Wrap Up #2: My Year in Reading 2017.  

Wrap Up post #2 – My Year in Reading 2017.  

2017 was a busy reading year for me. It was the year my blog picked up a little bit more, and I managed to read more review books. Overall, I read 121 books. Fifty-five of those were by Australian women writers, although I didn’t manage to read all six books I initially hoped to read for the challenge, I did read most of them, as well as many others that came across my path. There are at least two of the three I initially hoped to include that I did not get to, nor did I get to some of the books I have read but wanted to read again. I did achieve my goal to read books by Lynette Noni, Kate Forsyth and Sulari Gentill, though, as well as many others including the entire Matilda Saga by Jackie French, including the latest book, Facing the Flame.

Of the overall count, ninety-two were women writers, with more than half being Australian Women Writers. Eighteen were male authors or the exhibition catalogues for the Harry Potter exhibit at the British Library. A quick glance over my list, and my most read genres appear to be fantasy and historical fiction.

Of these books, it is hard to pick a favourite, and that will have to be another post, as there are a few that need to be included. As 2017 ends and 2018 begins, I am thinking about my next challenges. I will again sign up for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and read as many books as I can by Australian Women Writers. I will continue writing reviews from publishers with the goal of keep on top of each lot of books as they come in, and endeavour to get the reviews up by release date if they come before, or as soon as I can if they arrive after the book has been released – a system I have always used that has helped me prioritise books.

I am also hoping to stick to reading what I like, and not waste time on things I struggle with. I always let the publisher know if this happens, and so far, it hasn’t been an issue. I don’t have specific goals to focus on certain authors or genres, other than to try and read more Australian authors and more Australian female authors, and to continue supporting them.

la belle sauvage

Below is my completed list of reading for 2017. It includes all the challenge reads, and the individual lists can be seen in the wrap up posts for those challenges. I hope these lists and reviews have helped you find something new to read.

 

2017 reading log

 

  1. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell
  2. A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French
  3. The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
  4. The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French
  5. Frostblood by Elly Blake
  6. The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French
  7. The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  8. New York Nights by C.J. Duggan
  9. To Love a Sunburnt Country by Jackie French
  10. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  11. Love, Lies, and Linguine by Hilary Spiers
  12. The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
  13. The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French
  14. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  15. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  16. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French
  17. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
  18. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
  19. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  20. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
  21. Stasi Wolf by David Young
  22. Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan
  23. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  24. Frogkisser by Garth Nix
  25. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  26. Ariadnis by Josh Martin
  27. Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
  28. A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart
  29. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
  30. Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton
  31. Billy Sing by Ouyang Yu
  32. Draekora by Lynette Noni
  33. Stay with Me by Ayóbámi Adèbáyò
  34. The Mysterious Mr Jacob: Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy by John Zubrzycki
  35. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  36. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander)
  38. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet by Jennifer Gall
  39. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  40. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  41. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  42. A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly
  43. Singing my Sister Down by Margo Lanagan
  44. Under the Same Sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, and Milad Jafari with James Knight
  45. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  46. Disappearing off the Face of the Earth by David Cohen
  47. Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine
  48. Girl in Between by Anna Daniels

49, Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

  1. Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl
  2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
  3. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin
  4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
  5. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  6. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  7. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins
  8. Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
  9. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
  10. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless.
  11. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  12. The Pacific Room by Michael Fitzgerald
  13. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood
  14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw 20th Anniversary Edition)
  15. Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters
  16. Tell It to The Dog by Robert Power
  17. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  18. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  19. Siren by Rachel Matthews.
  20. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
  21.  J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook
  22. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  23. Her by Garry Disher
  24. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting
  25. Ava’s Big Move by Mary Van Reyk
  26. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  27. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  28. The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War Two by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
  29. The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War by Peter Stanley
  30. Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
  31. The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
  32. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  33. Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing by Daniel Tammet
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  36. The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan
  37. The Last Hours by Minette Walters
  38. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
  39. The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux
  40. Barney Greatrex by Michael Veitch
  41. Soon by Lois Murphy
  42. A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill
  43. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  44. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  45. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
  47. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  48. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  49. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  50. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  51. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
  52. The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington
  53. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  54. Sleep No More by PD James
  55. Five Go Down Under by Sophie Hamley (inspired by the original series by Enid Blyton
  56. Wolf Children by Paul Dowsell
  57. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  58. The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  59. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  60. The Boy Made from Snow by Chloë Mayer
  61. Harry Potter: A History of Magic – British Library exhibition catalogue.
  62.  Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  1. Facing the Flame by Jackie French
  2. Murder on Christmas Eve by Cecily Gayford
  3. Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow
  4. After I’m Gone by Linda Green
  5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  6. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan (2018 Release)
  7. Rain Fall by Ella West (2018 Release)
  8. Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett
  9. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

121. Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

 

Books 117 and 118 are to be released on the 2nd of January 2018, so the reviews will be live on the blog on that day.

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Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

 

 

aww2017-badge2017 was the first year I took part in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and it was the sixth year it has been running. Keen to read more Australian Women Writers and raise the profile of our wonderfully talented female authors, I signed up in early January 2017, as a way to keep myself occupied whilst building my blog, and to read more local literature. To start, I initially made a list of books I wanted to read, including The Beast’s Garden (a re-read that I never got to), anything new from Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill, a couple of books I had obtained over Christmas, and A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French. This list was my base, and from there, within the first month, I had completed my goal with the entirety of The Matilda Saga by Jackie French, and several review books that weren’t quite my style, but that I passed on to those who did enjoy them. From there, many of the books I read were review books from publishers, all genres, growing my list substantially, so I had more than doubled my initial goal by April of the year – perhaps even tripled it by then. So I kept reading, devouring fantasy, historical fiction and crime as my favourite genres for the year.

Three of my favourite authors – Kate Forsyth, Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill released new books this year, all read and reviewed. I was lucky enough to participate in a series of reviews to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2018 of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and discovered a new favourite author, Jessica Townsend, author of Nevermoor. Book two will hopefully be out in 2018 and it is one I am eager to read when it does come out.

nevermoor

I pledged to read six and review at least four books – Miles level. However, as is evident by the list below, I far exceeded that, reading and reviewing fifty-five books in total. I have no plans to purposely surpass this next year, though if I do, it will be a lovely surprise and an accomplishment for me. I have linked each review in this post as well so clicking on a title will take you to that review.

Bring on 2018 and many more reads!AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

  1. A Waltz for Matilda (Matilda Saga #1) by Jackie French
  2. The Girl from Snowy River (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  3. The Road to Gundagai (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  4. To Love a Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French
  5. New York Nights by CJ Duggan
  6. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  7. The Ghost by The Billabong (Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French
  8. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle (Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French
  9. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  11. Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3_ by Lynette Noni
  12. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  13. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
  14. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  15. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  16. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  17. The Song of Us by JD Barrett
  18. Singing My Sister Down and other stories by Margo Lanagan
  19. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  20. Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood
  21. Girl In Between by Anna Daniels
  22. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  23. Beauty in the Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  24. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless
  25. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  26. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #4)
  27. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  28. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  29. Siren by Rachel Matthews
  30. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  31. Ava’s Big Move by Mary van Reyk
  32. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  33. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  36. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  37. Soon by Lois Murphy
  38. A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair #8) by Sulari Gentill
  39. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  40. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  41. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  42. The Green Mill Murders by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #5)
  43. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  44. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  45. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlpie by May Gibbs
  47. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  48. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  49. Enid Blyton For Adults: Five Go Down Under – text by Sophie Hamley
  50. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  51. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  52. Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  53. Facing the Flame by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #7)
  54. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  55. Vasilisa the Wise by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

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Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

 

In my third wrap up post for 2017, I am looking at my favourite reads of the year. Over the past twelve months of reading so many books, narrowing down my favourites has been quite hard. There are definitely a few that stick out, though. Deciding how many to include in my favourites for the year was a challenge as well. Three wasn’t enough, five barely covered them and ten seems like the next logical number. However, when it came to ranking the books I chose, I found that it was impossible to do so, because I loved them all equally and for different reasons, so to place one book ahead of another didn’t feel right. With a goal of at least ten favourite reads, more if I need them, I have compiled this list. I have listed them as I thought of them, and linked my review. My one stipulation was that the books on this list had to be published this year. I settled on … books in the end, as these were the ones that really stood out to me as exceptional for a variety of reasons.

 

nevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend – a debut Children’s and YA novel about a cursed chid,Morrigan Crow, who is whisked off to the Wundrous land of Nevermoor to compete for a chance at a place at the academy there, and to escape the death that all children born on Eventide must face at the age of eleven. It has been compared to Harry Potter, and it has that some wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. With book two out later in 2018, I am anxious to find out what will happen to Mog, Jupiter North and Fen the cat, who became my favourite character rather quickly. I devoured it in two days, and look forward to reading it again.

 

 

Facing the FlameFacing the Flame by Jackie French – the seventh book in the Matilda Saga takes place a few years after the solemn end of If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Jed Kelly is getting married, and is going to have a baby. In the final days of her pregnancy, Jed must run from the fire and an old adversary to save her life, and her baby. As the fire closes in on Gibber’s Creek, lives will be lost and found, and Jed’s world changes forever. The Matilda Saga is one of my favourite series, and with a new book out each year, I look forward to reuniting with the families of Gibbers Creek each December.

 

 

stars across the oceanStars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman – The story of foundling baby, Agnes Resolute, determined to find her birth mother, whom she thinks is Genevieve Breckby. A journey from the foundling home to London and across the world will lead her to her real mother. It is a story about a strong young woman, determined not to let anything stop her, but a woman of her time as well, finding ways to fit in whilst taking her fate into her own hands. It also tells the dual storyline of a young woman in the 21st century, caring for her mother, and following the journey of Agnes that her mother has been researching. It has a touch of romance that happens as a result

of events in the story, rather than driving the plot. It was a good read, and definitely one of my favourites.

 

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – a favourite

BeautyinThorns_Cover

reads list of mine would not be complete without Kate Forsyth’s latest fairy tale infused historical fiction novel.  Beauty in Thorns is about the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art society, primarily the women w

ho inspired the words and paintings of their husbands and lovers and fathers, and what they contributed. In a world where women were expected to raise children and run a household, the Pre-Raphaelite women did this and inspired the men in their lives, and some even contributed their own artistic talents to exhibitions. Exquisitely told, with the flaws as well as the strengths present, Kate Forsyth is a master at telling the little-known stories of women in history, and bringing historical characters such as Lizzie Siddal to life with her words.

 

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill another author whose books I eagerly await each year is Sulari Gentill, primarily her Rowland Sinclair series. Eight books in, and poor Rowly keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting embroiled in murder and mayhem, and involved in the left side of the political spectrum, far from what his brother, Wilfred, wishes he would do. Several months after the total destruction of his Mercedes in a race that almost claimed his life, Rowland is car shopping in Melbourne with Milt, the Jewish Communist poet, and Clyde, a working-class painter, for a new car. On the drive back from Melbourne, they stop in Canberra, where a Communist is murdered, and soon, both Rowly and Milt find their lives in jeopardy. Set in the 1930s as worldwide political tensions lead to the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the devastation of the Second World War, each book gets more political, and Sulari manages this with great skill, ensuring an engaging series that I feel gets better with each book.

 

into the worldInto the World by Stephanie Parkyn – Another historical fiction novel by a debut Australian female author, and another book I read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as all the books so far have been. Set during the French Revolution of the 1790s, Marie-Louise Giradin leaves her son with a trusted friend, and, disguised as a man, travels on a journey to find La Perouse, lost at sea in the Southern Oceans around the newly colonised Australia. Her journey takes her to Tasmania, where the stories she has heard are far from the truth of what she sees here and on stops along the way, where she tries to speak out, horrified when she sees the slave trade in full swing. It is a journey that is full of surprises – where Marie Louise and the crew find that they may never reach the shores of their beloved France again after Louis XIV is beheaded. It was delightful to read a novel where the woman’s primary role was one of strength and courage, and where women were shown to do things beyond what society expected them to do. A great story, and an enjoyable one.

 

draekoraDraekora by Lynette Noni – Returning to Akarnae and its world each year is a pleasure Set just after the events of Raelia, Alex, Bear and D.C. must find a way to save Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven, the Meyarin Prince who seeks to reclaim their world at any cost. Sent to Meya, and thousands of years into the past, Alex must find a way to get back, and complete her testing and training before she can face Aven. In this fantasy series, each book has been engaging and enthralling, with a strong focus on friendship as the primary relationships in the novel. With Graevale out in a matter of months, this is definitely making my list of favourite books I have read this year, and I am looking forward to Graevale.

 

baby ganesh 3The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan Up until now, each book has been by an Australian female author, and mostly fantasy or historical fiction. The Baby Ganesh series is set in Mumbai, and revolves around a private detective, Chopra, investigating crimes with his trusty elephant, Ganesha, who loves Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate. The pair often insert themselves into investigations, much to the dismay of Chopra’s formidable wife, Poppy, and end up getting into scrapes that young Ganesha manages to get them out of. In the third book, a famous Bollywood star has gone missing, and Chopra and Ganesha are on the trail. A few rough turns take them to unexpected places, and with an ending that was surprising this series has a character to it that few I have read do.

 

bedlam stacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – In what I feel can only be described as historical fiction infused with magical realism, this was one of the most interesting books I read this year. As smuggler Merrick Tremayne is at home, he is summoned to go on an expedition to South America to find quinine to help with malaria outbreaks in East India. What Tremayne and his companions find has them questioning what they know, and how to deal with the world as they have understood and known it. What was clever about this book was that it felt like a historical fiction until nearer the end, when the subtle hints towards the magical realism in the book started to come together. Cleverly done so the reader gets a surprise, I hope that Natasha Pulley writes some more books like this.

 

rotherweirdRotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – This one, set in a town that lives in the current times but whose lives mimic those of Shakespearean times, made the list for its inventiveness, and clever execution, much like Bedlam Stacks. It is part historical fiction, part fantasy, with each section opening and closing with a snippet of the history of the town that history teacher, Jonah Oblong has come to teach in. Cast away from Elizabethan England, Rotherweird seems to have moved on in years but is stuck in a time when a Virgin Queen sat on the throne and a playwright who charmed audiences in the Globe Theatre. It is a place full of anachronisms, cleverly used, and where local history and pre-1800 history is not taught. I look forward to the next book, and what it brings to the mystery and intrigue of this anachronistic little town.

 

Of course, there are many more that I loved, but these are amongst my favourites and the ones that made me think and that offered something a little bit different to some other books out there. Bring on 2018!

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Book Muse, Ashleigh

 

 

 

Wrap Up #1: 2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge

Children who know adults who read

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

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

Here’s to the next challenge!

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

2017 Reading Challenge

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

singing my sister down

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

edge-of-everything

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

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

GB-CE

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

frostblood

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

frogkisser

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

history-of-wolves

A National Book Award Winner: Three read for this category

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

Book: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 undergroud railroad

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

Book: The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić

 the lost pages

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

Book: The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman

light between oceans

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

new-york-nights

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

Billy-Sing-front-cover-for-publicity

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

 a-waltz-for-matilda

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

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

elephant whisperer

A fantasy novel: Draekora by Lynette Noni

draekora

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

stay with me

A book by a female writer: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

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

we come apart

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

baby ganesh 3

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

under the same sky

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

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

the-bombs-that-brought-us-together

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

memoirs of a polar bear

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

 

light between oceans

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

Buy the books I read in this challenge here:

Booktopia

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

BeautyinThorns_CoverTitle: Beauty in Thorns

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Vintage

Published: 3rd of July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 465

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets.

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention. 

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum. 

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love. 

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.

~*~

aww2017-badgeKate Forsyth’s fortieth novel, Beauty in Thorns reimagines the Sleeping Beauty fairy tail, using the well-known version of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and the world of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets working to free art from the conventional prison that the Victorian world tried to isolate and suffocate it in. The stories of Ned Burne-Jones and his wife, Georgie, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his many affairs and obsession with model Lizzie Siddal, William Morris, and Ned Burne-Jones’s daughter were all caught up in this life of perfecting art and the paintings of Briar Rose, and the betrayal of lovers and husbands, rushing into the arms of muses who wished to tear them away from their families. The lives are tragic and romantic, hopeful and realistic, showing the depths and flaws of these characters.

Sweeping across the latter half of the nineteenth century, we meet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and New Burne-Jones as they enter the art world and find models for their paintings, and they fall in love and out of love. Rossetti’s favourite model, Lizzie Siddal, falls ill during a sitting and following her illness, becomes addicted to laudanum and uses her addiction to the drug and obsession to pull Rossetti towards her, and their tragic relationship faces many ups and downs, the final tragedy striking suddenly and harshly amongst the group of friends and lovers.

Whilst the men painted and had their works exhbited and commissioned, the women wrote poetry and painted too, with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sister, Christina, author of poems such as Goblin Market, making a few appearances, and other authors, such as Rudyard Kipling, appearing as infants, part of one of the families, and eventually, as Kate_Forsythadults in the world of art and poetry their parents raised them in. Lizzie, Georgie, Janey and the other models share in their jealousy of each other, and desire to have the men they love to themselves, but they are more than that – they wish to be recognised in their own right as artists and poets, not just wives and mothers, or lovers and models. Beauty in Thorns is a novel full of complex characters whose desires in all aspects of their lives drive them, and influence the decisions they make. I found Georgie and Ned’s story to be the most hopeful – they stayed together through thick and thin, and Georgie didn’t sacrifice her sense of self to become a wife and mother. It is a story of women who fit into their time period, but at the same time, step out of the conventions they were born into and forge their own paths, sometimes separate from the men in their lives, sometimes alongside them, and at times, they do both, creating intrigue within the plot, pulling the reader along towards the conclusion of a story filled with tragedy at times, but hope at others.

Each peripheral character impacted dynamics too, and the group was shaken at times of death and tragedy, but pulled through, showing the strength of family and friendship, not just romantic love in the Pre-Raphaelite community. Even the well-known authors mentioned by name or who make brief appearances such as Rudyard Kipling bring an interest to the story, and cement the setting with mention of their works and inspirations, perhaps hinting at other possible stories to be told. I was unaware of Rudyard Kipling’s familial link to the Pre-Raphaelites prior to reading this, and I hope to be able to look further into it, and read his works, and Christina Rossetti’s works, in a new light.

Beauty in Thorns is a book of beauty, from the cover to the story and characters within. It weaves a magic spell around the reader, and using the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, there are hints as to who the Sleeping Beauty of the Pre-Raphaelites was: Was it Lizzie Siddal, perfect even in death? Or Margot Burne-Jones, her father’s muse, and the child he desired to keep at home, young and innocent, free from the heartbreak of love that he and his friends had experienced? Or is it both, Lizzie sleeping, Margot awake, yet feeling as though she isn’t, and longing for love to awaken her? Having read the novel, I think both are Sleeping Beauty in a way, and Kate Forsyth has conveyed this through beautiful language and imagery that flows delightfully across the page and envelops the reader as though in a warm, comforting blanket.

In each of her books, Kate Forsyth works magic with her words, weaving a spell around characters – whether inspired by real people, imagined or a fictional yet believable image of a historical figure, artist or poet – and creating a world to escape into. Her historical fiction is exceptionally well researched, and Beauty in Thorns is no exception. Using history and fairy tales as inspiration, Kate Forsyth has created a world that I didn’t want to leave, and a book that I wanted to savour yet devour at the same time. I ended up devouring it in two days, as I often do with her books. This is usually the sign of a good book for me, and an intriguing story that combined many themes of family, love, friendship and tragedy, much like The Beast’s Garden, which I am hoping to read again this year.

Another exceptional novel from one of Australia’s favourite storytellers, a true master of the story, Kate Forsyth, Beauty in Thorns is sure to appeal to lovers of historical fiction, fairy tales and Kate’s other works. I look forward to her future novels as well.

Booktopia

Blog Tour: Girl In Between by Anna Daniels

Title: Girl In Betweenimage004

Author: Anna Daniels

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 314

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Life can be tricky when you’re a girl in between relationships, careers and cities… and sometimes you have to face some uncomfortable truths. The sparkling debut from comic TV and radio presenter, Anna Daniels.

Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise… who are her parents. She’s also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old… kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents’ new next-door neighbour… well, maybe just a little.

When you’re the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths… like your Mum’s obsession with Cher, your father’s unsolicited advice, and the fact there’s probably more cash on the floor of your parents’ car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy’s crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Anna Daniels is a natural-born comedian. She originally set out to write a screenplay that was part Muriel’s Wedding, part The Castle. Instead, she wrote Girl In Between, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Vogel’s Award. She says ‘I’ve always loved comedy which not only makes you laugh but also pulls at your heartstrings. I think a lot of people may be able to relate to Lucy’s story!’

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

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aww2017-badgeSet in Rockhampton, and London, Girl in Between is a story about the cross roads of life that Lucy Crighton, in her early thirties, is faced with. At her age, stuck between jobs, and living at home while she works towards her dream of becoming published, and recovering from a relationship that ended recently, and that she would rather forget, Lucy is in a rut. On one side, she has her parents nagging about the real world and real jobs, and at times, their slightly embarrassing jokes. On the other, her best friend Rosie, working part time, chummy with her parents, and pushing Lucy into the arms of the son of a new neighbour, and conspiring with her mother, Denise. Combine that with the re-emergence of her ex, and Lucy has become the Girl n Between: in between relationships, in between careers, in between life.

Lucy Crighton lives with her parents – Brian and Denise, a ten-year-old kelpie called Glenda, and her mother’s obsession with Cher, and a variety of hobbies that come in and out of the house all the time. Her best friend, Rosie, makes herself at home. And the people who drift in and out of their lives in Rockhampton are just as quirky and interesting, and they all ensure a story full of fun and laughs, where big mouths get people into trouble and reveal things that shouldn’t be revealed. Through a series of mistakes that anyone can make, each character is shown to be not so perfect – a refreshing change in a novel with a hint of romance, as having characters in a romance who aren’t flawed and who are perfect and where finding their path isn’t complicated can be boring. Lucy’s journey to where she finally ends up certainly isn’t boring.

There is romance in this novel, however, I quite liked that it took a while to develop and that Lucy didn’t jump into it head first, rather she floundered, and travelled and tried different things. The London chapters were perhaps my favourite, as I felt like I was there, and working with Lucy in Scribe. As an aspiring author and book lover, and someone in their thirties, I could identify with Lucy, and hopefully others will too. She’s not perfect – she has her flaws, and like characters such as Bridget Jones and Nina Proudman, she makes mistakes, and at times, seems to fumble her way around life – but we all do. That is what makes characters like Lucy so relatable.

In a story about life and the choices we make, and the people in our lives, Girl in Between is fun and contemporary, with a creatively driven character who is unwilling to settle for things but at the same time, is faced with choices that must be made, and a character who has her ups and downs. In a story where these are embraced and not swept away under the carpet, Girl in Between by Anna Daniels gives readers after something a little more in their romance novels, where romance occurs but isn’t necessarily the goal a book to enjoy. It is a story about cross roads and discovering yourself, and how things work out – and where you end up in life. The eventual romance bubbled and simmered as the story went along, which made if more enjoyable for me, as I got to experience Lucy as she found her way in life without worrying about falling in love: it was something that just happened.

Girl in Between is a delightful and funny story about finding yourself at a point in your life were not everything is working out, and finding a way to make it work.

 

Girl in Between by Anna Daniels is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.

Find Anna here on social media:

• Twitter: @annadtweets
• Insta: @annamdanielsAnna Daniels
• Website: http://www.annamdaniels.com

 

Poisoned Waters by Ermisenda Alvarez

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I was lucky enough to read this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy to help out the author, a fellow Goodreads member. It is the first ARC book I have had the privilege to read and review for the author as part of the blog tour for the book.   Poisoned Waters begins innocently enough by introducing the audience to the players in the game, but it is clear that something will happen that will soon come to affect each and everyone as the book progresses towards the murder that drives the plot and unfolds over the space of a couple of days in the book. The pace of the story is enjoyable and suitable for the plot, I felt.   As I read eagerly, not wanting to put it aside at night, I tried to solve the murder with the clues I had alongside the spectacular cast of characters Alvarez has created. The revelations that came with the conclusion of the book and the events that led to these shocked me, for the killer and their motives were not entirely what I had expected, and I was very surprised at the end.   I enjoyed the many twists and turns in both plot and character, and I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy the genre of crime and whodunit.

This post has been part of the Poisoned Waters Blog Tour. Poisoned Waters is a thrilling mystery set on a trans-Atlantic cruise where a murderer walks amongst passengers.

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