights

A book under 200 pages: Billy Sing: A Novel by Ouyang Yu

Billy-Sing-front-cover-for-publicity

A book over 400 pages:  A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French

 a-waltz-for-matilda

A banned book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

A non-fiction book about nature: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

elephant whisperer

A fantasy novel: Draekora by Lynette Noni

draekora

A book by a person of colour: Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

stay with me

A book by a female writer: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

A book of poetry: We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

we come apart

A book set in Asia: The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan

baby ganesh 3

A book about immigrants: Under the Same Sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, and Milad Jafari with James Knight

under the same sky

A book about an historical event: The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky (World War Two), The Last Hours by Minette Walters (The Black Death)

A book with a child narrator: The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

the-bombs-that-brought-us-together

A book translated from another language: Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

memoirs of a polar bear

A book that has been adapted into a film (Bonus: watch the film and compare): The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

 

light between oceans

One of two challenges completed for 2017. I also completed the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, which will be covered in a separate post, as will an overall wrap of my reading, and a post that will hopefully combine both challenges, sans the book lists.

Buy the books I read in this challenge here:

Booktopia

Facing the Flame by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #7)

Facing the Flame.jpgTitle: Facing the Flame (Matilda Saga #7)

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 20th November 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 292

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: There have been fires before, but not like this. Heartbreaking and powerful, FACING THE FLAME is a story of the triumph of courage and community, and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can erode it.

‘The perfect read for anyone who loves immersing themselves in Australian fiction. Gripping, emotional and moving, Facing the Flame is a great book to curl up with on a warm spring night.’ – New Idea

There have been fires before, but not like this.

In 1978, as the hot wind howls and the grass dries, all who live at Gibber’s Creek know their land can burn. But when you love your land, you fight for it.

For Jed Kelly, an even more menacing danger looms: a man from her past determined to destroy her. Finding herself alone, trapped and desperate to save her unborn child, Jed’s only choice is to flee – into the flames.

Heartbreaking and powerful, Facing the Flame celebrates the triumph of courage and community, and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can erode it.

~*~

Seven books in, and the Matilda Saga is getting better with each book. From the late nineteenth century to 1979. From the slums of Grinder’s Alley to Gibber’s Creek, Moura and Drinkwater, the journey of young Matilda O’Halloren to find her father after her mother’s death is what kicked off this series, and the ongoing relationships between the families of Drinkwater, Overflow and Rocky Valley, the Thompsons, the Clancys, the McAlpines and the Macks have all watched seasons come and go, watched generations grow up, and new life enter the world. Picking up two years after If Blood Should Stain the Wattle, Facing the Flame opens with a wedding, and an announcement that will change Jed’s life forever.  As her pregnancy progresses in its final days, Gibber’s Creek and the neighbouring areas become threatened by a devastating bushfire, and someone from Jed’s past determined to eke revenge and destroy her. With the life of her unborn baby at stake, and encouraging her sister Scarlett Kelly-O’Hara to head off into town to help those sheltering there after evacuation, Jed must flee into the flames, back towards her house as she tries to save two lives. As the fire eats away at the paddocks and earth, the community of Gibber’s Creek will not allow itself to be beaten. Regardless of age, gender and ability, these courageous women will fight to save their land.

aww2017-badgeFire and the land are as much characters as the humans, and in many chapters, we end with the perspective of the fire as it ravages the land. It effectively sets the scene and you can feel the threat of the flames as they progress to their final fate towards the end of the book, where there are a few secrets left unsolved, and where there is hope for the future of Jed and her family.

Moura, Drinkwater, Dribble, Rocky Valley and Overflow are the key homes that have helped to link the series together, and link the families of these places together. A few books ago, we were introduced to River View, a rehabilitation place for disabled and ill children whose parents needed help, or where children like Scarlett would live, receiving specific care for disabilities that impacted their lives, but that the children, and Scarlett in particular, did not use to define themselves. Scarlett has come a long way since we first encountered her in Ghost by the Billabong, becoming independent and able to care for herself and live in the city to attend university. Now, River View is home to a few kids seeking specific help. Lu Borgino is blind, and feels at a loss for what she has been told or made to feel her life will become. But with the help of the Gibber’s Creek clan, she realises she can still achieve her dreams. It is characters like these girls that the Matilda Saga has given a voice to – the forgotten, the ones left out of history books.

Throughout the seven books, Jackie French’s main characters have been primarily women, who in each of their respective time periods, have faced different challenges and obstacles because of gender, or race – Aboriginal – Nancy Thompson, Chinese – Mah McAlpine, or disabled – Scarlett, and Lu. Each woman has had to fight against prejudices of gender and race, and sometimes poverty, to have their voices heard. These interlocking and diverse families provide an insight into the history that we are not taught in school, the history of those that are not often heard from, but might be heard about more – a carefully hidden history that would make any historical account richer and more interesting than what might be on offer. Jackie French has uncovered some of Australia’s secrets through fiction, raw and bare, and created a strength of character and story that anyone can relate to, even if they explore stories that can hurt and harm, we need to remember them.

As an author with a disability herself – dyslexia – Jackie’s passion in these characters having their voices heard and the lengths she goes to for accuracy and research is admirable. These lengths make the story all the more engaging and full of life. Flinty and Lu, who acquired their disabilities, have fought through – Flinty recovering (The Girl from Snowy River), and Lu learning what she is capable of, and learning new ways of seeing, show the power of the human spirit, as have characters climbing out of poverty – Matilda, and escaping abusive homes – Blue, Mah and Jed, not letting racism define her – Clancy and Mah, and, the irrepressible Scarlett, who refuses to let her disability rule her life, and pushes on towards doing what she dreams of doing. Even though Old Matilda is gone, her spirit remains, and is there to give her family a good kick into gear when they need it from the beyond.

Each of the first six books were based on a poem written by some of Australia’s best-known poets:

A Waltz for Matilda – Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson

The Girl from Snowy River The Man from Snowy River by Banjo Paterson

The Road to Gundagai – by Banjo Paterson

To Love a Sunburnt Country – My Country by Dorothea MacKellar

The Ghost by the Billabong – Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson (links in with A Waltz for Matilda)

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle – Freedom on the Wallaby by Henry Lawson

The final book, Facing the Flame, includes a poem written by Jackie herself, titled A Land of Love and Flame, and can be found at the beginning of the book. In doing so, Jackie has tied each book to a tradition of Australian poetry, and taken the hidden stories of these poems and given them life. The latest book in the Matilda Saga ends on a note of mystery, that will hopefully be answered in the next one.

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Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn

into the worldTitle: Into the World

Author: Stephanie Parkyn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st December 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Abandoned by her lover and fleeing the wrath of her family, Marie-Louise must make a desperate choice. Find a man or become one.

  1. In the midst of the French Revolution, unwed mother Marie-Louise Girardin takes one last look at her baby son before entrusting him to her friend, the revolutionary Olympe de Gouges. She must escape, and only the most daring plan will bring her both the anonymity she needs and the independence to return one day for her son.Marie-Louise disguises herself as a man and joins a voyage of exploration employed as a steward on the Recherche, one of two ships commissioned to journey to the Great Southern Ocean to find the missing explorer La Perouse.

    Protecting her identity throughout, Marie-Louise forms friendships among the eccentric naturalists. But tensions rise between the royalist officers and the revolutionaries, and Marie-Louise’s position becomes precarious when she discovers someone on board knows the secrets of her past. When the expedition docks in Java, chaos erupts as they learn of King Louis XVI’s execution and are imprisoned by the Dutch. Marie-Louise seems certain to be unmasked. Will she ever return to France and be reunited with her child?

    Inspired by a true story, Into the World is a compelling novel of the amazing life of Marie-Louise Girardin battling perilous seas, her own self-doubt, and finding unforeseen loves on a journey to reclaim her child.

~*~

Marie-Louse Giradin lives in a time of turmoil, where revolutionaries – the Jacobins – and royalists, the supporters of Louis XIV and his Austrian queen, Marie-Antoinette, are at loggerheads as the Jacobins petition for the removal of the King, and a new, more egalitarian government. In 1791, Marie-Louise finds herself alone, and a single mother, she fled during the early days of the revolution, and found herself aboard a ship, disguised as a young man named Louis. The Recherche and the rest of their fleet are charged with finding out what happened to explorer La Pérouse. As they follow his path in the Great Southern Ocean, exploring the Cape of Good Hope, various Pacific Islands, New Holland and Van Diemen’s land, Marie-Louise must find a way to hide her true identity. Only a few senior officers know, the captain, Kermadoc and a few others, and she is at the mercy of their protection during the perilous journey that has separated her from her son. Far from home, and unaware of the dangers of the revolution, Marie-Louise is fighting her own battle – abandoning her son, and where she fits in the world. As a man, she is still mocked in some ways, and finds herself caught between the royalists and the revolutionaries aboard the ship as they navigate the Southern Hemisphere and what was at the time, in the 1790s, the unknown and exotic. Told through Marie-Louise’s eyes in third person, the reader can experience her horror at the way islander tribes and Aboriginal people are treated, and the awe that she has when coming into contact with these people who appear to be wary, but at times happy and helpful – for a woman in the 1790s to have these experiences would have been extraordinary and her reactions reflect how she coped with the unknown, whilst reflecting the attitudes of the time, and coupling them with the horrified reactions and emotional outpour from Marie-Louise.

As they journey home after their experiences in Van Diemen’s Land and New Holland, unsuccessful at finding La Pérouse, they are taken hostage in the Dutch East Indies, where they hear what has happened back home during the revolution and the end to the monarchical system. But to Marie-Louise, the fear of being unmasked and unable to return home to her son looms overhead.

aww2017-badgeIt is always refreshing to read a novel where the central female character isn’t driven by romantic love, but rather, the love for son and country, and where she heads off into the unknown because of this love. It is as much about the journey and subsequent history as it is about Marie-Louise herself, and what she went through and endured to return to France in 1793-4. A quick Google search spat back some resources from various state libraries, the national library and the Australian Dictionary of Biography, in total, 245,000 results, with the most relevant appearing to be at the top. Stephanie Parkyn’s book takes a look at Marie’s journey and what she went through, in an eloquent and interesting way, perhaps hinting at romance between another crew member and Marie-Louise, but not explicitly stating it. In doing so, Parkyn has recreated a historical figure, who, had she submitted to society’s expectations as her father demanded, might never have set foot in Australia and we might never have known her story. Stephanie’s story has provided readers with a strong, determined character who flouts convention and manages on her own, a refreshing characteristic in historical fiction, and a trend I have been observing. Allowing the characters like Marie-Louise to be strong in many ways but at the same time of their time is a feat that when done well, results in an engaging and intriguing story that sparks interest in these characters beyond the pages of the book they appear in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which has sparked an interest in the French Revolution and finding more about Marie-Louise Giradin and her fate at the end of the expedition. Each character is a real person, giving the story a colour that ensures the history as it is retold feels as real as it would when reading about it in a history book, with a little more colour to it that is engaging and enjoyable. I found this book hard to put down, and it is one that will show what women were capable of and achieved in a time when the people around them expected less of these women.

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