Book Bingo Nine – Double Bingo and BINGO – Row Six Across completed.

BINGO!.jpg

Literary and Romance

20181124_140447

It’s the end of April, and another Book Bingo week with Amanda and Theresa. This time, I am ticking off two squares as another double bingo week, but also, I have a complete bingo with the sixth across row, as seen below:

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n.jpg

Row Six:

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

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

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Northanger AbbeyRomance was one that I wasn’t sure how I would fill, as it is not a genre I read often or gravitate towards. Rather, I prefer the romance to be subtle and to happen alongside the core story, and where the characters have much more to them than it feels like many romance novels do. So, in my quest to read as much Jane Austen as possible this year, and books inspired by Jane’s works, I chose Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey is the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be completed for publication in 1803, but the last published in 1817. It is a satirical look at the Gothic novels of the time, and the coming of age story of Catherine Morland, wishing for happiness and morality over money and wealth like other young women of her age. She loves to read and seeks others like her as friends. On a sojourn to Bath with family friends, she meets Henry Tilney, and Isabella Allen, and becomes friends with Isabelle, visits with the Tilneys and is eventually forced home after a series of misunderstandings. At the core is Catherine’s growth and understanding of real life, which is vastly different to her novels. At the same time, she has fallen in love with Tilney and they eventually marry on the final page.

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

The romance in this novel is subtle, and develops slowly and cautiously alongside friendship, novel reading and ideas of class and acceptability of marriage. The subtlety of the romance allowed the characters to grow for themselves and not be pushed into a certain way of thinking by other characters. Of course, there are misunderstandings that led to the desire to correct things and set things straight, but at the same time, because it is subtle, it worked well and that’s why I enjoyed it.

ZebraLiterary

 

For this category, I chose a book sent to me by Writing NSW to review for their blog. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide. In this book, there are many short stories, from different perspectives and about different things – a more in-depth review is here. But this classifies as literary because it simply has that feel to it, and when I think about it, these stories don’t have a distinct genre – sometimes literary fiction does, but sometimes not. Sometimes, they just slot into general fiction but because the strength of the stories are driven by the characters, rather than the plots, which are written so subtlety, that at times, they do not become clear until the end, which makes them powerful and intriguing.

Moving forward, I have about eight months left to fill the bingo card, and some are going to be harder but that’s part of the challenge, and sometimes, the review books just easily slip into a category, sometimes I have to seek one out.

Until next time!
Booktopia

March Round Up 2019

I read twelve books in March, and like previous months, some reviews are yet to go up, whilst others were just work books or books I did not review. Below is my progress for each challenge:

Overall/Dymocks 52 Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

27. The Incredible Hulk by Alex Irvine

  1. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  2. The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  3. The Deep: Selkie Warrior by Finn Black
  4. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide
  5. Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  6. Free Rein: The Steeplechase Secret by Jeanette Lane
  7. Esther by Jessica North
  8. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas
  9. Cuddles by Ellen Miles
  10. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  11. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Challenge

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

First book read for this challenge – Northanger Abbey

20181124_140447

Book Bingo

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers

  1. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – Reviewed
  2. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  3. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  4. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  5. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed

 

 

March Round-Up

 

Book Author Challenges
The Incredible Hulk Alex Irvine #Dymocks52Challenge, General
Four Dead Queens Astrid Scholte general, #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, Book Bingo
The Wolf and the Watchman Niklas Natt och Dag general,

#Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar

 

The Deep: Selkie Warrior Finn Black general,

#Dymocks52Challenge

Zebra and Other Stories Debra Adelaide general,

#Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo

Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further

 

Kelly Sue DeConnick general,

#Dymocks52Challenge,

 Free Rein: The Steeplechase Secret Jeanette Lane general,

#Dymocks52Challenge

Esther Jessica North general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, PopSugar
Cuddles Ellen Miles general, #Dymocks52Challenge.
The True Story of Maddie Bright Mary-Rose MacColl general, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, PopSugar
Northanger Abbey Jane Austen General, book bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen Reading Challenge Update

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

 

I’ve always meant to read all the Jane Austen books, because she does satire and social commentary so well whilst still giving her characters nice, happy or at the very least, satisfying endings. I am also interested in her life, and reinterpretations of her works, so this year I have taken on the challenge to read as many of these as I can, starting, ideally, with the original novels.

To start, I chose Northanger Abbey, and will hopefully be reading Emma next – I plan to read them according to whichever I feel like reading at the time, and might read other Jane related books in between – some of which will be part of other challenges as well and have their own posts for reviews in their challenges. For the most part, the Jane Austen books will be reviewed in these posts.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be completed for publication in 1803, but the last published in 1817. It is a satirical look at the Gothic novels of the time, and the coming of age story of Catherine Morland, wishing for happiness and morality over money and wealth like other young women of her age. She loves to read and seeks others like her as friends. On a sojourn to Bath with family friends, she meets Henry Tilney, and Isabella Allen, and becomes friends with Isabelle, visits with the Tilneys and is eventually forced home after a series of misunderstandings. At the core is Catherine’s growth and understanding of real life, which is vastly different to her novels. At the same time, she has fallen in love with Tilney and they eventually marry on the final page.

The romance in this novel is subtle, and develops slowly and cautiously alongside friendship, novel reading and ideas of class and acceptability of marriage. The subtlety of the romance allowed the characters to grow for themselves and not be pushed into a certain way of thinking by other characters. Of course, there are misunderstandings that led to the desire to correct things and set things straight, but at the same time, because it is subtle, it worked well and that’s why I enjoyed it. I wonder if in the 1800s, people caught the subtlety and social commentary in the same way we do today, or if they simply appreciated it for the romantic aspects and reflection of the upper classes. Either way, these stories have stood the test of time, and I look forward to reading Emma next.

 

Booktopia

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

the familiars.jpgTitle: The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Zaffre

Published: 4th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: ‘Assured and alluring, this beautiful tale of women and witchcraft and the fight against power was a delight from start to finish’ – Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

~*~

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is four years into a marriage that has thus far, produced no heir for her husband, and she is enduring yet another pregnancy when she takes on a young midwife named Alice amidst the Jacobean ear witch-trials under James I and VI of England and Scotland. The book sees Fleetwood struggle through a difficult pregnancy as Alice helps her as best she can, and as Fleetwood works to decipher a letter from her husband that indicates she will not survive the current pregnancy – but is there more to this letter than Fleetwood can tell, and will she confront her husband about it?

Simmering in the background are fears of witches, and accusations against entire families of women, and some midwives, The Familiars explores the stories and legends behind the Pendle witch trials – taking place in 1612, when this book is set, and accounted for about 2% of all witches who were executed. Taking on this historical period in fiction is very interesting – it is not one I usually see, and when it is, it is focussed on royalty, or the actual witch trials, rather than the people at the peripheral, and how the absence of a midwife accused of witchcraft affects a life. Also, I felt the term witch hunt was never more accurate, as these people were accused of something they never did, and where accusations between families and against people were dealt with swiftly and without much consideration based on the testimony of a child. Eerily, the case of Louisa Collins, discussed in an earlier blog post, rested upon the same kind of testimony. This resulted in twelve people being executed during the summer of 1612.

Where many witch trial stories and  novels focus on the actual trials, and the polarising sides of the accused versus the accusers, and who is right based on the evidence left behind recorded by the victors and winners in history, The Familiars takes real people – Alice and Fleetwood and those they know – into a realm where the women involved and affected directly and indirectly tell the story.

Primarily told through Fleetwood’s eyes, and where secrets are slowly revealed throughout the novel at the right time, and that makes for an intriguing plot and mystery that is woven throughout the story. The strength of the story is the very feminine and female driven character and plot – where the men – Roger and Robert, are only there on the side. in fact, for much of the novel, they are absent or travelling, allowing Fleetwood and Alice to take charge of the story. The simmering fear of witches felt primarily male in this story – Fleetwood, though concerned, was not as convinced as the men in her life.

Based on real people, it is interesting to wonder if the real Fleetwood was like her fictional counterpart, and how she definitely did react to what was going on around her. Historical fiction is always a favourite of mine, especially when it explores eras not often explored or perspectives we don’t often hear from.

Booktopia

Beauty in Thorns Revisited – And Stepping into the World of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in Canberra.

IMG_6218.JPG

In 2017, I was lucky enough to be approached by Penguin Random House to review Kate Forsyth’s book, Beauty in Thorns, the story of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and in particular, William Morris (Topsy), Ned Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the women who inspired them:  Janey Burden, Lizzie Siddal, and Georgie MacDonald, and in the final section, Georgie and Ned’s daughter, Margot. Ned, Dante and William used the women in their lives as models for their paintings based on myths, literature and fairy tales – amongst other themes. Some of the most famous paintings by these artists feature in the story, and it opens with John Everett Millais painting one of the most well-known Pre-Raphaelite works, Ophelia, based on a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

BeautyinThorns_Cover

Kate Forsyth is my go-to author, the one I will always read and devour within days – her adult, young adult and children’s fiction. Beauty in Thorns focusses on the stories of the women – and how they affected the art, what they themselves created, and why they created what they did. The men still have a role and voice, but it is Lizzie, Janey, Georgie and Margot whose voices are at the front and centre of the novel. The intricate links between all these people and those who come in and out of their lives, end in tragedy in some cases, but happiness in others. The art they created was seen as radical for their time, and Kate Forsyth hints at this when the artists discuss progress and reviews and shows. Reading this the first time was magical, but when I found out that a selection of the paintings were going to be shown in Canberra, I knew I wanted to see them – and not just as images on a screen or in a book (though I did buy the guide and a book of Christina Rossetti’s poetry), and we headed down for a few days.

IMG_6463.JPG
Ophelia, by John Everett Millais, featuring Elizabeth Siddal.

Starting from many paintings I was unfamiliar with, I saw the progression of subject matter, from the everyday themes, to modern life, faith, truth to nature, romance, portraits, and the ones I knew about, the ones linked to myth, fairy tale and literature, the latter themes being the ones focussed on in Kate’s novel, and the ones that everyone heading to the Tate or this exhibition likely knows about, but all their art is exquisite and it’s easy to see why they chose to paint in this style, and why Kate Forsyth was drawn to them.

2019 BadgeSeeing the paintings for myself, and reading the book during my visit, brought them to life more than ever before. The book coming to life in this way was magical and enriching, and brought a new dimension to the novel, knowing what the end result of what had occurred in the novel, and knowing the stories behind the paintings, and the names of the models that weren’t always credited on the placards, but are mentioned in the guide, was very enjoyable.

I’ve linked back to my original review here too but being able to visit the world Beauty in Thorns is based on was amazing, and I have bought a few post cards to display in my room of my favourite paintings.

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.

Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes 3.jpgTitle: Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3)

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA/Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

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…

Everyone knows Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes’ right-hand man – so when he goes missing, it’s a shock. Even Sherlock hasn’t the slightest clue as to where he could be. Enola is intrigued but wary; she’s still hiding from her older brothers and getting involved could prove to be disastrous. But Enola can’t help but investigate, especially when she learns that a bizarre bouquet – with flowers all symbolizing death – has been delivered to the Watson residence. Enola knows she must act quickly, but can she find Dr. Watson in time?

~*~

Enola Holmes is still hiding from her brothers, using her wits and a variety of disguises to evade them at every turn, and solve cases that the police, and her brother, Sherlock are unable to solve. Still in 1889, it has been six months since she left their care, in search of her mother and a life no predicated by societal norms and expectations. Living in lodgings, she discovers that Sherlock’s colleague, Dr John Watson has gone missing. Undertaking her own investigation, Enola discovers several bouquets delivered to Joh’s wife, Mary – and uses her knowledge of flower meanings to decipher what they mean. In doing so, she finds out that John’s life is in danger – so she sets about following the person who delivers the flowers – and what she discovers will hopefully save John’s life.

Coming back to Enola Holmes was delightful. I love the original Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, as well as the Robert Downey Jr movies. Here, though, Nancy Springer has put a new twist on the stories. Where most retellings position the quirky detective and his long-suffering partner in contemporary settings – Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in modern London, or Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in modern day New York, this one still sits in the late 1880s, but posits the idea that Sherlock and Mycroft had an unknown sister, someone who society wasn’t aware of, but would soon become aware of.  The original Holmes stories are told from Watson’s perspective – and I have read them all, and the only family member I recall being mentioned is Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother. So, it is plausible to think Sherlock may have had a sister.

Again, Enola manages to evade her brother’s as she investigates John’s disappearance, and those who are linked to what happened. She’s a wonderful character, who despises the expectations of a Victorian girl, yet uses what she has available to her, and the norms of Victorian society to her advantage, as well as her knowledge of flowers and ciphers to form her various identities. These are quick reads, and of course, it is inevitable that Enola will solve the case as the main character. Aimed at children and young adults, these are great books for any age group, and can be appreciated by fans of the original as well as introduce a new audience to Sherlock.

This is turning out to be a very good series, and one that will surely have fans clamouring for the next instalment. I look forward to seeing how Enola continues to evade her brothers, and if, potentially, she ends up working with Sherlock, and both of them driving Mycroft to despair.