Monday, April 30, 2012

The House at Tyneford Readalong - Week 4

The fourth and final part of the House of Tyneford readalong is here! And, whew, what a ride it was to the end.

Beware of spoilers below. I will try to avoid them, but some are inevitable as we are in effect discussing the last section of the book and the book as a whole.

In some ways there were not that many surprises in the wash up in terms of relationships, but there were in other ways. We knew what was going to happen with Tyneford as we saw that in the opening pages of the book. It was just a question of when really. I called very early on that Elise wouldn't find her parents again, and in a lot of ways I was relieved that Kit doesn't make a miracle return. I have seen that happen far too often - you know the one I mean....if you haven't seen the body they likely are not really dead.

Similarly, I was not surprised when Elise ended up in a relationship with the man she did. I did find the whole switch of identity to be quite interesting as a tool. It was not that unusual for immigrants to change their names during or after the was, so the transition from Elise Landau to Alice Land was easy to imagine. I found Daniel's transition to be much more interesting because not only did it symbolise the new found intimacy between the two of them, but it also represented the new start that was forced upon them all, not only as a result of Kit's death but also as a result of the fate of Tyneford as a whole.

There were so many scenes that I enjoyed in this section of the book. I loved the jitterbugging scenes before the party for the WAAF ladies who were billeted in the house, I was scared stiff in the Run, Rabbit, Run chapter and the open, raw grief that was shown after that episode:

I didn't really rest anymore. Not since Kit died. I saw him in my dreams; he as exactly the same as before, but even in my sleep I knew he was dead. In the morning when I woke, my grief choked me, thick as smoke. When I was a child, I imagined that if my parents died, or Margot, that I would  die of grief; I'd cleave in two like an elm tree in a lightning strike. But I didn't die. I as hollowed out, scraped clean inside. I imagined myself to be like an empty Russian doll, filled with nothing. Sometimes when I paced beside the sea, the shingles washed as the waves and withdrew, I wondered whether I ought to slip into the tide. I could fill my pockets with pebbles and wade out beyond the black rocks, beyond the peak of Worbarrow Tout, until the saltwater trickled down my throat. It seemed a quiet, easeful death. Perhaps Kit waited for me beneath the waves, as he did in my dreams. It was an idle thought, brought on by misery and the sad call of the sea. That afternoon, when the Messerschmitts had chased me, I only wanted to live. I had thought for a second that I ought to embrace death and join Kit. As I ran, sweating and feral with terror, I discovered I was greedy for life.
Carrie has asked us to look at the reading guide questions, so here goes.

What is your opinion of where Mr. Rivers and Elise’s relationship ends up?

I was okay with where the relationship ended up. There relationship was forged through tough times in so many ways and I suspect that strengthened the bond between them. I did find the way that Elise was able to separate the emotions that she felt for each man and how those feelings were linked to her two identities as discussed above very interesting.

Tyneham - images from Wikipedia
As you see it, what events led to Tyneford’s fate? 

The war is the only thing that really directly led to Tyneford's fate. I did, however, find myself wondering if the somewhat shadowy work that Poppy was involved in didn't come into play.

Reading this book sent me looking for more information about the real village that Tyneford was based on. Tyneham is located exactly where Tyneford was in the book, and it is fascinating to see the pictures that are available. It must have been heartbreaking for the people of Tyneham to realise that they were never going to get to go home again despite the original promises of the government. The other interesting thing is that Tyneham was not the only village to be taken over in this way.

What significance did Tyneford have to Elise, Kit, and Mr. Rivers? 

The strength of the bond to Tyneford was different for Elise, Kit and Mr Rivers. For Mr Rivers, it represented stability, past and future. It represented home and hearth but also responsibility for all the people who lived there and in the village.

For Kit, some of the same things applied, but I think that Kit was still being shaped by the experiences he had there. I suspect that for Kit, Tyneford was the place where he could really be himself.

Elise is different again. For her, Tyneford represents safety, but it also represents isolation and loss. That however evolves into new beginnings and to a life fully lived.

Can a place like Tyneford exist in today’s world? 

It's hard to imagine a place like Tyneford existing today. When you consider that even in the deserts of Africa there are mobile phones everywhere, that sense of total isolation would be incredibly rare. I am sure that there may times during the extremes of winter where there might be places that are isolated for a period of time but not permanently. I could be wrong though.

In some ways, Tyneford felt like a place out of time in the 1940s, let alone today!

Why do you think the novel in the viola was blank?

As soon as I read that the pages in the novel were blank, the thing that came to mind was that Julian pretty much knew that he was saying goodbye to both of his daughters. By giving Elise blank pages, he was giving her and Margot permission to write their own stories, which is what they did. It was a bit of  a disappointment that the story that the two daughters wrote included such a long estrangement though.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. I think I would like to reread both this one and Mr Rosenblum's List to be sure, but on balance I think I liked Mr Rosenblum a bit better as it had a different type of charm. Regardless, I will definitely be lining up to get hold of Natasha Solomons' next book!

By the way, don't forget to head over to the author's website (to the bottom of the home page) and listen to the music that was especially composed for the launch of this book! Very evocative.

Rating 4/5

This book counts for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

In the spring of 1938 Elise Landau arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay. A bright young thing from Vienna forced to become a parlour-maid, she knows nothing about England, except that she won't like it. As servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn, Elise wears her mother's pearls beneath her uniform, and causes outrage by dancing with a boy called Kit. But war is coming and the world is changing. And Elise must change with it. 

At Tyneford she learns that you can be more than one person - and that you can love more than once
Thanks to Carrie for hosting the readalong

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Salon: On popularity and the pack mentality

This is not actually the post that I thought I would be writing today. I had something else planned entirely. It is also not a post that I feel completely comfortable with for a number of reasons. Normally, I stay well away from online Drama (yes, with a capital D) because a lot of the time it is a bit of a storm in a teacup but also because I am pretty much completely non-confrontational. If you want me to fight, you generally will have to get right under my skin, because I am much more likely to internalise my emotions and stew than I am to have a screaming match with someone.

This week was a week that I was not proud to be a book blogger. In fact, there were times that I was absolutely horrified. The thing was though, I wasn't as horrified by the initial events as I was by what happened afterwards.

I don't actually want to talk too much on the plagiarism issue because it is pretty cut and dried for me. If you plagiarise, you may well get caught (link provides overview of everything that went down this week), and when you do the wisest course of action would be to acknowledge that fact and not give half-assed double-speak apologies. I think it is telling that I saw several commenters on Twitter who had read the apologies and yet had no clue what the apologies were for.

The thing that had me feeling sick though was the pack mentality that started not long afterwards. In a way, I would have understood if there was a backlash against the plagiarist, and there was a little bit of that (including a Twitter hashtag that I was uncomfortable with but I appreciate that other people are much more comfortable with being confrontational than I am), but it was really the way that The Story Siren's followers turned against the bloggers who were plagiarised as well as anyone who dared to suggest that she had done anything wrong that I struggled to understand.

Some of the suggestions that were made were astonishing in a bad way. The idea that the two fashion bloggers, Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour (and it appears a couple of others as well) should have been grateful that she had copied from them, that they were jealous of her success, that the posts concerned were blogging tips posts and therefore can't have been that original in the first place, or that they had some kind of agenda to ruin her reputation just had me shaking my head in disbelief. Another comment I saw on Twitter was along the lines of "but she still writes good reviews" - completely irrelevant in my opinion.

At one point, I was chatting with Holly from The Book Binge on Twitter and saying that I couldn't remember anything like this behaviour in all my years of blogging. Sure, there has been plagiarism before and those people were called out publicly, but this vilification of the victims is a first for me.

I never have figured out what it takes to be Miss Popular in the blogging stakes. I sit here in my little corner of the world, usually content to carry on my merry way although if I was being honest with myself there are times when I wonder what it is that stops me from being more popular. Would I be better off being more focused on just one genre rather than posting on everything that I read? Am I too boring? Too safe? Too...whatever.

But here's the thing. I hate to think that if I did something that was blatantly wrong, and deserved public censure, that my followers would turn on the people who did nothing wrong. What we saw this week was nothing short of pack mentality. The leader of the pack was threatened and all the rest of the pack fell into place to protect her.

At the end of the day, the only person who can decide how to react to the whole plagiarism issue and what it means for the future of her blog is The Story Siren herself, and then I guess that each individual who reads her blog has to decide if plagiarism is a big enough issue to stop them from following her. It is not up to me or any other blogger to decide that for others. I didn't follow her and certainly won't start to any time soon. I do think that a blog break for a short time might have been appropriate especially seeing as only a couple of days later whilst conversation and debate continues unabated the only posts on The Story Siren that dealt with this issue have scrolled off into the archives never to be seen again.

Here's hoping that next week it will be a better week for book bloggers. I suspect it will take a while for the damage that has been caused in the community to be repaired.

For other commentary on this behaviour, you can visit the following links:

The Story Siren is a Plagiarist, Not a Victim at The Book Binge
Plagiarism Bingo: O - Hatemail at Smart Bitches
So Your Favourite Blogger's a Plagiarist at Gossamer Obsessions

and I am sure that there is plenty more that you could find without too much effort.


In a change of pace now, here are my reads....

Currently Reading

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani, The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons, Legacy by Susan Kay and Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Up Next

The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Cooking: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This book opens with Lillian's story. Now, she runs a busy restaurant but she still finds time to run a cooking class in the restaurant kitchen each Monday. As for all chefs, it has taken Lillian many years of dedication and hard work. When she takes time to look back, she can see just how far she has comes. Her journey has taken her from a neglected little girl who found love and affection, and more importantly, learnt to cook in the heart of someone else's family.

As the first class is set to run, we meet each of the new students; a young mum who is struggling to find her identity: a young girl who is looking for her place in the world; a man who is gradually emerging from his cocoon of grief: an older couple who are happy now but who haven't always been as together as they seem, an Italian immigrant who is looking for a sense of home; a computer geek who doesn't feel as though he fits in with his family and more.

Each week, the group comes together to learn new techniques but also to learn to be honest with themselves and to communicate with each other.

If you are looking for an overall plot to the book, there really isn't one. Each individuals story moves forward as we learn about what bought them to the cooking class, what they are struggling with and how the food that they are cooking and eating brings them to a new understanding and in some cases new beginnings. Effectively, these are a series of vignettes of the characters that are connected to the restaurant. Sometimes though, you don't necessarily need a lot of plot. Sometimes good characterisation is enough, and I would say that it is generally the case here. Each character is given the time and space to develop right before your eyes.

This is an easy read. The writing skips across the pages and before you know it you are at the end. It is a perfect Saturday afternoon book - a couple of hours easy and pleasant reading.

In terms of the stories, I think that the most profound as that of Tom. He was dealing with the grief of losing an important person in his life, and the portrayal of their illness and subsequent passing as treated with compassion, dignity and respect. Whilst his is not the only story that moved me, it is the one that has stayed with me the longest.

One of the best things about books like this are the food descriptions, and this book does not disappoint. There were a number of times that I was left drooling at the feast for all the senses that were described. One of my favourite chapters was where the group cooked a ... I guess the word is deconstructed... Thanksgiving dinner. Now, we don't do Thanksgiving but I have seen enough descriptions and posts about the food that is normally on the table, and so I recognised how even though the meal looked completely different, all the traditional elements were there.

Erica Bauermeister has a number of recipes on her website and also includes some details such as where her inspiration came from.

Not only did I want to eat the food that was mentioned in the book, but I also was left wishing that I could go to Lillian's cooking classes, or at the very least some cooking classes here. I suspect that the experience would be very different from that portrayed in the book but it would still be fun. Maybe one day.

I should also mention that this book has also been published under the title Monday Night Cooking School in some places

Rating: 4/5


Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant kitchen for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect.

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love, and a garlic and red sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian’s cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected and always delicious.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Kate Forsyth guest post

I am very excited to welcome Aussie author Kate Forsyth to my blog today! I am currently reading Bitter Greens and really, really loving it! As soon as I was contacted about her book, I knew that the mix of historical fiction and fairytale retellings was something I wanted to read!

Kate Forsyth’s Twelve Most Spell-Binding Fairytale Retellings ever (and One Dark and Strange and Powerful)

I have always loved fairytale retellings, and will buy one as soon as I see one, particularly if it has a gorgeous cover. Today, for your reading pleasure, I have chosen twelve beautiful, romantic and spellbinding books for you, plus one which – like the thirteenth fairy who fails to be invited to the christening party – is dark and strange and full of power.

 The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon

I read this retelling of the Cinderella fairytale while walking home from primary school one day and was so entranced I walked straight past the turnoff to my street. I might have kept walking for hours if a neighbour hadn’t driven past and honked me back to reality.

I love this book so much that I named my daughter Eleanor after the writer, with her pet name being Ella after the heroine. The Glass Slipper is full of wit and charm and whimsy and word play, the prose dancing like poetry. After I left my primary school, my one regret was that I hadn’t smuggled the book out of the library in my school bag and kept it.

Years later, I found it in a second-hand shop and fell upon it with squeals of excitement. This is very much a classic children’s book, published in 1955 – the Prince does no more than kiss Ella’s hand – but it is so full of joy and innocence, it will always be one of the most magical books of my life.

For 8+

The Stone Cage by Nicholas Stuart Gray

A beautiful retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, told from the point of view of the witch’s cat, this is an absolute classic fairytale retelling. Reading this as a child is what first made me think of writing my own Rapunzel tale – I wanted to make my heroine a little feistier than Nicholas Stuart Gray’s sweet and loving Rapunzel.

What I love most about this book is the personalities of the witch’s cat and the witch’s raven – one is arrogant, selfish and smart-mouthed, the other serious-minded and scholarly.

For 8+

Cold Iron by Sophie Masson

Published as Malkin in the US, this is a retelling of the English fairytale ‘Tattercoats’, interwoven with elements of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’. ‘Tattercoats’ is a Cinderella type story, about a persecuted heroine, but in this book it is not the sweet and maltreated Tattercoats who is the heroine, but the brave and feisty serving-girl Malkin, and her friend, the goose-boy Pug. Cold Iron is a small book, but packed to the brim with personality. Sophie Masson writes with a light, deft touch, lavishing attention on her minor characters and on the scenery, so that the book gleams like a little jewel.

For 8+

Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill

This is a wonderful fresh take on the Pied Piper legend, which explores why the Piper may have lured away all the children of the town of Hameln and what may have happened to them afterwards. The primary protagonists are Mari and her little brother Jakob, and the land they have been taken to is a place of wild magic, fearsome beasts, and an ancient curse than must be broken if they are ever to escape. The writing is beautiful, and the story itself gripping and suspenseful. I’m surprised this wonderful book is not better known.

For 8+

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

I thought, from the title, that this must be a Cinderella- retelling, but it is in fact ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ which Jessica Day George has re-told in this sweet and atmospheric novel. Even though Jessica Day George has done a classic retelling here, in a fantasy otherworld very much like Europe, and with the plot line adhering closely to the original tale, she has done it with a light touch, a sense of humour, and just enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages. A captivating fairytale retelling.

For 8+

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Since being made into a movie with the beautiful young Anne Hathaway, Ella Enchanted is possibly the best known retelling of Cinderella. As always, though, the book is much better than the movie, being filled with humour and surprise and intelligence.

At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by a well-meaning but air-brained fairy called Lucinda. The gift is more of a curse for poor Ella, and so she sets out to find Lucinda and undo the spell. She has all sorts of adventures along the way, some of which include a prince, a pumpkin coach and a glass slipper, but Gail Carson Levine takes great delight in twisting the known elements of this most popular of tales to give it new life.


The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl was Shannon Hale’s first book, and launched her career. It is a retelling of the Grimm Brothers story ‘The Goose Girl’, which is one of the lesser known tales but still filled with a few gruesome touches, like a dead horse’s head that talks.

Ani, a crown princess, can talk with birds and animals, but her talents are not appreciated in the royal family. When Ani is sent off to marry the prince of a neighbouring kingdom, her treacherous maid-in-waiting schemes to take her place. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl while she tries to find a way to reclaim her rightful palace. With some surprising twists and a satisfying ending, this is a lovely romantic retelling, suitable for children or adults.

For 12+

North Child by Edith Pattou

Known as East in the US, this beguiling book is a retelling of a traditional Norwegian fairytale ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’, which is an Animal Bridegroom type story.

Rose was born into the world facing north, and as a north child, superstition says that she will be a wanderer, travelling far from home. This prophecy is fulfilled when she rides away on the back of a white bear to a mysterious castle, where a silent stranger appears to her night after night. When her curiosity overcomes her, she loses her one true love, and must journey to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to save him.

For 12+

A Curse As Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I love fairytale retellings that are set in the real world, at a real time in history – somehow they make the fairytale seem so much more possible. A Curse As Dark as Gold was one of my favourite reads last year – a beautiful, romantic retelling of the well-known Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, set in a British wool town during the Industrial Revolution. This story is really brought to life by the atmosphere of the mill, the heroine’s family home which is being threatened with closure. It also has a really charismatic and surprising villain, which helped add suspense and surprise to this well-known tale.

For 12+

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis

I had adored C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series as a child and so one day, while staying with my great-aunts, I found this book on a bookshelf and sat down on the floor to look at it. The first line reads: ‘I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.’

Entranced, I read on to the end, devouring the book in a single sitting. Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, which is not properly a fairytale, except in its obvious similarity to Animal Bridegroom tales such as ‘Beauty & the Beast’ and ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’. It is, however, still one of my all-time favourite retellings.

For 16+

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

This is a heart-rending retelling of ‘All-Kinds’-of-Fur’, the Grimm tale about a king who falls in love with her daughter and seeks to marry her. Known under different names in different cultures, it’s probably best known as Tattercoats, Catskin, or Donkeyskin. In some versions of the tale, the princess manages to outwit and escape her lustful father, before hiding herself in the skin of a wild beast and working in the kitchen of the king of a neighbouring country. In time, the second king comes to recognise the princess hidden beneath the filthy furs, and marries her.

In Robin McKinley’s novel, the daughter does not escape until she has been raped by her father, making this one of the most powerful, and ultimately redemptive, novels ever written about incest.

Robin McKinley has written many other beloved fairytale retellings, including Beauty and Rose Daughter (both retellings of ‘Beauty & the Beast’) and Spindle’s End (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty), but I think Deerskin is her most powerful and compelling.

For 16+

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

A retelling of the Six Swans fairytale, this was Australian author Juliet Marillier’s first published book. Although she has written a number of gorgeous, spell-binding fairytale retellings since – including Heart’s Blood (‘Beauty & the Beast’) and Wildwood Dancing (Twelve Dancing Princesses),

Daughter of the Forest is still my favourite. It is set long, long ago, in Ireland, and begins when Sorcha, the seventh child of the family and the only girl, is only a child. The whole atmosphere of the book is filled with romance, enchantment, beauty and danger, making it one of the best retellings ever written (in my humble opinion).

For 16+

And the thirteenth fairy tale is:

White As Snow by Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee has been called "the Angela Carter of the fantasy field" for her dark and sensuous prose. This is one of the strangest and yet most compelling fairytale retellings I’ve ever read. It is so filled with violence and despair, it is almost unreadable in parts. Yet somehow it haunts the imagination afterwards, giving new depths to the well-known story of Snow-White, and taking it very far away from Disney territory.

Arpazia is the queen cold as snow who gives birth to a daughter with hair black as night and lips as red as blood ... but she hates her daughter, who was conceived when she was raped by her father’s murderer, the night his castle was taken and sacked. The daughter Coira grows up alone and unloved, longing for her mother’s attention. But Arpazia is drawn to the dark and bloody old ways, and has no time for her daughter – indeed, she hires someone to kill her. He is the manager of a travelling sideshow which features seven midgets who dress up as the Seven Deadly Sins ... and so the story goes on, with each scene blacker and more grotesque than the scene that came before. This is not a fairytale for the light-hearted, let alone for children – but it does show the amazing ability of fairy tales to contain many different levels of meaning.


Kate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of 25 books for children and adults, translated into 10 languages.

Her latest book for adults, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of one of its first tellers, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. Australian Bookseller & Publisher described Bitter Greens as “magnificent” and said that Kate “has an extraordinary imagination”.

You can read more about her at .

This post may be of interest to anyone participating in the following challenges:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Library Loot: April 25 to May 1

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
Once upon a time I used to tell myself that I needed to step away from the online library catalogue. Now, I think I should probably expand that to say I need to step away from the Interlibrary loan catalogue too. After picking up three ILL's last week I had another one this week as well.

Here's my loot:

Eric by Terry Pratchett - My ILL for this week. My library is actually a bit hit and miss in terms of which books they have in this series and which ones they don't.

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore - I am not normally a reading of horror, but I heard Helen Dunmore speak about this book on a couple of podcasts a while ago and the premise sounded really good. I also have read and enjoyed Dunmore before so I as prepared to give it ago.

Hot Under Pressure by Louisa Edwards - the next book in the Rising Star Chef series.

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne by Madeline Hunter - the start of a new series from this author!

Mr Linky is over at Claire's blog today. Head over to share your link.

Anzac Day 2012

Today is ANZAC Day, a day of national importance for both Australian and New Zealand. ANZAC is an acronym for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.

Whilst the day is an emotional one, starting at dawn with the sound of the bugler playing The Last Post and going through the veterans parades, the images of people making the trek to observe ANZAC day in places like Gallipolli and France, today I thought we would take a lighter approach. I have therefore teamed up with one of my favourite Kiwis....Maree from Just Add Books.

It would be remiss of me not to offer Maree sustenance before we get started!

Fush and Chups anyone?

Excuse me, don’t you mean feeesh and cheeeps?

Ah, the accent jokes never get old!

Let’s talk sports.

I remember being on a tram in Melbourne and hearing a VERY heated discussion about the nationality of Pharlap? Yes, we fight over the nationality of a horse!

Yes, the horse who was born in Timaru. In New Zealand. Pharlap is ours by birth. ;D

The same horse who made his name in Australia, whose body is in the Melbourne Museum and whose heart in the National Museum of Australia?

One episode that we couldn’t go past, is one that still lives large in the memories of sports fans on both sides of the Tasman - the infamous underarm bowling incident which took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1981.

With one ball remaining, New Zealand needed a six to tie the game, and in a very unsportsmanlike fashion, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed the bowler, his brother Trevor, to bowl the last ball underarm so that the Kiwis couldn’t score.

The underarm incident. I grew up watching that footage on news shows and my dad shaking his head over it. It’s still trotted out even now, even though one would hope that it had worn out its welcome ...

Then there are the celebrities we love to claim as Aussies - Yes, Russell Crowe, we are talking about you (something I never thought would actually happen on my blog!) but there are plenty of others too. In an acceptance speech, he said “God bless America, God Save the Queen, God defend New Zealand and thank Christ for Australia”

I am not a fan, so to be fair I would be happy for him to go back to New Zealand.

To be honest, you can have Russell Crowe. No, really. We don’t mind at all.

Ha! Who knew we would fight over who didn’t get to keep Russell Crowe!

What about Aussie legends Crowded House?

Okay, those are FIGHTING words. What’s next, Split Enz? Pavlova?

Well actually, I was thinking more about Lamingtons, but I suspect the arguments would be similar. We might have to agree to share Crowded House seeing as the make up of the band has fluctuated over the years and has feature some Kiwis, some Aussies and apparently even a couple of Americans (who knew!)

For all that we do tease each other, we do know that when the chups (cheeps) are down, then we will be the first to jump to each others aid, as evidenced over the last few years with the Pike River mining disaster and the Christchurch earthquakes.

We fight like siblings, but like siblings we’re there for each other when it matters. Pike River and the earthquakes; whenever bad bushfires strike in Australia, volunteers from here don’t even hesitate before heading over the ditch to help out.

Our friendship was forged on the beach at Gallipolli, in the trenches of the Somme and in the years and conflicts since. We may bicker like siblings occasionally, but at the heart of it, we know that when the chips are down, Australia and New Zealand will stand strong together. We honour the men and women* who have served for both of our countries on this day that unites us.

We bicker and fight, yes, but if you try to take on one of us, you’re taking on both of us. Our history together is long and - let’s be honest more than a bit rocky - but when it really matters, we’re in it together.

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

*Thanks for Sean for reminding me of the terrible omission I had made. We also honour the women who have served our country over the years, and who continue to do so.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bookish Quotes: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

A couple of months ago I read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff for book club. Like millions of other readers before me, I thought it was a lovely gem of a book. I loved the letters, the humour, the conversation about books and so much more!

I knew, therefore, that I wanted to read the follow up book, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Unfortunately my library didn't have the book so I had to request the Helene Hanff Omnibus from another library via interlibrary loan. I was planning to read at least one of the other short books contained in the omnibus but I think I am going to run out of time because I actually picked up three interlibrary loans on the same day and they are all due back on the same day as well.

Now that I am a fair way through The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, I do feel that I can compare the two books. Whilst Duchess is a fun read, I don't think it is as well balanced as 84 Charing Cross Road. Rather than being an epistolary book comprised of the letters between Helene Hanff and the staff at the bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road, this book is more of a diary format, telling of Helene's experiences when she finally makes it to London after so many years of wanting to visit. To be honest, I miss the letters that provide a counterbalance to the voice of Helene. She is still funny, but there are times when it comes on too strong. I am withholding final judgment until I do finish it, but I think it is fair to say that I liked Duchess but it won't get as strong a grade as the one that I gave to 84 Charing Cross Road.

Having said that, I do find Hanff's pure joy of finally living her dream by visiting London and meeting some of the people that she had corresponded with for years totally infectious and is making me wish I could go to London again. One day I will get back.

One thing that I did find interesting that I thought I would share today is the story of Helene's reading journey.

Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I as seventeen looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.

"Just what I need!" I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading and got to page 3 and hit a snag:

Q was lecturing to young men educated at Eton and Harrow. He therefore assumed that his students - including me - had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the 'Invocation to Light' in Book 9. So I said, "Wait here," and went down to the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3, when I hit a snag:

Milton assumed I'd read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the air in Heaven, and since I'd been reared in Judaism I hadn't. So I said, 'Wait here,' and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q on page 3. On page 4 or 5, I discovered that the point of the sentence at the top of the page was in Latin and the long quotation at the bottom of the page was in Greek. So I advertised in the Saturday Review for somebody to teach me Latin and Greek, and went back to Q meanwhile, and discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell's Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras, which is not in the Old Testament and not in the New Testament, it's in the Apocrypha, which is a set of books nobody had ever thought to tell me existed.

So what with one thing and another and an average of three 'Wait here's' a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q's five books of lectures.

I am not saying that I would like to take 11 years to read a single book, but I can trace my reading tastes and habits to a degree. For example, I read Diana Gabaldon because her book was given to me as a gift. From there I discovered Sharon Kay Penman and Paullina Simons. From Sharon I started reading Elizabeth Chadwick and from Paullina Simons I read Belinda Alexandra! I could go on and on, but it gives you an idea of what I am referring to.

Can you track your reading from one book or one author to the next?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The House at Tyneford Readalong - Week 3

This week we have been reading the third part of The House at Tyneford (aka The Novel in the Viola) by Natasha Solomons. Please note that there may be spoilers below as we are now well into the book!

Carrie from Books and Movies, who is hosting the readalong, has posted about the unfamiliar language used in the book - words like toddy, plimsolls and syllabub and also asked us for our predictions about what is going to happen in the final parts of the book.

The point that Carrie raised about the language was very interesting to me and not because I didn't know those words because I did (all those years of reading historical romance paid off when it came to toddy and syllabub at least). I found it interesting in the context about conversations that come up on a regular basis about books that are written in British English, or Australian English for that matter, but then when the book is released in the US the books are re-edited so that they are more American English. I am glad that these kinds of words were not taken out though, because one of the fundamental themes of Natasha Solomons' books seems to be the exploration of Britishness, or the British way of life.

One of my favourite quotes in this section talks about precisely this - the preservation of a certain lifestyle in the face of many challenges that were bought on by the start of World War II. This quote comes from page 219 of The Novel in the Viola:

Despite the lack of staff, and the inordinate distance between kitchen and dining room, standards had to be maintained. The digging up of the potato patch and the disappearance of the under servants had disturbed Mrs Ellsworth, and she sought reassurance in the details of luncheon in the wainscoted dining room at one o'clock. Mr Wrexham, walking past the kitchen door with his laden tray and perfectly starched shirt, proved to her that England was mighty and indestructible. Wars might be declared, kitchen boys vanish to join the navy, blackout curtains smother the French windows, and previously reliable footman leave without notice, but lunch would be served at five minutes past one and the butler would wear white cotton gloves.

As to what is going to happen in the final section of the book. I am not sure that I am liking the direction that the book is taking. There seems to be a growing sense of intimacy between Elise and Mr Rivers. At this stage there is no question that Elise, or Alice as she is now to be known loves Kit, but I am a bit concerned that Kit may really have left the scene and that the relationship between those who are left behind may develop into something more.

I wanted to comment on the physical relationship between Kit and Elise, as slight as it is. I really enjoyed the way that the author imbued the scenes between them with an increasing sensuality both in letter form and together. In reality, they didn't do very much and so this is a very tame book, but it was very much a building tension between the two young characters and it felt very organic. I suspect that the chance for the two of them is gone, but the way that this issue was addressed seemed to reflect young love, but also the limitations that the morality of the day could well have placed on a couple like them.

From the very beginning of the book I have been convinced that Elise is not going to see her parents again, but I did think for a few pages there that I could be wrong. I thought it was great that the author was able to put that small niggle of doubt into my mind, and I am sure that there may well be a few more twists and turns before I close the book for the last time!

Friday, April 20, 2012

For your listening pleasure....

I have been listening to a selection of podcasts for a while now and still thoroughly enjoy doing so.

I thought today I would spotlight a couple of new-to-me historically based podcasts that are currently on and that are really fascinating.

The first is Shakespeare's Restless World which is available from BBC Radio 4 and has been produced in conjunction with the British Museum. Last year I listened to the History of the World in a Hundred Objects and loved it, so when I heard that there was going to be a new, similar podcast I knew I had to listen. The premise of this podcast is to again take objects, but this time the objects are specifically related to the life, times and/or work of Shakespeare.

There are going to be twenty items looked at during the whole series. So far I have listened to four episodes and the items that have been discussed are :

  • A medal commemorating Sir Francis Drake's voyages and what that represented in terms of the expansion of the British empire;  
  • A fork found in the archaeological dig at The Globe that led to a conversation about the food that would have been consumed during the performances held there 
  • A communion cup that was used to discuss the religious issues during Shakespeare's times  
  • An painting of the Tudors which prompts a discussion about one of the big Elizabethan issues - the succession to the throne, and how this was discussed in the plays of the time.

Fascinating, enlightening listening!

The second series I wanted to mention comes from another British museum, this time the Imperial War Museum. Leading up to the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the museum is releasing a number of podcasts where they have taken voice recordings, previously held in their archives, of people who were actually there and have put together themed podcasts. So far there have been 13 episodes and some of the themes have included The Christmas Truce of 1914, the first Gas Attacks at Ypres, Zeppelins and so much more.

There is also a lot of other information available on the website at, including images and news and so much more!

Again, both fascinating and enlightening listening!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Library Loot: April 18 to 24

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

This week I have picked up another interlibrary loan which means I currently have quite a few out - perhaps too many. It prompted me to ask do you use the interlibrary loan? We are lucky because it is a free service for us, like nearly everything at our library. The only downside to an ILL is that you can't actually renew it!

Here's my Library Loot for this week:

Fables Volume 1 by Bill Willingham - I have been hearing great things about the Fables series of graphic novels for the longest time but my library has never had any of them. I have finally just requested it through ILL so I can see whether they live up to the high expectations I now have!

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody - Shannon from Giraffe Days is hosting a readalong of this series. It will also count for the Aussie Author Challenge and Once Upon a Time so I am definitely planning to read it. Not sure if I will keep up with the schedule to read the whole series before the end of the year or not but we will see!

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak - I had this from Netgalley but didn't get to it in time.

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden - A couple of weeks ago I posted about a Spanish cookbook from an Australian chef. In the comments, someone mentioned that this book had just won a major award as the best cookbook in the world so I couldn't not request it!

Add your link to your Library Loot post to Mr Linky below;

I'm here....and there!

Whilst I am here blogging today (the Library Loot post is scheduled to go up later today), I am also at Booklover Book Reviews as the guest for April as part of the Aussie Author Challenge.

I vent a little bit about something that bugs me about book titles and I spotlight Margo Lanagan!

Thanks again to Jo for the opportunity to guest post!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The House at Tyneford Readalong - Week 2

This week as part of the House of Tyneford readalong we read chapters 10 to 15 and now we are around half way through the book! I am enjoying it a lot and find it difficult not to race through to the end. Then again, I have that trouble with a lot of readalongs!

Our host, Carrie, hasn't actually set questions for us to discuss this week. She has looked at a few of the characters and prompted us to post about our thoughts on this section. What I wanted to focus on was the writing, and the fact that it is Tuesday suggests that I could do a Teaser and the Teaser will have a Bookish Quote feel to it too! I do love multi-tasking blog posts!

Last week, I mentioned that I had read and enjoyed Natasha Solomons' previous book and so I already knew that I really liked her writing. That doesn't mean that I didn't find myself rereading small sections of the book because I just loved the way that the author was bring the scene to life.

There were a few sections in particular where the author caught my attention. One I don't want to say too much about because there is a charm and sense of fun about the scene that I wouldn't want to spoil. I will say, for the benefit of those who either have read the book or are participating in the readalong, that it was the scene involving fish and the whole village! It was funny and festive, and really indicative of the inclusiveness of the lives of everyone who lives at Tyneford. Given that we know that there are some challenges coming for the village as a whole, I think this was a really good way to show the cohesiveness that crosses the social hierarchy.

The section that I have chosen to quote from has a different tone completely but I was moved, and I loved the final line. To set a bit of context, there has just been a big, emotional confrontation and so Elise, the Austrian Jewess who has come to Tyneford to work as a maid, flees to the library. The author that she mentions below, Julian, is her father, Anna is her mother and Margot her sister.

I padded through the silent hall and into the library. I scanned the bookshelves and, finding what I wanted, reached up and drew down The Spinsters' Diary by Julian Landau, before creeping into the drawing room. The curtains were open and the moon filled the room with cold light, bright enough to read by. I sat cross-legged on the floor, the book open on my lap. It was not my favourite of Julian's novels and Anna actively disliked it, complaining it was unkind. That was why I wanted it with me tonight. With this book in my hands, I could hear my parents row. The three virgin spinsters were the great-aunts. Julian described them in cruel detail, down to the single hair sprouting from the round mole on Gretta's chin. Only in the book she was called Gertrude. Julian insisted that the aunts were transformed by fiction and Gretta, Gerda and Gabrielle (real life) had nothing to do with Gertrude, Grunhilda and Griselda (novel). Anna and the aunts remained unconvinced. When Julian attempted to justify himself over coffee and sachertorte, Gretta grumbled that she did not wish for her wart to be immortalised for eternity. After the aunts withdrew, dignity wounded, a fight echoed through the apartment. To Margot's and my tremendous delight, Anna threw a series of Meissen plates at Julian. We cheered her on from round the nursery door, wondering if she'd succeed in hitting and killing him - "Do you think we shall be orphans? Will Mama wear lipstick in prison?" It was terribly thrilling.

I had understood Anna and the aunts' fury - they were not angered by Julian's lies but by his honesty. He ought not to have stolen from life, but tonight I was grateful he had. As I shivered on the floor in the drawing room of an English country house a thousand miles from Vienna, I could see my aunts in the pages of the book. They smiled up at me, offering me sugar biscuits and grumbling over the supercilious waiters at cafe Sperl. I have no photographs of the aunts, and so they seem almost characters from a children's story - a clutch of creased fairy godmothers, fond of linzertorte and nieces - not quite belonging to the modern world. Yet they are preserved between the pages of Julian's novel like the crushed wings of a butterfly.

I suspect that Elise is destined for heartbreak in more ways than one in the upcoming section and that life at Tyneford is about to be changed irrevocably.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Firefly Dance anthology

It has been more than a year since we had a new novel from Sarah Addison Allen. Thankfully, there is news of her next book coming out in 2013 and the title will be Lost Lake. Because there has been no new book, the instant I saw this book on Netgalley I had to have it. To be honest, the only thing I knew about it was that it contained a new Sarah Addison Allen story. I hadn't even heard of any of the other authors, didn't know what the theme of the collection was or anything like that.

I was actually contemplating only reading the SAA story, but to have done so would have short changed myself and the publisher who made it available on Netgalley. I did have to force myself to read the others, not because I didn't want to but rather because the file was about to expire so I was running out of time.

First story is The Stocking Store by Phyllis Scheiber features a young woman looking back to the regular trip that she made with her mother to the stocking store, and in particular to a meeting with another young girl from her class whose mother was a survivor of the concentration camps of Europe. This was a very short story but it was quite poignant, looking not only at the issue of the survivors but also on how times have changed over the years.

There is also an excerpt from this author's book called The Manicurist.

Petey by Kathryn Magendie was the longest of the stories and there were times in the narrative that the story just leapt off the pages. There were, however, other times when the pace just was too slow.

The story focused on a young girl named Petey who was moving from her idyllic life in North Carolina amongst the mountains to the hot, dusty plains of Fort Worth, Texas due to her father needing to find work. The whole family seemed to be unhappy at the move and the new house that they are going to be living in,, but it is nothing compared to the despair they face not long after arriving. At this stage, the narrative felt quite oppressive and it really only changed with the introduction of the character of Anna. It was a little too obvious that she was introduced as a catalyst to change things for both Petey and the rest of her family. Towards the end of the novella though I was definitely enjoying the transition that was happening, especially with Petey's mother, and I was definitely hungry as I was reading.

The Sarah Addison Allen 'story' is titled In My Dreams, and is in effect a collection within the anthology because the story is made up of six different vignettes that let us glimpse into specific events in the life of a young girl named Louise who lives with her mother (her father having died recently in the first story), and next door to her great aunt Sophie. The stories weren't actually written as one group of anecdotes either as evidenced by the fact that the copyrights on the individual stories range from 2006 to 2008

Of the characters in this collection, Sophie is definitely one that I could see making the transition to SAA's other works. Whilst the southern charm that forms such a strong part of SAA's other books is there, there is none of her other trademark that I like to think of as magical-realism-lite.

The first story was Fly by Night; Louise is staying the night at her great aunt Sophies and watching her mother. Her father has died not too long ago but the question is how well is her mother dealing with her grief.

In Nothing Disastrous Louisa's mother has had breast cancer and is celebrating the first anniversary of losing her breasts (kind of timely seeing as SAA has been going through her own battle with the disease. The preacher's new wife comes to town.

The third story is Lazarus and Louise's mother is getting remarried and no one can find her wedding shoes.

In The Wayfarer Louise's grandfather comes to visit. Great Aunt Sophie never approved of the man that her sister ran off with. Louise has never met him before, but she is not the only one to learn something new.

In God's Honest Truth at the Fashionette, Sophie is late for her weekly appointment at the hair salon and in I'll See You in My Dreams we hear the story of how Sophie met her husband, Harry. "Never marry a man who can't dance."

The Resurrection by Augusta Trobaugh - I will admit to skimming this one because from the very beginning I had no clue what was going on with this story! I kind of got what the author was trying to do with it, but it just didn't work for me at all.

According to the publisher blurb below, the link between these stories is supposed to be the challenges faced by children, but I am not sure that the link is all that obvious if you just read the stories themselves. As a collection, this one didn't really work for me. I may be a little cynical, but I wasn't quite sure what the point of releasing the Sarah Addison Allen stories were other than having something out there during the gaps between the last book and her next one, and also that the publisher hung the collection around the fact that there was a big name author involved. I guess that isn't really that unusual really.

Rating 2.5/5

Bright lights flicker in the dark evenings of summer. Pinpoints of hope float against the black descent of night. The sweetest of small and innocent creatures finds its way through the shadows. Fireflies seem to dance on sheer air, illuminating the space between heartbeats.

Children give off a similar brave glow, despite the challenges of their young lives. The lessons of childhood are often painful, the shedding of fragile wings in the gloam of an uncertain future. These rich novellas are small jewels reflecting the essence of what it means to grow up dancing among the shadows of life, carrying a brave, small beacon because you know that even the brightest days always, always, end in darkness.

Childhood can be so sweetly sad and sadly sweet, profound and deceptively easy to categorize, yet poignant to remember.

New York Times bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen (GARDEN SPELLS, SUGAR QUEEN, THE PEACH KEEPER) anchors THE FIREFLY DANCE with her wistful and funny novella about Louise, a North Carolina girl whose keen observations of the lives around her weaves an unforgettable spell with just a hint of everyday magic.

Phyllis Schieber's Sonya, a child of Holocaust survivors, is confronted with the responsibilities of her legacy when she has a poignant encounter with a classmate, another child of survivors, and her mother, in a local shop in their 1970's New York neighborhood.

Kathryn Magendie’s Petey deals wryly with her family’s move from the cool blue mountains of North Carolina to the hot flatlands of Texas.

Augusta Trobaugh’s stoic Georgia girl leads us through her surreal encounter with a mysterious backwoods toddler who turns out to be anything but ordinary.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Rise and Rise of Rural Lit

Last year I attended the Australian Romance Readers Convention at Bondi in Sydney. One of the sessions that I attended was titled 'Outback and in Love'. At that time one of the publishers, Harlequin Australia, was represented, and they said very clearly that rural lit/romances were going to be the next big thing.

A year later, if you go to any of the chain bookstores, this has definitely been shown to be true. Whether that is a self-fulfilling prophecy is hard to tell. The other night I counted 8 or 9 different rural lit books that were already in the stores, and there are lots more on their way.

I thought this week I would ask a group of rural lit authors why it is that rural lit is doing so well now. The three authors who graciously agreed to answer my not-so-probing questions were Karly Lane (who was one of the authors on the panel that I mentioned earlier), Fleur McDonald and Fiona Palmer.

Fleur McDonald

Rural lit seems to be taking the Australian publishing landscape by storm at the moment. Why do you think it is so popular, and why now?

Fleur:  This is one question I'm asked a lot and one I haven't had an answer to. I have heard the success to McLeod's Daughters was unexpected but it definitely hit the spot with TV viewers, in both the city and country alike. With Purple Roads coming out I have thought a lot more about it, as I was sure I'd be asked! Then, a few weeks ago, while drenching lambs, I had a 'light bulb' moment ( I always like them!) This is what I came up with: maybe it's because women on the land are excited someone is taking an interest in them and other women like reading about success stories. For a long time, women have been the 'forgotten' people on farms and stations - the blokes tended to get a lot of recognition for the hard work they were doing, but no one really saw what the women were doing. Yes, they have been raising kids, cooking up a storm and educating the older children, but I'll bet you find that during other times, they were out in the paddocks doing exactly the same as the men were doing. Certainly this is the case with my family and many others I know. So perhaps this genre is resonating with people because women are being recognised in the agricultural industry.

This isn't a new genre; it's been around for a long time - a story that springs to mind is Robbery Under Arms, which was published back in the late 1800's - the story of a bushranger who marries the daughter of a grazier ( ) Today's stories tell of strong rural women overcoming trials and tribulations and women on the land (and in the cities) having been doing this since time began.

Karly: I'm not really sure why a reader of Australian fiction- I know there was barely enough rural fiction coming out to satisfy me in years gone by, so as a reader, I think it's great to have so many titles coming out on a more regular basis.I guess Publishers have finally realised there is indeed an insatiable need out there for it. 

Fiona:  There have been other rural writers before us who have been very successful but as for why it’s really surged ahead now, I’m not so sure. Maybe because with the sudden dip of the industry, the rural books are still selling well so publishers are really jumping on board and have actively searched for more? Just one theory. Or maybe it’s just something new that is running ahead, and who knows how long it will stay popular for?

Karly Lane

A lot of the authors who are writing rural lit either live in the country or at least have spent a lot of time in the country. What is the best thing about being an author living in the country, and what is the hardest thing especially in the context of publishing new books.

Fleur: There isn't anything hard about writing, publishing and living in remote areas. The internet has seen to that. I do all of submitting, editing and some of the marketing, via email, Facebook, Twitter and my website. I guess if there were to be a down side, it does take time to get to places when I'm touring, but really, that is just a minor hiccup. The best thing is I have my inspiration all around me, the setting around me - if I get stuck, all I need to do is walk outside, breathe the air and listen to the sounds.

Karly: The best thing, I guess is that we get to write about our lifestyle.The hardest thing? I guess with most things rural; health care, representation, transport...being in regional Australia makes it difficult to have that face to face contact with publishers and readers and there is often long distances to travel to get to events, but technology has helped in bringing these things together and closing that gap a little.

Fiona: The best thing is that my inspiration is right out my window. I’m experiencing the sunsets everyday that I write about and seeing first hand the trials of bush living. It renews my enthusiasm for my rural stories. I don’t think I could write as authentic living anywhere else. As for the hardest, that is the publicity side of things. Especially being in WA. Doing a book tour to reach heaps of people means lots of travelling and it’s a huge expense. We have to be more online focused. 

Fiona Palmer

Fleur: Oh, that's a tricky one - I probably don't know enough people in the city to know of their misconceptions. Although I do think, sometimes, they might be shocked at the distances we travel without batting an eyelid. To me, driving nine hours to Perth is all in days work, but I have heard some people gasp at that!

Karly: I think it would be to dispel the concept of 'the outback'--what people believe makes up rural Australia. The outback isn't only dry desolate country, it's made up of all kinds of landscapes and environments. Bushland twenty minutes from the coast can be just as remote and lonely as the wide open plains of the Simpson desert. I think a lot of people confuse rural with the notion of red dust, drought and dried out animal skulls as the 'typical' outback image. 

Fiona: That it’s romantic. No, that’s not all true. It can be romantic but for a lot of people it’s a hard slog and its not always happy endings like our books. Not everyone finds a Mr or Mrs Perfect, as being so isolated it’s very hard to meet potential partners. It can be a very lonely lifestyle if you let it.

Finally, a chance for you to tell the readers about your own works. Also, what is it that you would like your readers to take away when they read one of your books?

Fleur: I really want people to feel sad the book has ended; I hope they've befriended the characters and will miss them when they're not reading about them. That the reader will want to go and visit the book again, over time.

I tell stories of farming through the eyes of a female main character. Of course there is always a bit of romance in there, but I like to think, the journey of the characters and the crime side of things is more obvious than the romance!

Karly: I tend to base my books more on the rural community and family aspect of rural life. I don't live on a working property and so I don't tend to write in depth about the day to day farm life that maybe some of the other rural authors do. I hope that readers finish my books and come away with a smile on their face. I hope that they've met characters they could easily become friends with in real life and that they can relate to some, if not most, of the characters and their situations in my books.

North Star, my first book, is being re-released in paperback and available in stores now and Morgan's Law is due to come out in May.

Fiona: My stories are about strong heroine’s, thrown in with some other memorable characters and heaps of rural magic that leaves you feeling like you’ve lived in the bush. My latest book The Road Home is out now about Lara, who is one determined woman, trying to find what makes her truly happy.

I’m hopeful that the readers get a story that they can’t put down and that they have a little more understanding of what country life is like. That at some stage they could feel as if they were in the country itself and if they get to the last page and have a big smile, then I’m a happy little writer.

About the authors:

Fleur McDonald - Fleur was born and raised in outback South Australia but now lives with her husband and children on a wheat farm outside Esperance, Western Australia. She is the author of three books so far.

You can find her at her website including a blog that she updates regularly on farm life, being an author and more, on Twitter (@fleurmcdonald), and on Facebook

Karly Lane - Karly Lane lives on the Mid North Coast of NSW.

Proud mum to four beautiful children and wife of one very patient mechanic, she is lucky enough to get to spend her day doing the two things she loves most-being a mum and writing stories set in beautiful rural Australia.

She has written two books under the Karly Lane name as well as also being published under the name Karlene Blakemore-Mowle. The second Karly Lane book, Morgan's Run, is out in May.

You can find her at her website, on Facebook and Twitter (@karlylane)


Fiona Palmer - Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in south-east Western Australia. She discovered Danielle Steele at the age of eleven, and now writes her own brand of bestselling rural romance. She received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has extensive farming experience, does the local mailrun, and was a speedway racing driver for seven years. She currently works at the local shop in between writing her next book and looking after her two small children.

You can find her at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter (@fiona_palmer)

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