Out Now: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

One I’ve been excited about for months now, Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War is out now.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943–aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathiser. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

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The Week: 31st December 2018 – 6th January 2019

Sunset on Friday – the hottest day this week.

Happy New Year. But – just as important – Merry Christmas again!

Making varenyky yesterday afternoon. We made ninety-five in the end (not all in this picture).

Today is Ukrainian Christmas Eve, which is The Big Day for Christmas in Eastern Slavic cultures. This evening is the time for kutyaborschtveranyky, and more presents.

Our resident baby magpie is having trouble with the heat

This time of year is always so hectic for me. Apart from anything else, it has been Really Hot in Canberra for weeks, with a “cold” day being about 35 Celsius. We’re constantly sweaty – and getting some absolutely massive spiders in the house!

Wish List for 2019

Book Feature: Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul

End-of-Year Escape

The Week: 22nd – 28th October

White Spring Flowers Blue Sky Canberra Australia 25th October 2018 Sonya Heaney Sunshine Garden Nature

Spring sunshine – and a spring sunset – in Canberra.

Only days to go before I fly to China!

A Book for the Anniversary: Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Babies in Young Adult Fiction

Revisiting Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

Out Now: A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories by Angela McAllister (author) and Alice Lindstrom (illustrator)

A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories By (author) Angela McAllister Illustrated by Alice Lindstrom

On this day: British women prepare for invasion

The_British_Army_in_the_United_Kingdom_1939-45_Second World War Two 23rd October 1941 Women of Britains Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) operate a rangefinder during anti-aircraft

On this day 80 years ago

A Book for the Anniversary: Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

It’s only days until the hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of the First World War, and I’ve had my eye on Goodbye for Now, with its attractive cover and interesting premise. The book’s description is beneath the cover.

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Two brothers, only one survives.

As Europe is torn apart by war, two brothers fight very different battles, and both could lose everything…

While George has always been the brother to rush towards the action, fast becoming a boy-soldier when war breaks out, Joe thinks differently. Refusing to fight, Joe stays behind as a conscientious objector battling against the propaganda.

On the Western front, George soon discovers that war is not the great adventure he was led to believe. Surrounded by mud, blood and horror his mindset begins to shift as he questions everything he was once sure of.

At home in Liverpool, Joe has his own war to win. Judged and imprisoned for his cowardice, he is determined to stand by his convictions, no matter the cost.

By the end of The Great War only one brother will survive, but which?

Book Feature: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Note: I am featuring some of the review books I’ve had for a while, but run out of time to review. That’s not to say I’m not going to read them; it’s just that I’ve fallen behind, and think the authors deserve an appearance here!

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins–they lived for summers at the lake house until a tragic accident changed everything. The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again.

That was then… For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now… After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Robyn Carr has crafted a beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Does life go on when your heart is broken?

Since her mother’s sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She’s being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma’s own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Several weeks ago I was thinking about the confronting and downright disturbing book Living Dead Girl, a book I read years ago and still remember vividly, and got to wondering what Elizabeth Scott had written since. Her books deal with topics not all young adult fiction would, and I think they could qualify as general fiction as much as YA.

And so I looked the author up, learnt about a few terrible things that’d happened to her since I last checked in, and then discovered that Heartbeat (2014) was the last book she wrote. After the poor reaction to the early review copies, Scott bought her way out of her contract with her publisher, and I thought: how could it possibly be that bad?

And so I knew I had to read it. The problem? Australians can’t buy her books on Kindle, which meant I had to order a paperback and wait weeks.

When my copy finally arrived I read it in one sitting, and – honestly? I feel anger at some of the reviewers intent on tearing the book to shreds.

I can see why Heartbeat is a difficult read. It takes place not long after Emma’s mother died suddenly, in the weeks after Emma’s stepfather decided to keep her mother’s body alive artificially in order to save the baby she was carrying, without Emma even getting a say in the decision.

This is a book about anger, and it’s an anger that barely leaves Emma from the first page to the last. Her mother is gone – but not. She has to see her body, changing as death takes over, in the hospital every day, while a baby grows inside it. She has to live with a man who seems obsessed with this potential baby, and nothing else.

I can see that some readers struggled with the main character, but I also think she was realistic. I think that many teenagers – hell, many people in general – would have reacted exactly the same way Emma did.

I thought the troubles between Emma and Dan, her stepfather, were handled so well. It’s messy and they fight, and they both react to the death in totally different ways, but underneath it all – and by the end – you can see that they’re finding a way back to each other.

The love interest in the background, Caleb, has his own awful, awful issues, and I like that Scott holds back on making everything perfect for everyone by the end. Nothing of hers I’ve read has had a totally happy ending, and it’s brave and realistic.

Mostly, and apart from the book itself, I’m sad that a book that I’ll still be thinking about well into the future was the one that made an author think she needed to end her career.

Want to Read: The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman

The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman

This one is on my to-read list:

A post-Second World War story of strong female ties and family, secrets and lies, set in the multicultural Australia of the fifties. Can the Bonegilla girls defeat their past? Or will it come to claim them?

1954: When sixteen–year–old Hungarian Elizabeta arrives in Australia with her family, she is hoping to escape the hopelessness of life as a refugee in post–war Germany. Her first stop is the Bonegilla Migrant Camp on the banks of the Murray in rural Victoria, a temporary home for thousands of new arrivals, all looking for work and a better life. There, Elizabeta becomes firm friends with the feisty Greek Vasiliki; quiet Italian Iliana; and the adventurous Frances, the daughter of the camp’s director.

In this vibrant and growing country, the Bonegilla girls rush together towards a life that seems full of promise, even as they cope with the legacy of war, the oppressive nature of family tradition and ever–present sorrow. So when a ghost from the past reaches out for Elizabeta and threatens to pull her back into the shadows, there is nothing that her friends wouldn’t do to keep her safe.

But secrets have a way of making themselves known and lies have a way of changing everything they touch…

 

The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman

 

Bonegilla was Australia’s most famous camp for refugees and migrants in the aftermath of the Second World War. My family – refugees from the Soviet Union after years of forced labour in Germany (followed by four years in displacement camps while Stalin was busy having all ethnic Ukrainians in their region executed or sent to Siberia) – passed through the camp.

I am hoping – but not expecting – that the book will mention the decades of xenophobia and outright racism southern and eastern European arrivals faced at the hands of Anglo-Australians.

We need more books like this one, and *I* need to read more books like this one. Pretty much my whole reading experience is framed by the American publishing industry these days, and US authors (other than in the Regency romance subgenre) tend to ignore the rest of the world when dealing with the past.