April 2020 Round Up

In April, we found ourselves amidst a pandemic – and I found myself with an influx of review books, some quite long, and some not so long. As I usually do, I aim to read ahead in my review stack, to get things cleared, and posted or scheduled to save time. I’m still a bit behind, reading some books that should be on this list on the day of writing and posting. However, this is the case due to the fact that the books may have arrived after or a day before publication date due to the current overload of deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis we’re facing.

I’ve also been doing an Isolation Publicity series with Australian authors – which by the looks of things will take me into mid – late August at this stage, a month short of the planned lockdown. Some of these interviews are really exciting and make me wish I could share them now, but the schedule means everyone gets a special day for their interview. Many authors have had launches cancelled, festivals and appearance cancelled or moved online – which has meant a loss of income and has been detrimental to the arts sector. These authors need the love and publicity the book blogging community can give them so their work can get into the hands of readers.

I read 19 books this month, and all except The Austen Girls and The Unadoptables have a live review at this stage. The Austen Girls will be appearing around the 19th of May with several other reviews and posts. The latter is appearing in June. I also ticked off a few challenge categories – not as many as I had hoped, however, I am getting there and should hopefully have filled them all in by the end of the year.

April – 19

Book Author Challenge
The Deceptions Suzanne Leal AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue Yvette Poshoglian AWW2020, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
The Octopus and I Erin Hortle AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Big Trouble R.A. Spratt AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy
The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

 

L.D. Lapinski Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
Inheritance of Secrets Sonya Bates Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jane in Love Rachel Givney Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily
Persuasion Jane Austen Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
The Austen Girls Lucy Worsley Reading Challenge
The Unadoptables Hana Tooke Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: No Rules R.A. Spratt Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King Kate Simpson and Hess Racklyeft Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery Renée Treml Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Modern Mrs Darcy (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)
Shortlisted Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020 AU; Shortlisted Speech Pathology Award, Eight to Ten Years 2019 AU 
Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge
Ribbit Rabbit Robot Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Nim at Sea Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Rescue on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge

Books and Bites Bingo – Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

books and bites game card

Choosing a scary book was hard for me – I tend not to read much horror fiction that most people would classify as scary. So I always knew I would struggle with this square and how I would interpret it. As I move through this bingo, some squares have been open to interpretation, others not so much, and so I have been filling it as books fall across my path, whilst others, I have books planned – I just need to read them.

Scary, much like a book with bad reviews, is going to be subjective. With the book with a bad review – I chose that one because other people had given it a bad review, but it turned out that I didn’t want to continue with the series, especially after being inundated recently, and I do have one that I am putting off that will fit that square.

During this challenge, and all my reading challenges, I’ve been prioritising books based on release date, request or whether or not the author is taking part in my isolation publicity series – at least, that has been and remains, my goal.

Back to scary – what I find scary might not be what others find scary, yet at the same time, I recently read a book that I didn’t find scary all the time, but there were one or two scenes that gave me the shivers, and that sensitive readers might find scary and troubling. This is a book that is to be released on the 19th of May, and my review will be going live that day.

monstrous devices

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love has elements of scariness in it, or it did for me. The idea that a robot could come to life through magical or other means is a bit scary, because then it means the robot can think and act of its own volition and the consequences could be dire. This is why it fits here, because sometimes, it gets a bit frightening yet at the same time is still engrossing. It may not be as scary as traditional horror but there are some things that I just cannot bring myself to read, and that is one of them. Luckily, this one was also on my review pile so I’ve killed two birds with one stone to get this post done.

The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

NimsIsland_roughsTitle: The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island

Author: Wendy Orr

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th April 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: All three Nim novels – Nim’s IslandNim at Sea and Rescue on Nim’s Island – collected in one edition to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the original publication of Nim’s Island.

In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.
Nim’s hair was wild, her eyes were bright, and around her neck she wore three cords. One was for a spyglass, one for a whorly, whistling shell, and one for a fat red pocketknife in a sheath.

Nim lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, with her father, Jack, as well as a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica and a satellite dish for her email. No one else lives quite like Nim, and she wouldn’t swap places with anyone.

In Nim’s Island, when Jack disappears in his sailing boat and disaster threatens her home, Nim must be braver than she’s ever been before. And she needs help from her friends old and new. This book was adapted as a major motion picture starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine).

In Nim at Sea, Nim’s new friend Alex Rover flies away without saying goodbye, and Selkie the sea lion is captured by villains from a cruise ship. Nim must risk everything to bring them back. A second major motion picture was inspired by this story, and screened as Return to Nim’s Island, starring Bindi Irwin.

In Rescue on Nim’s Island, Nim unearths an amazing fossil, but this discovery puts her island in terrible danger. Nim must choose between saving a natural treasure and saving someone’s life.

~*~

We first meet Nim as she watches the Troppo Tourist boat from her tree on the island she lives on with her father, Jack. Nim’s mother went missing while investigating the stomach of a blue whale when Nim was a baby, and father and daughter have lived on the island for many years. But with Jack missing, Nim reaches out to her favourite novelist, Alex Rover – who is not adventurous at all.

This is a delightful book, filled with fun, and animals and curiosity. Nim is a delightful character, and just as one might imagine her to be. She knows nothing but her life on the island, yet that doesn’t quench her curiosity. This book lovingly introduces readers to the island and the characters. I felt the island was the kind of island that could be found anywhere in the world, and at times, found myself imagining some of the islands off Australia as Nim’s home.

AWW2020When Alex arrives, things get interesting, and the novel cleverly explores Nim, Alex and Jack in simple yet effective ways when the perspective is changed, and this provides a more well-rounded story, though the majority of it belongs to Nim. The light-hearted mystery and search is wonderful for middle grade readers, and should be perfect for children who don’t like scary things. It has a great sense of humour. This is a perfect sequel, and I loved that it wasn’t too scary but had enough worry within the plot to feed the action and the story, and move the plot along at a really good pace.

In the second book, Alex has flown away and Nim finds herself trapped on the Troppo Tourist boat as she searches for Selkie, who has been kidnapped. Nim must band together with her new friends to rescue Selkie, find Alex, and get back to her island. But to do so, Nim must outsmart the Professor. This delightful follow-on from the first book takes place soon after those events, and is a other light-hearted adventure – with a sinister character in it, yet told in a way that much like the first book, is fun and not overly scary for younger readers. The story is full pf hope that Nim will rescue Selkie and find Alex and is an adventure that is lots of fun to go on.

Finally, in Rescue on Nim’s Island, Nim and her new friends must find a way to protect the beauty of the island from evil scientists who have a habit of destroying things and taking credit for the work of others. Can Nim and her new friends save the island? Again, it was paced well, with a few scarier of worrying moments but not enough that it will terrify younger readers. These moments moved the plot along and the characters and readers are allowed to be worried and scared – they do not have to hide it. After all, they are just children. Clever children who know exactly how they can save each other and the island.

Each novel cleverly follows on from each other – and they are tied together not only by characters and story arcs, but by the opening lines, about Nim with her spyglass. These alter slightly in each one after we’re initially introduced to Nim. This gives a sense of connection and familiarity for readers. Each story also follows on from the other yet gives a brief recount of what has come before, so can be read one after the other or individually, though I think it will be lots more fun to read them all as a series. This was my first time reading Nim – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is something magical about someone like Nim and her life, and it was such a joy to read this. I have seen the movie with Abigail Breslin – and found out after seeing it that it was a book first – as has happened with several movies. Often the movies change or take things out – yet with this one, the book and movie felt fairly close to each other. I am planning on watching the movie again as well.

The overall narrative arc is mainly Nim’s adventures on the island – with everything else in the plot moving along so she can have her fun and play with her animal friends. It is one that was enjoyable and fun to escape into, and is a really great read for all ages – kids’ books shouldn’t have an age limit! If you’re like me, and enjoy them, go for it and read them! Wendy Orr has created such a fun and creative world – with a light look at what it means to care for the environment and grapples with right and wrong in each of her books, and how people each face challenges very differently.

This is a delightful little series, and I hope Nim finds a new legion of fans through this 21st anniversary edition.

 

 

 

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

strangeworldsTitle: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency
Author: L.D. Lapinski
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orion/Hachette Australia
Published: 28th April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 380
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of THE TRAIN TO IMPOSSIBLE PLACES and THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS’ CLUB.
At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .
Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of THE TRAIN TO IMPOSSIBLE PLACES and THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS’ CLUB.
At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds.
But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening, she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it.
A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

~*~

A suitcase is an ordinary object – something you pack to take on holiday. Not so in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency in Little Wyvern. When twelve-year-old Flick and her family move from the large city to the smaller town of Little Wyvern, exploring her new town during the summer has Flick stumbling across an old shop called Strangeworlds Travel Agency – which to most people, might just seem like a travel agency you can book holidays with. But to Jonathon Mercator, the Custodian of the agency, and Flick Hudson, it is something else. It is a place of portals to new worlds, traversed by members of the secret Strangeworlds Society, a multiverse that is in trouble when Flick uncovers something that Jonathon says nobody has been able to do for generations.

So begins Flick’s adventures, jumping in and out of suitcases with Jonathon as she learns about her gift, the multiverse and Strangeworlds, until she discovers why Jonathon really needs her – and it has to do with something she’s able to see in the suitcases that he can’t. When Flick begins to break the rules to find out what is going on, she finds out she needs to fix things before every world including hers, vanishes.

This was a fantastic read, taking the idea of portals into new worlds, and creating something new. In every chapter, Flick travels, so it is also almost like a fictional travel memoir of the journeys Flick and Jonathon take into various worlds, a log of their quest and journeys. It all seems impossible, but in the world of Little Wyvern, anything is possible, and the consequences of staying in a world longer then you should – for time moves differently in each world, and you need to be mindful of this. L.D. Lapinski has taken all those classic elements – magic, portals and a new town, and a child who is either an orphan, or has parents who are always away, and brought them together into something fresh and new. I’m curious to see whether this is a standalone, or the beginning of a new series – either way, it works for both, and allows the reader scope to imagine what could happen next. It is the perfect middle grade book, and I think anyone who wishes to read it. It has that sense of magic that books like Narnia have, in its ability to enchant and transport readers to worlds beyond what they’re living and experiencing.

This was a great middle grade book, and works well as a stand-alone, but equally well as the start of a new series. I loved escaping to Little Wyvern, and visiting again would be fun.

World Book Day 2020

Happy WORLD BOOK DAY

Today, the 23rd of April, we celebrate World Book Day, and William Shakespeare’s birthday. It is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day, and the National Library of Australia notes that it also marks the deaths of William Shakespeare (I know, he died the same day he was born, about fifty-two years later), and Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I’ve done the tour of three of the historic houses linked to the playwright.

World Book Day celebrates a love of reading, and this year, they are encouraging people to share the love of reading from home – while we’re all in isolation and unable to head out. I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment – mostly for review and working on a series called Isolation Publicity series which is highlighting as many Australian authors as possible, especially those impacted by the cancellation of events, festivals and launches of their upcoming releases – some are debut authors, and some have had many works published. Yet they all need love at the moment and blogging about books and sharing books is a small way we can #StayAtHome during #WorldBookDay and share the love of reading.

So on World Book Day, grab a good book if you can and read!

Today, I have several books on the go:

The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive (out 28th of April 2020)

Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love (Out 19th May 2020)

The Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

All four will be reviewed on my blog in the coming days or weeks, and I have many more to get through – the scheduling tool is super helpful here. You can follow progress of readers in this time via the hashtag #AustraliaReadsAtHome as well.

In relation to World Book Day, in September, The Australian Reading Hour with Australia Reads  is coming up in September, but instead of one hour, there are seventeen days of fun leading up to the main event on the 17th of September, where the aim is to have one million people reading the same book at the same time. Each year there is a different book for National Simultaneous Story Time. Your own individual hour can take place whenever and wherever you wish.

I linked these two events in today’s post because they both highlight the importance of books, reading and literacy, and so you can prepare for the September event! More information will come about this event later, about what will be happening during the first two weeks of September.

Books and Bites Bingo Written by someone called Jane

books and bites game card

Ticking off another square – this time a book written by someone called Jane. It might seem a touch obvious to go with Jane Austen – which I did. But in a pinch, it worked, and as I am working on getting some discussion around Jane Austen’s books in a reading group. And Persuasion was our first pick – hopefully, with the others to follow.

persuasion

As Jane Austen’s final completed novel, Persuasion is quite different to something like Pride and Prejudice – yet both contend with social pressures of making the right match, and concerns about money and appearances in society. Both involve love, yet it is more about the journey than the end goal – and this is perhaps what makes these novels so appealing and timeless – everything leads up to the end goal – marriage, love, the right thing to do in terms of society. The rest is a social commentary on why these are goals and why someone might be more acceptable than someone else.

Hopefully I can get through the rest of her books over the next few months – this square could have any book in it – well, as long as the author is called Jane! I am at least making progress in ticking the squares off, and am looking forward to getting to some of the other squares soon.

Book Bingo Four 2020 – Themes of Inequality

Book bingo 2020

Welcome back to book bingo with Theresa, Amanda and myself. And now we are well into April, and I am ticking off my fourth square, Themes of Inequality with The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz. Here, inequality is shown it all its forms, depicting one of the most horrific events of inequality. The first official transport discussed in this book, that was well-researched by the author in collaboration with survivors of that transport, their descendants and relevant Jewish and Holocaust organisations, shows that there are gaps in our knowledge about the Holocaust.

 

the 900

Here is an untold story beyond the numbers, beyond the tattoos. It is made up of extensive research, interviews and collaboration with those from the first transport who survived, and the author acknowledges in her introduction and throughout, where there are gaps, and where she has had to infer what was said based on descriptions of what happened where testimony is lacking. I have said more in my review about this, so won’t repeat it too much here, but this book fits this square nicely, and without knowing what else I’ll come across this year, I’m electing books for squares as I read, and writing these up as I go.