Books and Bites Bingo Update Two

In the past four months, I have managed to fill in twenty out of twenty-five categories in Books and Bites Bingo with Monique Mulligan. I have a few of the others planned, and others I need to decide. I have three months to complete this and my other challenges and hope that I can make it through and get as many as possible read by the thirty-first of December!

It’s been a slow process at times – especially with the specific categories, as finding these books has sometimes been a challenge. Especially during a pandemic when we can’t all get to libraries or bookstores, there are times when I have read what I have and sometimes found ways to make the book fit into my challenges where possible.

Looking forward to reading the others I have, but for now, here are the ones I have completed!

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

August 2020 Wrap Up

In August, I read twenty-one books. Thirteen were written by Australian Women Writers, and all contributed to my challenges across the board. Several were part of series, and many were review books. Some I had been looking forward to, and one from Scholastic Australia, by comedian Rove McManus was a surprise arrival, and one that I found enthralling and engaging. Some challenges are almost finished, and I am hoping I will be able to complete them by the end of the year.

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

I read a few diverse books this month as well. It’s always hard to choose favourites, but I really loved The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford, The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner and The Firestar: A Maven and Reeve Mystery by A.L. Tait – these were ones that really stuck with me and that I wanted to read again immediately. Looking forward to another productive month in September!

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 – 91/25
Book Bingo – 12/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 48/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25
Books and Bites Bingo 19/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –150/165

August – 21

Book Author Challenge
Lapse Sarah Thornton Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Monstrous Heart

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Moonflower Murders Anthony Horowitz Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Piranesi Susanna Clarke Reading Challenge
Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie Fin J Ross Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Rocky Lobstar: Time Travel Tangle Rove McManus Reading Challenge,
House of Dragons Jessica Cluess Reading Challenge
The Firestar (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) A.L. Tait Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Maggie Tokuda-Hall Reading Challenge
The Wolves of Greycoat Hall Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daughter of Victory Lights Kerri Turner Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
When the Ground is Hard Malla Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Society – Victorian Premier’s Literary Award –
Winner Best Young Adult Literature, Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 US; Shortlisted Best Book for Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2020 AU; Highly Commended Best Young Adult Novel, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 AU

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm Sally Odgers and Christina Booth Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern and Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Girl Made of Air Nydia Hetherington Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge

The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) by A.L. Tait

the fire starTitle: The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery)

Author: A.L. Tait

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘I was up past midnight finishing this book! The mystery kept me turning the pages, and I felt like I’d known Maven and Reeve forever.’ – Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Ice Wolves

A maid with a plan. A squire with a secret. A missing jewel. A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star. If they don’t, they’ll lose everything.

This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a friendship.

Bestselling author A. L. Tait is back with the intriguing story of two unlikely allies and a mystery to solve that could change their lives.

~*~

A new series from the fabulous and energetic A.L. Tait! Enter a world of knights and ladies, maids and witches, where a magical jewel is handed down from youngest daughter to youngest daughter on the day of her wedding and goes with her to her new home. Lady Cassandra is set to marry Sir Garrick, and has arrived at the castle with her maid, Maven, when the precious stone goes missing. Maven is thrown together with squire, Reeve, to solve the mystery of the missing jewel before Lady Cassandra and Sir Garrick get married.

Taking place across three days, Maven and Reeve must find the Firestar in time, and meet up with witches, and find out who don’t want to see this happen or see the unlikely pair succeed. Who is behind the missing stone, and why did they steal it? Only Maven and Reeve can find out!

AWW2020Maven and Reeve tell the story in alternating chapters–Maven in first person, and Reeve in second person. This moves the novel along nicely, setting the pace and characters up for the rest of the series to come. The world is fantastical, with a sensory medieval feel to it, seen through the eyes of two children from vastly different positions in life and who have very different roles in their new home. A.L. Tait has woven a wonderful mystery around the magic and knights, lords and ladies, in this story, and encapsulated the essence of what a mystery has at its core: something missing, a villain and a whole lot of red herrings along the way as the two key detective characters–Maven and Reeve–investigate the theft, or crime at hand. This intriguing mystery draws the reader in and captures their imagination as they explore this wild new world that is both known from other fantasy books, yet a completely new world that works exquisitely well for this series.

What a bang to begin with. This introduction cements the ongoing characters, settings, and Maven and Reeve’s friendship and investigative skills powerfully and ensures that these themes and characteristics will be central to the rest of the series. Red herrings in this series are sure to be imaginative yet recognisable within the crime genre, and that work within the fantasy world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am very eager for the next one in the series, which I am sure will deliver with just as much oomph and gusto. A spectacular read for all readers aged nine and older.

When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hardTitle: When the Ground is Hard
Author: Malla Nunn
Genre: Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: This CBCA short-listed book is a stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.
SHORTLISTED: CBCA 2020 Awards, Book of the Year, Older Readers

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learning the true meaning of friendship.

A Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2020 Notable Book, Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, winner of the 2019 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, winner of the Children’s Book Committee’s 2020 Josette Frank Award and shortlisted for the 2020 LA Times Book Prize for Young Adults.

~*~

In apartheid-era Swaziland, Adele Joubert and Lottie Diamond attend Keziah Christian Academy – a boarding school for mixed race students. These are the students who are somewhere in the middle of the racial and social rankings based on the apartheid system but are still separated from white and black communities based on the laws of the time. Adele has been part of the popular crowd. That is, until her slot in the pretties is taken by a richer girl. Adele is relegated to sharing a room with the poor student, Lottie Diamond, and Dead Lorraine’s room.

At first, Adele and Lottie struggle to get along, but find connection in books, specifically Jane Eyre, and a time when you can be cast out and bullied for the slightest difference. As Lottie and Adele’s friendship with each other, and fellow student, Darnell, grows, the two girls face bullies and tragedy together. They fight for their place to belong, and stand up against vindictive and at times, racist teachers.

AWW2020The disappearance of a fellow student brings them closer together, and they learn more about themselves, each other and their heritage than they ever knew, and Adele finds that she can be herself with Lottie. She doesn’t have to pretend like she had to with her former friends. Lottie is a true friend, and she guides Adele through a tricky few weeks as the two girls form a bond that ensures they will always have each other when they face the cruelties of their school, society and the Bosman family.

Set in the 1960s, this book is threaded with the undercurrents and impacts of
racism, oppression and apartheid in a world that isn’t accepting of difference, illustrated through the treatment of students based on wealth, how the Bosman family treats Keziah students through racism, and the power he thinks he should have over them. It is also shown through the teachers – the assumption that the American missionary teachers are better than those they work with, and how Adele is also treated differently to Lottie at times, based on wealth and preconceived ideas.

This book speaks to the heart and difficulties of South Africa and Swaziland under the rule of apartheid. The rules and laws are threaded throughout as Adele tells her story of the first few weeks of the new school year, and her experiences. Some are universal, and some are unique to her and her society. This is what makes the book powerful. The thrum of an African heart beats throughout this novel, and evokes a sense of time, place and character. The land is a strong aspect a strong character. It is perhaps stronger than the Christian religion Adele tries to uphold. It is Lottie who unlocks this power within Adele, the shared Swazi and Zulu identity, and shows her that she can accept all parts of her identity.

I can see why this book has received so many awards, commendations and nominations. It is diverse yet seen through eyes that not many of us have. It is an experience that some readers won’t know much about, but there are universal themes of friendship, class, race, and gender that everyone will find something they can relate to. Adele and Lottie were powerful, diverse and complicated characters, who helped each other grow throughout the novel and found something that connected them more than anything that had ever connected Adele to the popular girls.

As I read this book, I could smell and hear Africa, I could feel Africa. The animals, the grass, the voices and the music. It is woven delicately and subliminally through the narrative, and presents a backdrop that gives When the Ground is Hard a true sense of place and transports the reader to a time and place when things were grim, but where the power of friendship could bring light to people’s lives.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Moonflower MurdersTitle: Moonflower Murders
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 18th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 608
Price: $32.99
Synopsis: Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders. A labyrinth of clues. A mystery novel hiding a deadly secret. A killer with a fiendish plot: a brilliantly intricate and original thriller from the bestselling author of Magpie Murders,
‘A beautiful puzzle: fiendishly clever and hugely entertaining. A masterpiece.’ Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party
Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend. But life isn’t as idyllic as it should be: exhausted by the responsibility of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, Susan is beginning to miss her literary life in London – even though her publishing career once entangled her in a lethal literary murder plot.
So when an English couple come to visit with tales of a murder that took place in a hotel the same day their daughter Cecily was married there, Susan can’t help but find herself fascinated.
And when they tell her that Cecily has gone missing a few short hours after reading Atticus Pund Takes The Case, a crime novel Susan edited some years previously, Susan knows she must return to London to find out what has happened.
The clues to the murder and to Cecily’s disappearance must lie within the pages of this novel.
But to save Cecily, Susan must place her own life in mortal danger…Want to read more Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland? Order a copy of Sunday Times bestseller and the #1 ebook bestseller MAGPIE MURDERS, out now.
~*~

Moonflower Murders brings the mysteries of Magpie Murders back after a four-year interlude. Susan Ryeland is now retired, living in Greece and running a hotel with partner, Andreas. Yet Alan Conway and his final novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, are back to haunt her when the Trehernes come to her to help them find Cecily, their daughter. They’re convinced that the editor of the last book Cecily read can help them, as the events fictionalised in the book happened at the same place Cecily got married. And so the mystery within a mystery begins.

The first third of the book is Susan’s story as she travels from Greece to London to help the Treherne family, where she is drawn back into the world of Alan and his detective. In this novel however, we get a treat. The manuscript referred to in the first book is ‘published’ in this book as part of the story – the novel within a novel that is at the heart of Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders.

This book builds on the cozy crime genre, first with Susan’s story, and second, with the Attius Pünd novel that she reads, and that readers get to read in rea; time, so to speak, with her. The clues to the case are cleverly peppered throughout both Susan’s story and Conway’s novel, which is also set out just like a published novel – a nod to the publishing world and the metafiction aspect of this novel and series that Horowitz has cleverly created, whilst paying homage to the Golden Age of crime fiction – Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and so many others that have shaped the crime fiction genre.

This self-referential work – to the crime genre, the publishing world and writing in general, also uses word play to tell this story. It allows Anthony to explore the story in a unique yet classical way that suits the story and plot, and when read all together, makes sense. The clues are subtle enough for the reveal to be a surprise, yet at the same time, honours and uses the tropes that are well-known in crime fiction yet feels fresh and unique at the same time.

I’d recommend reading Magpie Murders first. Otherwise, you may be confused whilst reading this one, and some aspects won’t fit in nicely. It follows on well from the second, and takes place in a pre-COVID world, around 2015. This ensures the story takes place unhindered by the current pandemic, so the characters can move freely. I really enjoyed this one and think fans of the series and Anthony Horowitz will enjoy it.

 

Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie by Fin J Ross

Billings front coverTitle: Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie
Author: Fin J Ross
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Clan Destine Press
Published: 29th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 278
Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Young Fidelia Knight arrives in Melbourne in 1874, alone except for her treasured companion, Samuel Johnson; well, half of him. To escape servitude, Fidelia hides each night in Bourke-street’s renowned Coles Book Arcade. She loves words, you see, and wants to know them all.

What she overhears in Coles sets her on a path that will change the lives of everyone she meets, starting with Jasper Godwin, the hopelessly underqualified manager of the new Billings Better Bookstore.

Fidelia’s thirst for knowledge is contagious. She tutors two orphan boys and two illiterate women, inspiring them to unlock their creativity; and her exploration of colonial Melbourne takes her to some unusual places.

Nothing daunts this diminutive genius, except the mystery of what really happened to her parents on the voyage from England.

~*~

When Fidelia arrives in Melbourne, she is escorted of the SS Great Britain by a man named Mr Bartholomew and delivered to a local orphanage. She takes his warning to her about not speaking to everyone to heart, hiding away in gestures, and words when she stumbles upon Coles Book Arcade, and uses her nights to read, and learn. When she hears Jasper Godwin trying to come up with a window advertisement for Billings, she is inspired by Samuel Johnson and the words she knows, using these skills to create alliterative advertisements for each letter of the alphabet.

Once she is taken in by Jasper and his wife, and meets Secret and Joshua, two orphans taken in by Billings and his wife, her life begins to change.

This delightful story begins as a mystery, which is threaded throughout Fidelia’s journey. Small clues are dropped along the way – the missing volume of her dictionary, the lack of information about her parents, things she hears, and the whispers of some of the people around her, and the secrets they keep. These all help in building the light suspense that comes into being in the second half of the novel as Fidelia grows into a young adult.

AWW2020The novel moves slowly at first, a representation of Fidelia’s new life, and her adjustments to this new place. Yet when she overcomes a hurdle and finds a family with the Godwins, the pace picks up appropriately, and swiftly takes us through the next phase of Fidelia’s life as she makes friends, who are loyal to her and together, they explore the worlds of education, creativity and words.

The themes of family and friends – and the idea that family is what we make of it – are explored through Fidelia’s love of words and the role of creativity, literature and the power of education within our lives. It celebrates a love of words, which all books do, but on a new level and in a new way that brings the dictionary and lexicography to life for all readers who will be interested in this book, aged ten and over. It is for confident readers, and will instil a love of language, linguistics and words in all readers.

I loved this book, and would recommend it to all who love a good yarn, words and a story filled with hope, and girls and women who do not subscribe to the conventions of society, but work within them to change their circumstances and the circumstances of those they want to help. It sits well in its genre, reflects the sentiments and issues of colonial Melbourne, and allows the characters, who sit outside of societal norms, to be themselves, particularly in the second half of the novel, when Fidelia finds her voice and shares her knowledge, finding people who are willing to share this with her and encourage her.

Books that celebrate books and words like this one are favourites of mine. And I’m finding that these books are becoming popular. It is interesting to see how different authors approach this as well, and the role that words have on our daily lives, and where these words originally came from.

A powerful story about family, friends, words and books that will charm and enthral readers.

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog write rucerneTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT TO READ, WITH LOTS OF CHARMING AND QUIRKY CHARACTERS’ – Better Reading

Freja and her mother, Clementine, are reunited at last. Tobias and Vivi are in love. And Lucerne, their new home, is a paradise of snowy alps, sapphire lakes, white swans and delicious Swiss chocolate!

Everything seems perfect, until poor Lady P appears, bandaged from head to toe after a fall – or was it a push? Crimes break out across the city, all involving chocolate. Clementine doesn’t seem her usual self. And still Freja has not solved the biggest mystery – who is Tobias Appleby?

All will be revealed in the girl, the dog and the writer’s final adventure by award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad.


PRAISE FOR THE GIRL, THE DOG AND THE WRITER SERIES

‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘Fans of… Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

‘an absolute delight to read, with lots of charming and quirky characters … The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable

~*~

Tobias, Freja and Finnegan head off on their final adventure – to Lucerne. They’ve been summoned from their home in Provence to Switzerland, where Clementine has been for the past six months in a clinic. She shares a room with Lady P., whose story coincides with a series of chocolate thefts around the city, all centred around the famous Margrit Milk chocolate. Freja is still trying to solve the biggest mystery of all – who is Tobias Appleby?

This question has been at the heart of the series and has been one of the driving factors as Tobias and Freja travel across Italy, France and Switzerland on their adventures, and to be with Vivi as she learns about the specialty dishes across Europe. These elements are just as crucial to the story, as they are woven into the relationships, the mystery and all the outcomes of the story cleverly and intricately, evoking a sense of place, as well as a true sense of character and how they respond to their world.

AWW2020The elements of mystery within this series also come from the crimes Freja sets out to solve in each place. In Lucerne, she is hot on the trail of a chocolate thief and is sure that taking Clementine gifts everyday will help make her better. As Freja has grown, physically and emotionally, so has Tobias. Finnegan, not so much–he is still a puppy, after all. Lucerne comes to life as magically as Rome and Provence–you can feel the chill in the air when Tobby and Freja are able to take Clementine up the mountain, and the magic in the way everyone comes together to help Tobby and Freja settle in.

The third and final story is exquisitely linked – each story has Tobias using the world around him to construct his stories with such authenticity, that creators and writers will see something of himself in themselves. Finnegan reminded me of the dog my family used to have who also ate everything. Much like Finnegan, Indy would have eaten rubber ducks if he’d been given a chance.

The first two books are filled with fun and smiles, with a layer of seriousness when it came to the crimes. Yet here, there is an added layer of heaviness and sadness as we come to the realisation of what is happening with Clementine, and there is distinct foreshadowing of what is to come. Yet Katrina holds this together with the same lightness and delight of the adventures in Rome and Provence, and the same joy that the main characters and side characters bring to the story. They bring the story to life, and Lucerne just leaps off the page. This finale made me laugh and cry. My heart leapt and danced, and it also broke. You will need tissues for this instalment. Make sure you read this series in order – it is more powerful, and more enjoyable this way. Reading books is a way to engage with humanity and emotions on different levels, and this series has done it in spades.

During a time of our lives when we can’t travel, doing so through books is bittersweet. As each cover evokes a sense of travel and place, when married with the words, we are transported to a new place in each book. A place where things seem simpler, or a little easier. We get to escape from the worries of the world. And right now, we all need something like that, even if we miss the idea that we’ll be able to go to Rome, Provence and Lucerne soon. But for now, we can travel via stories like this series that are rich in story, setting, character and everything that pulls them together. A lovely and heartfelt conclusion to the series. Be sure to start with the adventures in Rome – it will all come together nicely in the end.

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog writer provenceTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 22nd October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:

‘FANS OF … JACQUELINE HARVEY WILL LOVE THIS BOOK’
– Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

When Freja and Tobias arrive in Claviers, Provence, it feels like home. The hilltop village is surrounded by olive groves, lavender fields and drifts of red poppies. The market square hides a world-famous pâtisserie and an antique merry-go-round. Pippin, their precocious young neighbour, and Vivi, the beautiful chef, fill their lives with chatter and laughter and love.

For a moment, the girl, the dog and the writer are happy.

But a spate of criminal activity casts a cloud over the village. Freja is determined to solve the mystery and uncover the villain, but the closer she gets, the more impossible things seem to become …

Award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad is back with the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome.


PRAISE FOR THE GIRL, THE DOG AND THE WRITER SERIES

‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Fans of the Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream. 8+ readers will love this book’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable

~*~

‘Provence is an echo of our lives.’ Tobias Appleby says this to Freja as they live in Provence, and make new friends, and try to solve the mystery of the dastardly criminal acts happening around the sleepy French village of Claviers. Not so sleepy, as it turns out. At every turn, Tobias and Freja make new friends: the Diderots, the Jolys, Pipping and gentle giant Henri who runs the charming merry-go-round. At the same time, everyone must contend with needy, demanding famous actress Mimosa Asterisque, suspected of a spate of crimes that see the village brought to its knees. Freja and her new friends – Pippin, Christophe, Edith and Cossette are determined to uncover, and bring joy back to Claviers.

AWW2020

This series continues the themes of friendship and family from the first. Freja feels at home with Tobias – at times, it feels like she is taking care of him more than he is taking care of her, and their move to Provence to follow Vivi. Freja is learning what family and friendship means – it is more than what she knows. She misses Clementine, but her world has expanded, her family has expanded. Of all the new characters, I fell in love with Pippin the most, and also instantly. He’s bubbly and cheerful, and each character brings something unique and new to the story.

The power of this book is in its representation of family – and that family is what we make of it, and the people we choose to be in our lives, as well as our biological family. Friends become family. Freja’s once small, insular world has become large and spans several countries. She had grown in many ways, and has even helped Tobias and Finnegan grow.

The magic in this book comes from the characters, the places, and the way food – gelato and pastries – informs the world, and its sense of timelessness – it could be set at any time in the last thirty years, and allows readers to imagine themselves as Freja and the other characters. It is world we know, and yet in some ways don’t know. Freja and Tobias take us on a journey – in many ways. Provence comes to life, with the scent of lavender and the musical delights of the merry-go-round, and many more. As Freja works to solve the mystery of who has been trying to drive people out of Claviers, and ruining their livelihoods, she will find out that not everything is always as it seems.

Cleverly combined as an adventure and a mystery series with a touch of romance along the way (although Tobby and Vivi might not always realise it), this series is delightful, and moves along at the right pace – not too fast, not too slow. It allows the characters and plot to develop and will enthral readers aged eight and older.

Onto Lucerne, and the final stages of Freja and Tobby’s story!

 

Book Bingo Eight 2020 – Themes of politics and power

Book bingo 2020

 

Welcome to the August edition of Book Bingo with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett. This month I am checking off the square for themes of politics and power. In some books, the themes of politics and power are very overt, and very obvious to the reader. This can be because of the gender of a character, a setting or the overall themes within the book that might be exploring something political in an allegorical, tactile or obvious way. However, there are those books that have themes of politics and power where the politics are often a lot more subversive, less obvious to the reader until something happens, and it becomes clear that there are much more sinister things happening than we’ve been led to believe. One such book, and the book that I have chosen to mark off this square is the March release of a stand-alone novel, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte.

the vanishing deep

Set in a world where people are governed by water, where diving is a job, and where a facility called Palindromena assists loved ones in a final farewell, The Vanishing Deep reveals that there is more to Palindromena than people know. Told over twenty-four hours in alternating perspectives of Tempest and Lor, The Vanishing Deep explores the power and politics behind a facility like Palindromena, and the way they control death, and the threats to those who try to expose them for what has gone wrong, and how they silence opposition. Whilst much of this comes in the latter half of the novel, the issues of who has power over whom, who allows people to come and go on the Reefs in this new world are constantly hinted at, and told that this is just how we live now – these aspects are not questioned as highly as the integrity and ethical behaviour of Palindromena.

Whilst it is a Young Adult novel, it does deal with some heavy themes, such as death and corruption. The way these are written about is accessible, but readers should be warned in case they find darker issues a bit distressing. It is in no way graphic yet can tug at the heartstrings and throw a few curveballs at the reader. It is an exceptional example of what happens when someone tries to play God and abuses their power to exploit those they see as expendable.

Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze

Max Booth Chip Blip coverTitle: Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip
Author: Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Adventure
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Published: 13th July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 130
Price: $12.99
Synopsis: It’s 2424. Super Sleuth Max Booth is uncovering the secrets of mysterious 20th Century gadgets. His faithful, but slightly neurotic robodog Oscar is also on the case! In book 5 Chip Blip the duo are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device. Using their future-sleuthy skills, they discover what it is, and unleash the truth of a long-lost treasure. But there are sinister characters and challenges along the way. Join the adventure in this fabulous series full of mystery, surprises and suspense.

What use is a chip that you can’t eat? Max is about to find out!

Max and his robo-dog, Oscar, are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device that looks like a grain of rice. They soon figure out what it is – an ID chip that should have been implanted into a very special dog – 400 years ago! The chip leads Max and Oscar to another long-lost treasure … but they aren’t the only folks in the hunt for it. If Max and Oscar aren’t careful, they could be hounded off the treasure trail for good!

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Romi from Books on Tour asked me to participate in a blog tour for the recent Max Booth, Future Sleuth book, published by Big Sky Publishing. When I first met Max in this book, he appeared with a bang and full of fun, introducing us instantly to Max, his robo-dog, Oscar, and Jessie, who works at the museum and gives them shelter, hiding them from a nemesis who wishes to return them somewhere they’d rather not go. Fans of the series will know where this place is, but if this is your first outing with Max, I think it needs to be a surprise – that makes it much more fun! Not having read the previous books, I wanted to read on to find out if we’d be told at some stage – so keep reading if this is your first Max Booth book – it will all come together!

When Max, Jessie and Oscar find a microchip one day, they’re stumped as to what it is – even the Splinternet can’t find information on it, and the old technology (old for Max – for us, it is current!) can’t help them either. So they set out from the Skyburbs to see what they can find out about the chip and what it contains. When they uncover another treasure, soon, nefarious people are after them, and Max and Oscar must use all their skills to get away.

This delightful and fast-paced book combines history (in Max’s world), science fiction and a fun and thoughtful mystery to create an intriguing and exciting story that will appeal to junior readers venturing out to their next level of independent reading, allowing them to imagine, learn and build on their vocabulary. I loved entering Max’s world – it is unique and possible – limited at this stage only by imagination. It allows children and any readers to imagine a world that has immense possibilities, based in what we know, and what is coming, and the developments happening in today’s world.

This is a series with so much potential to inform and entertain. It combines science fiction, mystery and adventure in one place, in a world where Max is the hero, and he outwits those who wish to track him down and steal the ancient treasures for their own nefarious means.

I found Max’s world fun and enjoyable, and hope readers new and old will enjoy this new adventure.