Book Bingo Nineteen: Themes of Culture

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It’s September, and time for book bingo again with Theresa and Amanda. This means I have six to seven books left on my card to fill in, some of which I am unsure of what to do. Science Fiction is always a tricky, because there are times it crosses over with fantasy. I initially had the book I’m using for this square under science fiction but decided to change it to this square.

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When it came to Themes of Culture, there were many ways to go – made up, national, historical and all the arms that splinter off from each of those areas and many more. As I had assigned a more obvious book for this category, I stretched culture out to post-war culture based on this book. So, I assigned a new book – The Lost Magician by Piers Torday here.

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Set in 1945, World War Two is over, and Patricia, Simon, Evie and Larry are sent to the country while their parents search for a new house. Hints of their lives during war time come through, illustrating that the life and culture of a post-war England had some differences to what had come before and would evolve in the decades to come. It also shows the clash of cultures in the book world, of the various factions of books and their characters who have and have not been read – the past, and the future, and the finished and the unfinished stories, and how they grapple with their own cultural differences in another world unfamiliar to the four children.

This made this book a good choice for this round – it showed the different ways culture can be explored and the cultural impact stories have on us. With the next book out later this year, I hope to return to the world of Folio for more adventures.

Row Three:

Themes of Science Fiction:

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

See you next time!

A Lighthouse in Time (The Adamson Adventures #2) by Sandra Bennett

A Lighthouse in timeTitle: A Lighthouse in Time (The Adamson Adventures #2)

Author: Sandra Bennett

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Elephant Tree Publishing

Published: August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 160

Price: $16.00

Synopsis: Zac doesn’t believe in ghosts; he’s never seen any scientific proof of their existence. Clare is skeptical but open-minded to the possibility. She likes the idea of ghosts and fairies, even angels. Luke is convinced they have encountered a ghost at Caves Beach. He is the one who is determined to lead them on a ghost hunt to the old ruined lighthouse on the point at Cape st George.

Join the Adamson siblings on their second adventure as they discover a ghost desperate to save her father and another just as determined not to see her succeed.

Follow the clues along with Zac, Clare and Luke, as you learn about the shipwrecks that crashed off the NSW South Coast and find a long-lost ship’s manifest, a lighthouse keeper’s journal and all the secrets within a lighthouse lost in time.

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The Adamson Adventures is one of the series I started reading and reviewing for Elephant Tree Publishing, and this time around, I am not only the reviewer, but also the editor – more about that later.

Whilst camping, Clare, Luke and Zac stumble upon a ghost in the caves by the beach they are staying at whilst lost. She leads them to safety, but soon disappears – starting a mystery that takes the siblings to an old, crumbling lighthouse, and exploring the local history of the area where they are staying.

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As the mystery unfolds when they find the manifest and talk to a local historian, the siblings start to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find a way to solve the mystery. But will they get there before it’s too late?

What I really loved about this book is that it is a really good continuation from the first book, and mentions what happened, but doesn’t dwell on it and gets on with the story. It is fast-paced and keeps the reader’s attention beautifully. I loved seeing how Clare and her brothers have been evolving since the first book and learning new things about them with each story.

As the editor of this book, it was lovely and amazing to see how my suggestions worked for the book. It is a wonderful thing to see the results and how they helped – and I am very lucky to get to read the books I edit, as Elephant Tree Publishing sends me a copy. I have a few to read still, but am getting there and look forward to seeing where the Adamson siblings go next.

To the Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith

land of longlost friendsTitle: To the Land of Long-Lost Friends

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Cosy Crime

Publisher: Little Brown/Hachette

Published: 10th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 230

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The next charming and heart-warming installment in the NO.1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY series, from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith. This is Mma Ramotswe’s twentieth wonderful adventure.

The latest installment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY series…

TO THE LAND OF LONG-LOST FRIENDS

At a wedding, Mma Ramotswe bumps into a long-lost friend, Calviniah, who confesses that her only daughter Nametso has inexplicably turned away from her. Not only that, an old acquaintance has simultaneously lost all her money and found solace in a charismatic ex-mechanic turned reverend, who has seemingly cast a spell over several ladies in the region. With little work on at the agency, Precious and her colleague Mma Makutsi see no harm in investigating these curious situations. Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is anxious. He has few prospects and little money, so how can he convince his beloved Queenie-Queenie’s father to approve of their marriage?

As Precious and Mma Makutsi dig deeper into the stories of Nametso and the mysterious reverend, Precious once again ponders the human condition. She chooses to believe in goodness, that true equality can be found with one another. But in this world, can that assumption be justified? It will take all her ingenuity and moral good sense to get to the heart of the matter.

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Mma Ramotswe is back and is attending a wedding when she sees someone whom she believes to be dead – yet it has been a case of mistaken identity, and this is where the mystery begins. She discovers that her friend’s daughter has become distant, and as she begins looking into Nametso’s strange behaviour, she also stumbles upon a case of a reverend who appears to be taking advantage of women. With Mma Makutsi and Charlie, she begins to look into each case, and helps out at the Orphan Farm as well, while Charlie grapples with how to impress Queenie-Queenie’s father.

Each crime or case is a personal one – and each shows the flaws and strengths of each character, and reveals something of the human nature, and how some people will take advantage of those who are vulnerable or easily manipulated. Throughout the novel, the world of Botswana comes through. All sides are shown through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe and how she sees the world, and wishes the world to be, which is in direct contrast to Mma Makutsi’s pragmatism and superior sense of self – she did receive 97 per cent at the secretarial college after all, which she never lets anyone forget (poor Charlie and Precious must be tired of hearing about it by now). And sitting in between, is Charlie, who wishes to marry the woman he loves and prove himself to be a good detective, but finds that he has doubts about marriage, but loads of confidence when it comes to being a detective – and I think he is quite good at it.

Working separately and together, Precious, Mma Makutsi and Charlie follow people and talk to whomever they can about the crimes, slowly revealing what is going on and resolving the questions set to them by those who have come to ask them for help.

This is one of those series that can be read in order, or one can jump around, yet I think reading them in order will give you a better understanding and make it more enjoyable in the long run. Drawing on the clash of cultures and how people adapt, this book is a great addition to the series and characters created twenty books ago.

Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest #1) by Kate Forsyth

wolfhaven castleTitle: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st September 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 185

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Tell your lord to beware, the wolves smell danger in the wind…’

Wolfhaven Castle has been attacked, and only four escape capture… Tom, trained to scrub pots, not fight; Elanor, the lord’s daughter; Sebastian, a knight in training; and Quinn, the witch’s apprentice. Somehow, if they are to save their people, these unlikely heroes must find four magical beasts from legend. But first, they have to make it out of the castle alive…

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Wolfhaven is for now, peaceful. Lord Wolfgang rules over the land from Wolfhaven. Yet whilst out collecting for the kitchens, Tom is given a warning by a wild man about coming danger. When he gives the warning in the lead up to a big dinner, he is ignored. It is only a few weeks later, when the castle is attacked, that Tom is believed. He manages to escape the castle, along with Quinn, the witch’s apprentice, Sebastian, a knight-in-training and Elanor, the daughter of Lord Wolfgang.

Together, they must awaken the four sleeping heroes they are told about by Arwen and find a way to save Wolfhaven from invaders and captors, who appear to have been planning this for a while are seeking to gain control of the entire realm.

2019 BadgeKate Forsyth has created a magical world of adventure, mystery and quests – a backbone of many of her novels for adults and children, and each quest takes a different shape. Here, four young heroes, aged around twelve to thirteen, must journey across a dangerous land with dangerous people after them to save Elanor’s home. Arwen has gifted each member of the Wolfhaven Four a magical item to help them on their journey, where they will need to work together – which Quinn, Tom and Elanor seem willing to do, yet Sebastian at first is uncertain, though I am sure he will come around eventually.

I loved that each character had their own distinct background and personality that will evolve across the series and contribute to what is to come and the forthcoming quest. The story has a good pace, and keeps the interest of the reader in Kate’s familiar and delightful lyrical style that flows like a river through each of her books, dipping when it needs to for moments of calm or peace, or leading towards cliff-hangers that lead into the next chapter, part or next book, and The Impossible Quest is no exception, and is filled with excitement.

It is good for all ages, and can be read alone, or with someone, and pulls together four very different heroes from different backgrounds and skills to go on this quest. As I continue to read the series, I am eager to see where they go, and how the characters develop across the series. Like many of Kate’s stories, she has crafted this in a genius way and knows when to reveal something, and when to hold it back. It is the mark of a master storyteller when a novel or series has such strengths that it has readers coming back again and again to uncover new things or to just enjoy the story again. Kate Forsyth is one of my go-to authors for any time, and I love everything she creates.

The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel

the unforgiving city.jpgTitle: The Unforgiving City

Author: Maggie Joel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 3rd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 425

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Secrets and lies throw three lives into chaos in the last days of the nineteenth century.

Colonial Sydney in the final weeks of the nineteenth century: a city striving for union and nationhood but dogged by divisions so deep they threaten to derail, not just the Federation, but the colony itself. There are chasms opening too when a clandestine note reaches the wrong hands in the well-to-do household of aspiring politician Alasdair Dunlevy and his wife Eleanor. Below stairs, their maid Alice faces a desperate situation with her wayward sister.

Despite sharing a house, Eleanor, Alice and Alasdair are each alone in their torment and must each find some solution, but at what cost to themselves and those they love? Evocative, immediate and involving, this is the sweeping story of three people, their passions and ambitions, and the far-flung ripples their choices will cause.

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Set in the final weeks and months of the nineteenth century and the Federation campaign, Australia is still a series of colonies, each run by its own government and without a common transport system. There are divisions amongst society, those that wish to Federate to unite the colonies, and those that wish to remain as colonies. Yet beyond the political issues of the suffragettes and Federation, there are secrets kept within one household in the colony. The Dunlevy household – headed up by Alasdair Dunlevy, is rocked by a note sent to his wife, Eleanor. Whilst Eleanor seeks to hide her secrets and uncover her husband’s, their maid, Alice, has her own secrets.

2019 BadgeShe’s trying to help her sister, Milli, who has debts to pay off, and is about to give birth. In her quest to save the child, the seemingly separate secrets they are trying to protect will inevitably collide – and the fates of these three people will remain unsure until the very last minute.

An historical fiction novel that is uniquely Australian, The Unforgiving City tells the story of the struggle to unite Australia as one country, and touching on more of the story than  people might know – the struggles and opposition, and how the suffragist movement was anti-Federation – unless women got the vote – which might explain or help explain how women (white women) got the vote so soon after Federation.

Though there were many people involved in, or affected by, Federation in various ways, this book closely explores the lives of three people in particular – Alasdair and Eleanor Dunlevy and their maid Alice. It touches on the issues that affect other classes, Indigenous people, and others within the colonies, and follows Alasdair as he journeys across New South Wales as he works to convince the towns to vote yes to Federate.

Eleanor and Alice drive the majority of the narrative with their secrets, and Alasdair’s secrets are woven in and out as they forge towards a Federated nation. This story revolves around the relationships of family, and of the rich and poor, and the chasms between the poorest of the poor and those who serve the rich, in a cut-throat world where laws prohibit women from making their own decisions, and where desperate people will do desperate things to keep their secrets and get help where they need it.

There’s not a lot of romance in this book, which allows the story to have a different slant and focus that make it more powerful for me, because it is about survival in a city where what are  now areas for the rich, were once the slums and dominion of the poor and those who have, according to the colonial society, fallen from grace. Maggie Joel cleverly writes each character as dealing with their secrets separately but at the same time, united in trying to keep these secrets that will  eventually collide with tragic yet somewhat hopeful results, even if these results are not what should have happened for the individual characters.

Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max 4Title: Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: When does a secret become a lie? And how do you tell right from wrong when deception is all around you?

Kensy and Max are gearing up for their first Pharos review, a rite of passage with no room for failure. But juggling studies and the spy life isn’t without its complications. As the dust settles from their last mission, and family members find their place in the new world order, old tensions rise to the surface. There’s also the school play to prepare for – in rather different ways for each twin. However, the play soon takes a back seat as missing journalists and stolen objects see Kensy and Max embarking on a hair-raising ride to the City of Lights. Will they make it before it’s too late?

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In the fourth Kensy and Max book, the twins are reunited with their parents, and back at school, training to become agents of Pharos. They’re facing their first review, whilst coming to terms with their family being reunited – their parents and their grandparents, as well as their other relatives. Not everything is okay though, and as Kensy and Max return to school, and become involved in the school play – Romeo and Juliet in very different ways, danger lurks behind every corner, and they are soon on their way to Paris to uncover a secret theft ring – and all in time to get back for their review.

Picking up soon after the events of the third book, Kensy and Max: Undercover, Kensy and Max: Out of Sight is filled with excitement, codes and adventure. We’re getting to know them better and getting to know their parents – which is exciting. Their mother, Anna, is keen to go back to a life without spies and Pharos and is making sure all her qualifications for her job are in order. A new teacher at school, Theo Richardson, seems to be too good to be true for many students – and new student from Australia, Blair, starts poking her nose into the Pharos sections of the Central London Free School. Is Blair up to something nefarious, or just curious and nosy?

2019 BadgeAs usual, Kensy and Max are drawn into a mystery – uncovering stolen objects and missing journalists and are determined to find out what has happened – even if it means breaking a few rules.

Kensy and Max get better with each outing. Best friends as well as siblings, they’re wonderfully different, and are not stereotypes – Kensy loves pulling things apart and seeing how they work and making drones – and this book is no exception. Max prefers a quieter, more bookish approach, and when they combine their skills, and work together and with their friends, they get the job done.

This time, Morse code is used in the book and for the chapter headings and being able to decode the different ciphers in each book makes them interactive and fun for readers. I also love that the female characters are able to do anything they set their minds to – and Granny Cordelia and her Ducati, and ability to turn anything into something amazing for her family to practice their spy skills makes her one of the most intriguing characters in the books. In this one, she is firm but encouraging with Kensy and Max when talking about their training and review and training at Pharos, and in true Granny Cordelia style, she has managed to expand their home at Ponsonby Terrace to avoid a repeat of the events of book three, and concocts a story to ensure nobody pries into why she did it.

This is just as exciting and fast-paced as the first three, with an exceptional and perfect set-up for the trip to Paris, allowing for all elements of the storyline to be touched on, and I am wondering if Blair will return and what she might be up to or if she’s just going to be an innocent bystander – it will be interesting to see what happens with Blair, and where Kensy and Max go next in their spy adventures with their friends and family, and who they will run into. Of course, it will be a surprise – and it’s fantastic that these books are so interconnected.

A great book for all ages, that I absolutely loved.

Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 3.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off

Author: Delphine Davis

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin/Puffin

Published: 2nd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Grab your favourite booth at the Turtleville Tearooms and join Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell, Willow Wave and Olivia Ocean for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

Chloe’s holidays have started with a BANG – and not a good one! With the Tearooms closed for the holidays and an unexpected rival back in town, the besties need a MERMAZING PLAN to save the day.

Prepare for a underwater bake-off like no other!

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The third book in the Mermaid Holidays series sees Chloe, Sophia, Willow and Olivia back at Turtleville for the school holidays. While they are making plans for their time together before they go off to their separate schools again, they meet Chloe at her grandmother’s cafe, the Turtleville Tearooms. However, their plans are set aside when the kitchen of the Tearooms is destroyed when the oven explodes.

With her grandmother faced with closing it or paying lots of money to fix it, Chloe and her friends plan to raise money to save the tearooms – all while trying to outwit an old rival of Grandmer Carol who is determined to get her hands on the tearooms, and turn it into one of her own cafés.

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So the friends set to work, raising the money through a bake-off, so they can save their favourite hang-out from the clutches of Barbara Barnacle.  Can the girls save the day?

In their third outing, told from Chloe’s perspective this time, it is about friends uniting for a good cause, and displaying teamwork. This is an engaging, and fun to read series for early readers, and I am enjoying seeing what is on offer for kids these days, who have a myriad of Australian authors to choose from, which is exciting, and I love exploring these stories – not only because I love reading, and Australian fiction, but because it is so refreshing to see so many Australian authors around these days competing with international authors. Australian authors are getting much more attention these days, so Australians get to read their stories in a variety of ways.

I am looking forward to see how this series ends later in the year with the final book in the series.