The third square I am marking off is a book set in Europe. With this one, I had many countries, genres, time periods and authors to choose from that are on my shelf and will be headed my way. However, as my goal is to mark off the easier categories in all challenges first, with one book per book bingo square but knowing that other challenges may well have multiple entries and books, as they are fairly open. If this happens, then it is fine for me – it will just mean a more detailed list at the end!
Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn is set in post-Revolutionary France, also known as the Terror at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. People are still feeling uneasy with the new way of things on all sides, and in the midst of these politics and politics of gender expectations and family, Josephine Bonaparte creates a garden at her home, Malmaison while her husband heads off on campaigns around Europe to take land for France and its empire.
Whilst Napoleon has his sights set on growing France within Europe, Josephine is focused on her small section of Europe, her little world that she has created, away from the memories of the Terror, yet there are still worries about it at the back of her mind.
So there are three squares already checked off in this book bingo challenge! I am sure some will be more challenging, yet in checking off the easier ones as early as possible, I will be able to focus on those as I get closer and try to get those done as well.
My second book bingo card, the Books and Bites Bingo Card, is a more casual one for me. I’ll post as I fill a square, rather than on a schedule as I am with the other one, and ideally, one post per square for better clarity. So this is my post for my second square – written in the first person.
There were many options I could go with here, that I have read, am reading and that I could read in the coming weeks and months. However, as there are other categories to fill in this and all my challenges, I chose one that I read just after New Year.
Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium is the fifth in the Pippa’s Island series by Belinda Murrell. Pippa tells these stories as she adjusts to life on an Kira Island after moving there with her mum, brother and sister from England. Across five books, Pippa has told her story as she has made friends and watched her new home being built. I’m hoping there are more to come, but for now, I will be content knowing Pippa has her home, family and friends, and this book has managed to tick off several different challenge categories.
Synopsis: A captivating story of love, nature and identity in Napoleon’s France
‘Stephanie Parkyn is one very talented storyteller.’ -Mrs B’s Book Reviews
France, 1794. In the aftermath of the bloody end to the French Revolution, Rose de Beauharnais stumbles from prison on the day she is to be guillotined. Within a decade, she’ll transform into the scandalous socialite who marries Napoleon Bonaparte, become Empress Josephine of France and build a garden of wonders with plants and animals she gathers from across the globe.
But she must give Bonaparte an heir or she risks losing everything.
Two other women from very different spheres are tied to the fate of the Empress Josephine – Marthe Desfriches and Anne Serreaux. Their lives are put at risk as they each face confronting obstacles in their relationships and in their desire to become mothers.
From the author of Into the World comes a richly imagined historical novel about obsession, courage, love and marriage.
‘Enthralling novel, rich in historical detail … Highly recommended.’ –Good Reading on Into the World
Set in the days after the Terror, the French Revolution, Josephine’s Garden is the story of three women – Josephine Bonaparte, Marthe Desfriches, and Anne Serreaux. These three women have lived through revolution in different ways. Josephine, also known as Rose, has lost her husband to the guillotine and is now wed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Marthe Desfriches has lost two husbands, one to war, and is onto her third marriage to Jacques Labillardiere, a botanist who made an appearance in Into the World, along with other characters like Robespierre. Anne Serreaux, married to another botanist, becomes friends with Josephine as a garden grows at Josephine’s home – made up of plants and animals from New Holland, cultivated by Josephine and her botanists as Napoleon fights his way across Europe.
He demands an heir from Josephine – something she had been struggling to give him, and she must allow her children from her first marriage to he used as pawns in the political games of Napoleon as survivors of the Terror – either royalists or those who see Napoleon as another leader who will not free them but will be just as bad as the royal family that has recently died, so there is an undercurrent of further rebellion as Napoleon starts to establish himself as emperor of France.
Much of the action takes place at home, away from the war front of the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815 as Napoleon tries to gain power over European states to build the French Empire – many years prior to Europe forming as we know it today, and several decades before Bismarck and the German wars of unification. Napoleon is often away at war, but the moments he appears in the novel are significant – demands of an heir, assassination attempts and plans, and family trying to drive Josephine out because she has failed to produce an heir, so rumours swirl that she is barren. This intrigue builds throughout the novel and causes tension in many relationships. Carefully balanced with what Josephine wants, and what she is able to give, this is explored sensitively and given the attention it needs. Much of what drives all the tensions is the idea of producing heirs to secure empire, and women and their role to reproduce and raise the future generations – the expectations placed on the new aristocracy in as they seek to rebuild the power they lost – or a new power in the new nation of France without a monarchy to lead them.
Marthe is unhappy in her marriage to Labillardiere – she longs for a child, yet he refuses to give her one. He has other plans and is determined to keep botany secrets from Josephine so he can write his book. It would seem that in many ways, there are lots of people plotting against Josephine and Napoleon, separately and apart, but in different ways. As Josephine tends her garden, political unrest and alliances tear her family apart, and her friends become embroiled in various activities – some nefarious and some very personal as rumours swirl about Napoleon’s activities at home and abroad. Marthe’s story is gently dealt with at first, until she discovers secrets later on, and her story, and suspicions about what she is up to within the new empire and whether she is acting against Napoleon ramp up.
The inclusion of the historical figures from Into the World ties the two books together cleverly – but can both be read as standalone novels, separate from each other. This is an intriguing period in history, and I have noticed that there seem to be more stories appearing now about it, or maybe I am just noticing that there are more around as it has been drawn to my attention by these books and Kate Forsyth’s latest. Either way, these stories are given life now, and we see – through Josephine’s eyes – how ego drove Napoleon and his ambitions as she sought to create a beautiful antipodean garden in France.
Josephine’s fate is tied up with Anne and Marthe eventually, and the political undercurrents of the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon’s need to secure his empire as he tries to build the French Empire in the image that Napoleon wishes to see. Intrigue and secrets fill this novel. Stephanie Parkyn has written this exquisitely, evoking the gardens and feelings of post-Revolutionary France – as those who were affected by the Terror navigate a new world. Her research has brought these people to life – and I loved the nods and throwbacks to Into the World. If there is more to come, especially about certain characters who make an appearance in this book, then I am very eager for it and will be recommending this novel to lovers of historical fiction.
Synopsis: Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits – until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.
WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017
There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.
The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.
Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.
Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.
A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.
When Aissa is born, she is abandoned at birth, feared disfigured, and taken in by another family until raiders kill them. Alone in the world, she is found by others, and dumped at the gates of the Great Hall of one of the Greek islands of the Bronze Age. Mute and nameless, she is referred to as No-Name by the servants and seen as cursed – bad things happen around her and she is called the cursed child, and so this is her life for eight years until the lottery of the youths who will be sent to the Bull King – to dance with the bulls, on what is most likely the Minoan island, Crete, at Knossos. Banished from the Hall, she is living in a cave for a time, until she is sent away.
Aissa learns that she can sing snakes and animals, but not talk – and she doesn’t realise she is doing this. When the priestesses at the Bull King’s island discover this, they take her under their wing to train as a priestess. Yet when she sings the animals at the bull leaping, she is thrust back into the world of slavery.
Set in the Bronze Age, and drawing on the myth of the Minotaur, the Minoans and Knossos, Wendy Orr has created a world where the role of names and identity is important to knowing who you are, as well as playing with the traditional sacrifice myth – where the maidens and youths of the isles were sent to the Minotaur as tribute every seven years.
The inspiration for the bull leapers comes from a fresco in Knossos known as The Bull Leaping fresco, depicting the ancient practice of bull leaping. In the novel, it is quite a dangerous affair, where many have died or been maimed over the years and have no returned to their homelands. The original painting is from around 1400BCE. The true purposes for bull leaping are not clear – without being able to translate Linear A, despite it being close to Linear B, used by the Mycenaeans, much guess work is undertaken about Minoan society from the archaeological evidence on Crete and Santorini. Or at least, perhaps not enough is known to fully translate it.
So this is where Wendy Orr starts to imagine what the bull leapers may have done, with a different take on the history and myths that are well known, through the eyes of a mute girl. To do so, the story is told partly in verse song, much like the oral tradition of the time, and the way the Odyssey has been written down, and partly in prose, exploring the rest of the story that way, and putting them together so the story is a whole entity and makes sense, and could easily fit within the mythic cycles, history and the traditions of works by Homer, and other epic poets of ancient times.
Minoan Bronze Age culture is not often used in books. Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman and the well-known stories of gods and goddesses are told. Perhaps because there is more to work with there, but surely there is also a sense of freedom in working with a culture where so much can be imagined and interpreted from the art and archaeology – until the scripts can be properly translated and give us more insight into the Minoans. It is the mystery of who they are and what they did that I think is what makes this book work, as so much must be imagined – but can also be drawn from the myths involving the island and the minotaur that it works well and I absolutely adored this book.
It is I think, appropriate for ages ten and older, for all readers, and can be the kind of book that just triggers an interest in that area of the world or history. For me, having studied the Minoans, I found it fascinating and then found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of research into that area again, looking at frescoes. A great book and a good read to start the year and my many challenges.
Just for fun, I am picking up another bingo challenge. Like all challenges this year, I have chosen them based on the openness of the categories, to fiction and non-fiction and to Australian and non-Australian authors. I feel this will give me a better chance of filling in all or as many of the categories as I can in each.
Found in the Books and Bites Online Bookclub I am in, started by Monique Mulligan, who works at Serenity Press, this one has a few categories the others do not, but I will easily find books – either one or multiple – that slot into each once easily and nicely. My aim here, as in all others, is to mark off the ones I can do easily first, and work towards the others as I go through the year. Hopefully, many will be checked off by work and review books as well as my own reads, and I have already checked off one in this book bingo, which is published on the 28th of January.
I’ll add that to this post, and then aim to post an update every couple of weeks. My first square checked off for this one is a title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam. The review will go live in a few weeks, and I hope to link it to this post then. From there, as with my other book bingo, I will post in fortnightly increments, whilst aiming to post monthly updates in relation to all challenges and reading in general.
Books and Bites Bingo
Set in Europe
Published More than 100 Years Ago
Written in the First Person
Fairy Tale Collection
A Book with a door on the cover
Written by someone called Jane
An Australian crime or thriller
Wherever you go
A Neil Gaiman book
Short story collection
Published the year you were born
Makes you blush
That Book you keep putting off
A book with lots of hype
Short story collection
A book with bad reviews
Book to movie
Someone you love’s fave book
Made into a TV Series
A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
Welcome to another year of book bingo with my co-hosts, Amanda Barrett and Theresa Smith. This year, we have cut down the number of squares from thirty to twelve, so one square a month to post about, though nothing is stopping us from filling out the card within a few months and scheduling every post. Which perhaps, might be a good way to think about it – filling it out as soon as possible and getting it all scheduled to focus on everything else and running the challenge and our posts for the Australian Women Writers challenge.
With many options to yet come through, and some decisions to still be made, I decided to start with the prize winner category. There were many books I could have chosen for this, in many genres and categories, but settled on Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, which looks at how an ordinary day can turn into one of blindsides, tragedy and things that we don’t expect to happen when we roll out of bed in the morning. I go into much more detail in my review, and this book ticked off at least one category in each of my reading challenges, so I am off to a good start there!
Any Ordinary Day had nuances in it that gave insight into what goes on behind the scenes of journalism at times and how the ongoing, twenty-four seven news cycle changed the way news was delivered and the trickle of details that come out over time, rather than a report with all the facts at once, which I found interesting in light of current responses to media. Understanding that journalists perhaps can have pressures of networks or publications pushing them to get a certain angle or get everything in by a certain time – shows how only seeing the end result, the story presented or printed – can affect how people react. Either they want to know more, or they get frustrated with so little coming through when they think it should, yet at the same time, people get frustrated when they’re not informed – so in writing this book, Leigh examined the balance of this and ethics and how she struggles to maintain this balance so she can do her job effectively, whilst still maintaining her humanity. A very well-thought out book in my view.
Today whilst making sure I’d set up my challenge document properly, I came across two more challenges. The Dymocks Reading Challenge, and the STUF #AusLit Reading Challenges. Like my other challenges, both these challenges have categories flexible enough to work with what I read, and with the odd category I’ll need to work to find but I’ll work on that as I go. Sometimes, a book just falls across my path that fits perfectly.
So that’s six challenges but as each complement each other, I am not worried. My first three reads have already ticked off at least one category in five of the six challenges, and hopefully, with one in the sixth to follow soon.
My one challenge is the Dymocks Reading Challenge. To partake in this challenge, I must use the hashtag #DymocksReadingChallenge for my posts on this – easy enough to do, and try to check off at least one book for each of the following categories – one book a fortnight!
1. A book by an Australian author:
2. A book by an Indigenous author:
3. A book from our Top 101:
4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51:
5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month:
6. Re-read your favourite book of all time:
7. Ask a friend for a recommendation:
8. A book featuring your favourite country:
9. A book from your TBR pile:
10. An award-winning book:
11. A Mystery/Thriller:
12. A memoir:
13. A book outside your usual genre:
14. A book of short stories:
15. A self-help/motivation:
16. A fairytale/fable adaptation:
17. Book one in a fantasy series:
18. A book that teaches you something new:
19. A book with a red cover:
20. A book with a colour in the title:
21. A book you can read in a day:
22. A book about books:
23. A book that made you laugh:
24. A book published this year:
25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t:
The second challenge I chose today was the STFU #AusLit Reading Challenge. Some of these categories require a bit of googling to make sure I find what I want by an Australian author, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to do. The provided links should make it easier, and I can reach out to my book and reading groups for advice if I get stuck. With any luck., review and quiz books will fit into some of my challenges as well as I go through the year. This is another I’ll be contributing to on Twitter and will hopefully be able to finish it as well as all my other ones. Some categories, I have to wait for shortlists or the books to be released, which takes a little pressure off finding them now.
STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge
1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia
* Scroll through #BookstagramAustralia on Instagram and find an Australian title recommended. [Make sure you check the book is by an Australian author, as this hashtag will no doubt find you some great Australian Bookstagrammers to follow, but they won’t read or recommend exclusively Australian books.]
2. An Australian classic
3. A book by an Indigenous Australian author
4. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction]
* Bonus: Read both a fiction [cli-fi] and non-fiction book on climate change
* You might want to check out the Climate Reality Book Club over on Insta for some ideas
5. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author
6. A #LoveOzYA book
* #LoveOzYA is a great resource to find an Australian YA read, or check the hashtag on Insta too!
7. A memoir by an Australian woman
8. A poetry collection
* Solo author or anthology
9. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize
* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.
* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020
* The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020
* Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020
Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes
10. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT
Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author
11. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation
12. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author
Yep, psych! Kiwi authors need love too.