Walking across the country is pretty bold and crazy thing to do! If given the choice, how many of you would do what Clara and her Mom did? Clara’s mom packed a curling iron (because it’s important to look your best even when walking though a blizzard or surviving a flash flood!!) I want to know what one item you’d bring with you that wasn’t related to your survival.
Set in 1896, The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of the author’s great aunt and great-great grandmother. It’s a fast-paced historical adventure that will please all.
In order to save her family’s farm, seventeen-year old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, set out to walk across the United States in hopes of raising enough money to save the farm from foreclosure. They start in Spokane, Washington and work their way across America until they arrive in New York City almost nine months later. Their journey is filled with heartache, laughter, dangers and new experiences as mother and daughter learn to better understand each other along the way.
I have to say; I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, but the more I read the harder it was for me to put the book down! I really, really enjoyed it. Clara and Helga are two very different people. Clara is very practical, while Helga is much more carefree. Their personalities clash throughout the novel, but in the end their determination to save the family farm helps them overcome their differences. And with each new challenge they face they learn to rely on and respect each other for the very traits that make them so different. I really liked these characters for both their faults and their strengths. At times I wanted to shake the mother (much like Clara) and at other times I wanted to tell Clara to stand up to her! That’s what made me love them so much. They weren’t perfect, but their interactions were real and heartfelt and I could relate to them.
The pacing works wonderfully. We don’t see every step of their journey, but we experience enough to really understand the difficulties, worries and joys Clara and Helga experience. Snakes, highwaymen, flash floods, lava fields, blizzards…it’s one challenge after another! However, it’s not all about the hardship. Along the way, we get some wonderful moments as well! My favorite scene had to be the “curling iron” demonstration! You’ll just have to go read the book to find out more! Trust me it’s worth the read!
The historical detail in the book amazed me. From life on a farm, to the bicycle, to the women’s suffrage movement, to president-elect McKinley… Every single page put me back in 1896, without my ever feeling like I was being given a history lesson. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it to all of you! This is one you don’t want to miss.
Last stop on our little trip this month: Australia!! It’s the one place I really want to visit that I haven’t yet. Spending ten years growing up in Europe had some advantages. The biggest one: I’ve seen most of Western Europe. Loved it! I’ve also seen a decent part of the United States. This summer I’m finally going to spend a week in Canada…so that leaves me with Australia. I’d always had a fascination with it, but it wasn’t until I met my good friend Lara that Australia became more than kangaroos and koalas to me.
I didn’t really know much about Australia other than it is big…very big. A little bit of research, a lot of talking with my friend, and lots of time spent looking at photographs and I realized the place I want to visit most is Queensland. Queensland is the Australian state that occupies the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory to the west, South Australia to the south-west and New South Wales to the south. It is surrounded on the north and east by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean.
I want to visit Brisbane, the state capital. This area was originally the Moreton Bay penal colony, intended as a place for recidivist convicts transferred from New South Wales where they were originally serving out their sentences. I know very little about the history of convicts being shipped to Australia from England, but it’s one thing I really want to learn more about. There’s something about that part of Australia’s history that fascinates, me and I’m sure there’s a story somewhere waiting for me to find it. The state eventually encouraged free settlement and today Queensland is an agricultural state that also sees many tourists–one day I plan to be one of those tourist! I’d make a stop along the Gold Coast, too, as I’ve heard all about it from my friend, and if I’m going to go to Australia the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of their amazing beaches.
While I want to visit Brisbane and the Gold Coast and see what South East Queensland has to offer, the area that has truly captured my attention is the Tropical North. A sizable portion of the state is in the tropics and is home to many natural wonders, from the Great Barrier Reef to the tropical rainforests. I’d go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, visit Daintree National Park and go north to visit Cape York Peninsula. But what I want to do most is visit Atherton, ‘capital’ of the lovely Tropical Tablelands, a land of (and I quote the guide book here) “beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and tropical rainforests.” What drew my attention to this portion of Australia? A photo of the Millaa Millaa Falls in Tablelands, Queensland. I’ve been doing research on rainforests for my current novel, and when I came across this picture I knew I had to one day visit it. I never realized part of Australia was located in the tropics and home to rainforest, but now that I do, it’s on the top of my list of places to visit. It’s strange. I was never interested by rainforest, but ever since I started researching them the desire to visit one has slowly moved towards the top of my “Places to Visit” list.
One day I’ll visit Queensland. I can visit a rainforest and marvel at nature’s beauty (and probably get eaten alive by insects, but hey it’ll be worth it). And hopefully I can take that experience and really make Avrina’s planet come alive for everyone. Of course along the way I hope to come home with another story too…this one involving a small piece of Australia’s history.
Our next stop on our virtual trip around the world is Greece. Now I know what you might be thinking. Oh, right, ancient Greece, lots of historical stuff there. Great archeological ruins. Great examples of classic architecture. Wonderful mythology that has sparked many a fantasy novel. Recent economic troubles. (Okay, you may not be thinking of that last one.)
All except the last are great reasons to visit Greece. They’re just not my reasons. Of course if I get the opportunity to go, I’ll be sure to tour famous archeological ruins, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, museums, and olive groves. But the idea of visiting Greece was never compelling for me until I saw—wait for it—The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie.
When the character of Lena, played by Alexis Bledel, goes to Greece, I found myself riveted. The beauty of the place knocked my socks off. The story would be rolling along, but I was distracted by the terrain, by white buildings on a hillside, by donkey rides. There was a romance being played out on the screen and all I was thinking was, Look at that water. Have you ever seen such a color? (And I’m a sucker for a good romance.) Now I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did. But the thought that I wanted to visit a country because of a young adult novel made me happy.
So, onward to Greece. I’d love to experience the culture firsthand, eat great food, wander hilly streets, and take in the vivid colors. Oh, yeah, I’ll visit some ancient ruins, too. Anyone want to go?
Congratulations to Elly! You’ve won a copy of Michaela MacColl’s Prisoners in the Palace. Please email us at damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com with your address and I’ll send it to you. Thanks to all who entered!