Book Bingo Six – Themes of Fantasy and Themes of Justice

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Another fortnight, and another book bingo post, my reading challenge done with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett, and a few others who have decided to take part with us. I am doing another double bingo this week and might be doing a double bingo next time. For themes of Fantasy, I chose the epic and much-anticipated finale to the Medoran Chronicles, which began in 2015 with Akarnae. My second square will be Themes of Justice, another book

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vardaesia_3d-coverThis series by Australian author, Lynette Noni, published by Pantera Press, is the series that got me started in blogging, and concluded this year with the heart-stopping, fast-paced Vardaesia, where the final battles between Alex and Aven come to a head, and where we will finally see the fate of Medora, and by extension, the entire world beyond Medora. Who will win? Aven, or Alex?

With this book, we wrap up the battles and troubles of Medora, and the journey of Alex and her friends. There is a hint at more Medoran books, but what these will be, and when they come and are set, is yet to be seen.

What-Lies-Beneath-Us-Cover-sample-copy-197x300My second book for this week fits the themes of justice square. This one is by the debut author, Kirsty Ferguson, whose book I also had the privilege of copyediting, and then reviewing – an interesting venture, as I had to switch off my editor’s brain whilst reading and go into reader-reviewer mode – it’s not as easy a task as you might think! What Lies Beneath Us is a book filled with twists and turns, following the murder of a young baby, Jason James. Is it a natural death, or is there something more sinister going on in the family or in the neighbourhood? It is a complex narrative with an unsettling ending that has a feeling of finality, yet that there is more to come later on.

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Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

kensy and max 3.jpgTitle: Kensy and Max: Undercover

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Spies/Adventure

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 5th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: How do you keep your head in the game when someone wants you gone? When those dearest to you are far away and the future is so uncertain . . .

Kensy and Max are back in London for no time at all before things begin to heat up – quite literally. As a result, Granny Cordelia ships them off to Australia on an undercover mission. The twins find themselves planted in a posh Sydney school where first appearances prove to be deceiving.

What seems like a straightforward assignment turns into something so much bigger. Kensy and Max must employ all their spy skills – the fate of their parents, and who they’ve been searching for, depends on it.

~*~



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When Kensy and Max’s London home is destroyed, their grandmother, and the head of spy agency, Pharos, sends them off to Sydney on an undercover mission. Here, they must befriend Ellery and Donovan Chalmers, and find out what their parents are up to and why. To do so, they will attend the same school, where they also become friends with wannabe spy, Curtis, who is their neighbour, join the choir, and Max becomes a cricket whiz. But in the midst of their success at school, they are worried about their parents, and where they are. The people their parents are looking for are somehow connected to what Kensy and Max are looking into, and it will be up to the intrepid twins and Curtis to find out.

 

Since the first time I picked up a Kensy and Max book, I have loved them. They are perfect for anyone to read, and it is the kind of series that I wish I had had as a kid, because Kensy and Max are not typical kids, and not typical of what we expect a boy and a girl to be – they are unique and filled with faults, and this is why they are great characters. Because they are allowed to be who they are and make mistakes. Also, being able to travel the world so much is pretty cool, and training to be a spy is a childhood dream of many kids that is captured by Curtis in this novel, and his determination to solve the mysterious goings on around him – and maybe he will be one of the best assets Kensy and Max have ever had.

As Kensy, Max, Fitz and Song investigate the Chalmers, hints are dropped about Annabel and Edward through, and Annabel’s parents – will Kensy and Max finally be reunited with their parents, and find out what really happened to Annabel’s parents? It is this mystery that has driven the first three books, and I did cheer at the end of this book, and look forward to the next book and where we go with Kensy and Max. It is a fantastic series and I really hope Curtis shows up again – he’s awesome and I loved his friendship with Kensy – he’d fit right in at Pharos, I think.

At first, the twins think their mission is simple: find out what Tinsley Chalmers is up to. Yet things get more complicated, and the chapters that feature characters other than Kensy and Max cleverly reveal secrets slowly and lead up to a conclusion that I never saw coming. We soon learn who the twins need to look at more closely, though. The mystery and all its elements are written so well and work together to create a mystery that even our adorable twins have no idea they’re going to uncover. But when they do, will it be one they wish they had, or one that is best kept secret?

With twists, turns and secrets, this series is an excellent spy series – it’s spy kids, and I love it. I’m also enjoying learning about ciphers as I go, and ways spies communicate. It’s the kind of series kids and anyone rally, can read and enjoy thoroughly.

52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

52 Mondays.jpgTitle: 52 Mondays

Author: Anna Ciddor

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A new historical novel from Anna Ciddor, in the same beautiful, classic storytelling tradition as The Family With Two Front Doors.

We’re going to look everywhere,’ said Anna. 

And they did.

When Anna sets out to find the doll of her dreams, her two younger sisters are eager to help. But it’s not easy. This is 1960s Australia and there’s no computer or internet yet. This is a time when teachers still write with chalk, cars have no seatbelts, and Mr Whippy sells ice-cream cones for half a penny.

Anna and her sisters fill their days with fun, mischief and adventure – like the time Anna glues a block of wood to her middle sister’s foot, then worries it will be stuck there forever! They celebrate birthdays and Passover together, cope with friends being mean, and feed peanuts to the bears at the zoo.

But through it all, Anna never loses sight of her dream.

Inspired by the author’s real childhood, this is a warm, funny and fascinating family story from the author of The Family with Two Front Doors.

~*~

Anna loves dolls, but she longs for a special doll, an antique doll that stands out from her others after reading a book called Hitty, about a doll unlike any of the ones she has in her own collection. But Anna’s life is also filled with school, friends and family traditions brought over from Europe. Anna’s family is Jewish, and traditions are important to them, though Anna and her cousins and siblings don’t always understand. It is woven through easily, as Anna continues her search for the perfect doll. Set in the 1960s, during a time of no Internet and no computer, and cheap ice creams. It is a time when seatbelts don’t exist, and teachers still write in chalk.

It is a simpler world, at least for Anna, as we see everything through her eyes. The world of a child, who doesn’t see that ice cream will melt, who doesn’t always understand how important family traditions are, but still knows to respect them, and who also has the desires of a young girl of her time and keeps wishing it will happen. Threaded throughout, is Anna’s quest for a doll as she visits the auction house week after week with her mother and sisters, looking for the perfect doll.

Based on author Anna Ciddor’s own life, 52 Mondays looks at a post-war Australia through the eyes of the child and takes away the complexities of adult life. It is a charming story about childhood, and the desires and mistakes made in childhood, such as putting an ice cream in your bag, not knowing it would melt, and finding that one thing that you want more than anything in the world.

2019 BadgeThis was a very enjoyable book, and even though the story seemed simple and straightforward, there were aspects of it that hinted at more happening behind the scenes of Anna’s life. I liked the realism of Anna’s life: school, family, friends and illness as she searched and searched for her doll. Throughout the book, her goal is to get the doll, but there are always things in her day to day life that take her away from her search, and instances where she doesn’t think about the doll at all, or so it seems. It allows the children to be children, and shows a 1960s Melbourne through the eyes of a child, in a way that this generation may not have experienced before and shows them a world they may only have heard about from older family members.

In the few instances where the family’s Jewish heritage is touched on, I heard the echoes of the 1930s and 1940s, though it wasn’t clear when Anna’s family started living in Australia, the shadows of those decades felt like they were there in some way. It doesn’t directly reference this, but it is possible that the family made their way to Australia before things got bad. As this is seen through Anna’s eyes, we’re not privy to the family history, though now i want to go back and read Anna’s other book, The Family with Two Front Doors to see how the family ended up in Australia.

It is a period of history not often touched on, perhaps because even though it was a time of change – in the 1960s, Australia changed from imperial to metric, and pounds to decimal currency, and there were many other social changes, and in the later 1960s, the Vietnam War. Often, it is the key instances in history that are touched on: the wars, the Depression, and other key moments in Australian history such as the Anzacs. So it was nice to read about a quieter period of time seen through the eyes of a child and her family, and what the world is like to them.  It shows a post-war Australia, a relaxed sort of story, where there are no threats mentioned. It is the story of a childhood and the things that Anna enjoyed and the mischief she got up to with her sisters.

Challenge Check-In: February

In February, I didn’t read or review as many books as I did in January. I managed to read twelve books this month, bringing my yearly total to twenty-six, and have made some progress on my challenges. Some reviews are yet to go up, but this will wrap up what I have done:

#Dymocks52Challenge

General and #Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  5. The Familiars by Stacey Halls
  6. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers
  7. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester
  8. Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide by British Library, JK Rowling
  9. D-Bot #8: Dino Corp by Mac Park
  10. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey
  11. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

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#AWW2019 Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  5. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  6. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  7. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  9. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed

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Book bingo:

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

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

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Some of these have posts up, and some don’t – this is based on my reading log.

February Round Up

 

Book Author Challenges
Beauty in Thorns Kate Forsyth AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
What Lies Beneath Us Kirsty Ferguson #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Dog Runner Bren MacDibble #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The House of Second Chances Esther Campion #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Familiars Stacey Halls #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
The Orchardist’s Daughter Karen Viggers #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
The French Photographer Natasha Lester #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide (paperback) British Library, JK Rowling #Dymocks52Challenge, General
D-Bot #8: Dino Corp Mac Park #Dymocks52Challenge, General
Kensy and Max: Undercover  Jacqueline Harvey #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General,
The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge, PopSugar
52 Mondays Anna Ciddor general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge

 

Booktopia

Harry Potter: A History of Magic by JK Rowling, British Library

pb history of magic.jpgTitle: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Author: JK Rowling, British Library

Genre: Exhibition Catalogue/Non-Fiction/Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $34.99

Synopsis:Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the record-breaking British Library exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and a team of brilliant curators. As the spectacular show takes up residence at the New York Historical Society from October 2018, this gorgeous book – available in paperback for the first time – takes readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from Astronomy and Potions through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.

~*~

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I first reviewed the hardcover edition of this book when it came out in 2017, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and now, have read and reviewed the same book in paperback to coincide with the upcoming twentieth anniversary of my favourite book in the series, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban because not only do we get the fantastic Professor R.J Lupin, but Harry gains a godfather – Sirius Black. To help write this review, I have used some parts of my last review, as many of my previous comments and appreciations are the same.

Since 1997, Muggles around the world have been captured by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, starting with the immortal lines of number four Privet Drive. Since 2017, to celebrate each twentieth anniversary, House Editions for each book, and this year, the House Edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner pf Azkaban will be released.

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic is an exhibition that ran at the British Library, and this book gives those who have been unable to visit the exhibition a chance to see the artefacts that inspired the magic behind the series. It shows a whole literary and historical world of magic that influences the fictional worlds.

Each subject at Hogwarts is based on a real-world example of magic – Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Divination and so forth. Each culture around the world had their own traditions that had similarities and differences, and reading about these was fascinating, especially ancient traditions, such as curse tablets from Ancient Greece. Exploring these aspects of magic in the real world, and exploring what they meant to the cultures they emerged from, is interesting and intriguing from a historical and literary perspective, and these traditions could be used to shape many a magical or fantastical world other than just Harry Potter.

Allowing people who could not physically get to the exhibition to experience it through the book is a good idea, and a good resource to start with if you’re researching historical aspects of magic, and many of the historical aspects were familiar to me as I have done a historical course called the Art of Magic.

This review is shorter than my hardback one, as they have the same content, but my previous review can be read here.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble

the dof runner.jpgTitle: The Dog Runner

Author: Bren MacDibble

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:

Price:

Synopsis: From the author of the multi-award-winning and bestselling How To Bee comes an intense and thrilling new adventure.

‘We’re gonna starve if we stay here,’ Emery said. ‘If we’re gonna go, best go now.’ 
And he said it like going was something easy. Like all we have to do is walk away.

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you’ve got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people…

~*~

Emery and Ella – a brother and sister – have been left by their father and Ella’s mum, alone in their house in the closed off city. Everything has fallen apart since a red fungus swept across the country, and world, and decimated the food supply. Around Australia, people are desperate, and without Ella’s parents around, Emery and Ella set off in search of Emery’s mother – where they hope to find shelter and food with people they can trust. To do so, they must hitch up five big dogs to a dry-land dogsled, and traverse dangerous country, dodging people who would harm them if they had the chance.

As the novel progresses, Emery and Ella face dangers they had hoped not to face and see just how badly affected the country beyond the city they’ve been living in is – and this furthers their quest to find safety and security. Told through Ella’s perspective, The Dog Runner looks at the consequences of climate change, and how a single even can affect the world’s food supply – and what can be done to change things. For Ella and Emery, the world is big and dangerous – and during their journey, they are faced with dangers and obstacles they didn’t think they’d ever see.

Emery’s mother is Aboriginal, and Ella and Emery hope she will be able to use the knowledge of her ancestors to help them, and still have some of the seeds and crops Emery’s grandfather saved to help replenish the land. In a clever and accessible way, the novel looks at the connection to country and landscape, family, and the diversity of Australia and humanity. The climate is affected drastically, and the landscape has been altered so distinctly that it is unrecognisable, yet at the same time, it could be something that happens in the near future and could drastically affect and alter how we live our lives.

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In a world where we take food supply for granted, this takes an interesting look at how the land reacts to a fungus or virus, or even climate change. In doing so, it posits how we might deal with in the world, who might get assistance first, and how older traditions can end up helping revitalise the land – and the revealing of knowledge that some people might not have had previously, as well as the importance of family, whoever they are, whatever colour they are – and the acceptance of family in dire times. In the end, it is family that is important – and the lengths they go to in order to help each other and the world they live in. It is a world we all have to live in, and like Emery and Ella’s family, working together is what will help us survive.

The story gives us an idea of where to look in the future and how we can seek to survive – through communication, shared knowledge and looking to the past to see what others have done, and how the Indigenous people cultivated and took care of the land before 1788. Which is why this was an interesting – because it shows through tragedy, how millennia old techniques can be used to help save the food supply, and the possibilities of bringing new and old together. In a world where climate change is a constant threat, maybe, like Emery and Ella and their family, we need to start looking at alternatives and preparing for a future that might devastate the landscape.


Booktopia

Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer

enola holmes 4Title: Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 185

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

Enola is thrown into a tailspin when she receives a desperate message from her old friend, Lady Cecily. Enola knows she must help her friend before it’s too late – but she doesn’t know how! This complicated case has Enola hunting down clues all over London until she finally discovers the awful truth: Lady Cecily is being held prisoner! Enola must risk her own freedom and join forces with her brother, the famed Sherlock Holmes, to free Cecily. Can Enola trust her brother, and can they save Cecily in time?

~*~

Four cases in, and Enola Holmes just gets better and better. Here, she is determined to help a young woman – Lady Cecily – from a forced marriage that her family has not agreed to. But Enola’s brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, are still after her, and Enola must weigh up the risks of revealing herself to enlist Sherlock’s help. At this point, Sherlock has been trying to communicate with Enola, using the code she used with her mother, and he seems to be quite impressed with her – happily, much to Mycroft’s chagrin. The fourth novel in the series sees Sherlock steering further from Mycroft’s goals, and shrugging off his concerns about their sister as she forges her own path and proves she is just as clever and resourceful as Sherlock. Mycroft’s slow loss of control is evident, as Enola and Sherlock have a laugh at his expense – and I hope a bond will form between the two, where they continue to thwart Mycroft at every chance they get.

I started this series, because I liked the idea of a reimagination of a classic, set in the same time period that would lead readers into the originals. When done right, retellings of fairy tales and classics are enjoyable, especially when the execution makes sense with what has come before, or the shadows and ghosts of the original are evident, whilst allowing the new characters to fulfil their purposes. The Enola Holmes Mysteries fulfils these both wonderfully, whilst still allowing Sherlock, Mycroft and Dr Watson to exist in Enola’s world. They have to – they link this to the originals, and give a fresh voice, as the originals are told only from Watson’s perspective, and only the world and cases occupied by Sherlock and John – not many in their peripheral worlds.

Together, and apart, Enola and Sherlock, in this story, are an amazing pair of investigators. They are much more alike than they have thought up until now, and it seems from this novel that Enola may have an ally in Sherlock, but perhaps they will also be in competition with each other – something I feel Sherlock – both in this incarnation and in the originals – would and will find amusing as time goes by. It would be very fun to see if they eventually do join forces and do all they can to flout and drive Mycroft spare – as siblings do – and perhaps finally prove to Mycroft that he shouldn’t be underestimating his sister – she is a great character, and shows a whole new side to the Sherlock Holmes canon.