2018 Reading Wrap Up Post

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In 2018, I had the aim of reading 120 books throughout the year. This was my general reading goal from the first of January to the end of December, and included review books, books I had to read for work as a quiz writer with Scholastic Australia, and my other challenges – The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, the Pop Sugar Challenge (which I came close to finishing, but several categories were too hard to fulfil when it came to it), and Book Bingo 2018 with Theresa and Amanda, which we will be attempting again in 2019.

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In 2019, I will be participating in each of the above challenges again – The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, Book Bingo and the Pop Sugar Challenge. My main aim will be to complete the 2019 Book Bingo, and to see how I go with the 2019 PopSugar Challenge – which will be addressed in a separate post. Below is my list of books I read in 2018:

 

Reading Log

 

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Illustrated) by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander)
  2. The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett
  3. Where’s Jane? Find Jane Austen Hidden in her Stories by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill
  4. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
  5. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner
  6. Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
  7. Smile:The Story of the original Mona Lisa by Mary Hoffman
  8. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier
  9. Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson
  10. The Endsister by Penni Russon
  11. The Last Train by Sue Lawrence
  12. Graevale by Lynette Noni
  13. Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn
  14. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  15. Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
  16. The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht
  17. The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  18. The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin
  19. Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie
  20. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French
  21. The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
  22. Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk
  23. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer
  24. Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson
  25. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  26. Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard
  27. Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner
  28. Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard
  29. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  30. Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen
  31. The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale
  32. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan
  33. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester
  34. The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun by Emily Conolan
  35. The World Goes On by László Krasznahorakai (translated from the Hungarian by John Bakti, Ottilie Mulzet and Georges Szirtes
  36. The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait
  37. Munmun by Jesse Andrews
  38. Little Gods by Jenny Ackland
  39. Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon
  40. I am Sasha by Anita Selzer
  41. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  42. The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford
  43. Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn
  44. Monty the Sad Puppy by Holly Webb
  45. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  46. Lovesome by Sally Seltmann
  47. Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M Owen
  48. The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay
  49. Other Worlds: Perfect World by George Ivanoff
  50. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  51. The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne
  52. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross
  53. Eleanor’s Secret by Caroline Beecham
  54. Australia Day by Melanie Cheng
  55. The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela
  56. Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff
  57. Circe by Madeline Miller
  58. Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe
  59. The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader
  60. The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
  61. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
  62. Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
  63. Ready to Fall by Marcella Puxley
  64. A Home for Molly by Holly Webb
  65. My Girragundji by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Prior
  66. Burning Bridges and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan
  67. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles
  68. Selected Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield
  69. The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett
  70. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones
  71. Into the Night by Sarah Bailey
  72. The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo
  73. The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady
  74. The Notebook of Doom #10: Snap of the Super-Goop by Troy Cummings
  75. Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt
  76. Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West
  77. Ella and Olivia: A Wild Adventure by Yvette Poshoglian
  78. Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey
  79. Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill
  80. Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr
  81. We See the Stars by Kate van Hooft
  82. The Far Back Country by Kate Lyons
  83. Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron
  84. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
  85. Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook by Warner Brothers and Jody Revenson
  86. Strange Meeting by Susan Hill
  87. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
  88. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1)
  89. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)
  90. If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken
  91. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3)
  92. Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles
  93. The Cat’s-Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4)
  94. Children of the Dragon: The Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  95. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele
  96. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5)
  97. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn
  98. Ninjago: The Mystery of the Masks by Kate Howard
  99. Spirit by Ellen Miles (The Puppy Place)
  100. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6)
  101. The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes
  102. Scrublands by Chris Hammer
  103. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson
  104. The Last Firehawk: The Crystal Caverns by Katrina Charman
  105. Hey Brother by Jarrah Dundler
  106. The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Satellite Space Mission by AnnMarie Anderson
  107. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer
  108. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
  109. Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
  110. The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
  111. The Brink of Darkness by Jeff Giles
  112. Mouseford Academy: Lights, Camera, Action by Thea Stilton
  113. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
  114. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
  115. Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2)
  116. A Kitten Called Tiger by Holly Webb
  117. Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane
  118. The Distance Between Me and The Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti
  119. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
  120. Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer
  121. The Note Book of Doom: Battle of the Boss-Monster by Troy Cummings (#13)
  122. Mission Alert: Island X by Benjamin Hulme-Cross
  123. Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass
  124. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky
  125. We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni
  126. The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson
  127. The Colours of all the Cattle by Alexander McCall-Smith
  128. Frieda by Annabel Abbs
  129. Secrets Hidden Below by Sandra Bennett
  130. The Shelter Puppy by Holly Webb
  131. The Case of the Missing Marquess (An Enola Holmes Mystery #1) by Nancy Springer.
  132. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (An Enola Holmes Mystery #2) by Nancy Springer
  133. What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra
  134. The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears
  135. Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes
  136. Total Quack up by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck
  137. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  138. Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
  139. Let Sleeping Dragons Lie by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
  140. Stormtrooper Class Clowns by Ace Landers
  141. Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee
  142. The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2)
  143. Storm troopers: Class Clown by Ace Landers
  144. The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters
  145. Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Busi
  146. The Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas
  147. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
  148. The Little Fairy Sister by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenbery Outhwaite
  149. Hogwarts: A Movie Scrapbook
  150. Goodbye Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite
  151. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  152. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling
  153. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  154. Edward by Ellen Miles
  155. Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma by Jacqueline Harvey
  156. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  157. Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington
  158. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  159. The Rescued Kitten by Holly Webb
  160. The Au Pair by Emma Rous
  161. Dear Santa, edited by Sam Johnson OAM
  162. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  163. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore
  164. A Very Murderous Christmas by Cecily Gayford
  165. Wiser than Everything by Lorena Carrington
  166. Time Jumpers: Escape from Egypt by Wendy Mass]
  167. Henry VIII and the Men who Made Him by Tracy Borman

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As you can see, I have read kids’ books, young adult books, fiction and non-fiction books and everything in between for quiz writing and reviewing, and my own reading that I was able to do in between the books sent to me as a reviewer and quiz writer.

2019 Badge

In wrapping up my 2018 reading, there are definitely some books I wanted to get to but didn’t, and that I hope I can get to in 2019. With similar goals for 2019, I hope to achieve similar numbers, more books read, and hopefully more reviews coming your way for the next twelve months.

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

One of the challenges I did during 2019 was the PopSugar Challenge. It had forty categories, plus an additional ten advanced ones – a couple of which I managed to check off, and I filled most of the main categories, some with multiple books. It was a good challenge, but one thing I think lets it down is that it is overly prescriptive – and I think this made it too hard to fill in – almost impossible for some, in fact.

One was an author with the same first or last name as you – and this could let many people down, as there will be many names, not just mine, that do not appear as any part of an author’s name. Some I didn’t fill due to lack of time, but there were some that relied on accessibility as well – being able to get the book, or something being available in a library, bookstore or your collection. The point of a challenge is to challenge you and your reading – but perhaps not in a way that lets you down when you find you can’t fill a category.

Still, it was a fun challenge and I’ll be doing it again this year – but I feel that the categories get too prescriptive and specific each year, and rely too much on the accessibility of books – just because you can find a title in a Google search does not mean that book will be readily available for you – and my plan is to fill as many as I can with what I have.

Challenge #1

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu Victoria and Abdul (2017)

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

The next book in a series you started: Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen, The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book involving a heist: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait, Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #2)

Nordic Noir:

A novel based on a real person: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

Country: England
Book: The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book with the time of day in the title: early – Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

A book about a villain or anti-hero: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay

A book about death or grief: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

A book with your favourite colour in the title: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles

A book with alliteration in the title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

A book about time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass

A book with a weather element in the title: Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie, Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West

A book set at sea: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Bluebottle by Belinda Castles, Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with an animal in the title: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book set on a different planet: Graevale by Lynette Noni

A book with song lyrics in the title: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence (Last Train Out of Sydney)

A book about or set on Halloween: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

A book with characters who are twins: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan

A book about feminism: Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

A book about mental health: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson (mental disabilities, dealing with grief and loneliness)

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite

A book by two authors: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book about or involving sport: Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk

A book by a local author: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier (AU author), Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen, Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A book mentioned in another book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, mentioned in Little Gods.

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

A childhood classic you’ve never read: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

A book that’s published in 2018: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Talking as Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A book set in the decade you were born: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French

A book with an ugly cover: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges:

2015: A book with a one-word title: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Lovesome by Sally Seltmann.

2016: A book based on a fairy tale: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

2017: A novel set during wartime: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

A bestseller from the year you graduated high school (2004):

A cyberpunk book:

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place:

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you:

A microhistory: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A book about a problem facing society today: When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth – poaching. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Racism.

A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge:

TOTAL READ: 5

As you can see, some categories were easier to fill than others, some I didn’t manage to find anything for aforementioned reasons, and some had multiple entries. Some were filled in with a stretch – perhaps this is why I like looser themes, rather than ones that dictate what must be in a title or part of the authors name – you still get the challenge of finding a book that fills it, without causing panic because nothing fits in – this takes the fun out of it. So in 2019, my goal is to fill whatever categories I can. And if there are some where I don’t find a book, or a book does not appeal to me, I will give it a miss – and just let it happen as it happens.

In my mind, a challenge like this whilst fun, can also be inhibiting, which is why in the group that does this challenge, I’ve suggested a list of other challenges in case others want to take those on as well as this one or instead of – something I might do, or tweak them for my individual needs.

So ends another year of reading challenges.

Booktopia

Gendered Reading: Why Do We Still Insist on Gendering Books?

Over the past few months and years, I have been following online discussions about the way people gender reading – not only the act of reading, as a pursuit that girls are said to prefer, but the books we give younger children and what we expect of them as they grow and how they develop their reading tastes. Trends in publishing for children and young adults, but especially children, at that age of discovering independent reading and what they enjoy for themselves, can be gendered – targeted stories about princesses being saved for girls, and boys playing sports for boys, for example, are the two extremes. Girls are frilly and passive, boys are dirty and active. It sometimes seems that there is no in between, and children are often presented with books chosen by adults, the ones who buy the books – which, when you only know a few brief facts about a child, can be hard, because what if you buy the wrong book? Understandably, people like to play it safe, and that is where gendered reading can come in.

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseYesterday, I followed Word of Mouth TV and Jacqueline Harvey on Twitter as they tweeted and chatted about and at the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture, with the Australian Society of Authors and the Children’s Book Council of Australia, on the issue of gendered books and reading, and how adults in the lives of children – whether implicitly or explicitly, in schools and libraries, guide children towards books “for girls” or “for boys”. Which brings me to the question – just what are boy books versus girl books? Well, apparently, if you’ve been following the discussions, a few things boys won’t read, or are said to be discouraged from reading:

 

– a book with love in the title

– a book with a girl on the cover

– a novel (boys apparently prefer comic books)

– a girl in the title

– a female author.

 

However, as adults, parents, teachers, booksellers and librarians, we encourage girls to read widely, but still within what is seen as “acceptable” for girls: no crime, no violence, passive princesses! LOVE! As a girl reader who has read widely since the age of six, war and crime have never been a deterrent. Spies? GREAT, I love Kensy and Max, and so do many other boys and girls when I read the reviews – and adults. Yet, Jacqueline Harvey has only had the chance to present to one or two groups of just boys – rather than mixed groups or just girls, and George Ivanoff pointed out that he saw that the boys in the mixed group were just as enthralled as the girls – excellent news for Kensy and Max, Alice- Miranda and Clementine-Rose. In my view, anyone can read anything they desire, and that they feel ready for – readers should be free to explore the world around them, so whenever I see people asking for “boy books” or “girl books”, I often feel the desire to point out that books do not have a gender, they are just books. Kensy is exactly the kind of girl character I would have enjoyed as a kid – because she was so different and refused to be overly girly.

 

So why do we encourage these reading habits? Is it because we associate reading with characters in popular culture like Hermione Granger and Rory Gilmore (By the way, two of my favourite characters), or even Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds? The lack of male characters who enjoy reading, and who aren’t broody and sullen like Jess Mariano, also of Gilmore Girls? Girls as readers seem to have a few role models to look up to when it comes to reading and seeing themselves as readers but also as people who have interests beyond reading. Boys, it seems, are always shown as the hero, or the nerd (Spencer, but he’s an adorable nerd, and a positive reading role model), or Jess, who often faced unfair comparisons with certain literary men, like Holden Caulfield, whilst Rory, and indeed girls, have many to be compared to. Supporting characters can be readers if they are boys – Percy Weasley, but often, they fade into the background, and so, it feels, does reading as a pleasurable activity for our boys.

 

Of these characters I know of, Spencer, Rory and Hermione are the three whose reading is prominently and positively portrayed – to the point where other characters don’t blink. And when the other male characters in these books and shows – Derek Morgan, Harry and Ron, Dean or Logan – are shown as sporty and brave, or disinterested in reading (Ron), or a someone who would rather disrupt learning than learn (Logan), we don’t blink either. My point is these, whilst exceptionally well written characters, and ones I can either love or hate in varying degrees, are characteristic of how we portray what it means to be a boy or a girl, and therefore, what activities and indeed, books we desire them to read. And perhaps this is why we are seeing a trend in books aimed at both boys and girls by authors like Kate Forsyth and Jacqueline Harvey, and George Ivanoff, and a trend in reimagined fairy tales for girls who dare to not be a passive princess – gone are the days of the prince saving the day, Rapunzel can save herself now!

 

And books aimed at both boys and girls that tell stories of men and women, across a diverse group of people, who have dared to be different to what their respective societies, cultures, nations and times in history expected of them, and why Disney movies are starting to pull back on ending it with the marriage of the main male and female characters. There are quite a few to name that have done this over the years, but the three recent ones that stand out to me are Frozen, Brave and Moana, where it was love of family that saved the day. Sure, Anna might have ended up with Kristoff (I had Hans picked as the villain from the start – if they look too good to be true, they probably are), but it was the love she had for Elsa, and Elsa’s love for her – their acts of true love, that drove the movie and the idea that love does not have to be romantic to be powerful. It is the same love we see in Kensy and Max, and in the Other Worlds series, especially in book two, Beast World, narrated by a girl, Xandra, who is also disabled. George Ivanoff wrote her really well and made sure she was represented as a disabled girl in a way that wasn’t demeaning. In our Twitter conversation, he said he had written books one and three with a male protagonist, and two and four with a female protagonist, and hoped boys reading them would continue with the female characters.

 

Unpacking gendered reading and representation of this in film and other media is not going to be resolved in this one post. It requires self-reflection, and asking ourselves why do we hope boys will begin a series with a boy and continue reading the books narrated by a girl? Why do we assume boys are naturally more interested in comics, sports and certain male-coded things rather than fairy tales or girl spies, or anything that girls are supposed to inherently be drawn to? We assume, we don’t ask, unless we think the child is old enough to decide for themselves – and at what age do we start this? Before they start school? When they’re learning to read? Somewhere in between, or only once they hit age ten? My own reading experiences are varied. I read Narnia at age nine, and books like The Wind in the Willows, The Neverending Story and a few others that might have been deemed “boy books”. I also read what are likely deemed “girl books”: The Babysitters Club, Seven Little Australians, Little Women (many, many times), and The Secret Garden, amongst many others. These days, I read whatever I can, and whenever I can. I read books by women, by men, by both, by people with various identities, and books aimed at boy, girls and everyone in between. I laugh with Bridget, I spy with Kensy and Max, I paint with Rowly, and explore all avenues of history with Kate Forsyth. I traverse London with Charles Dickens, and solve crimes with Phryne, and so many others that I cannot list, otherwise this will become an exegesis rather than a blog post.

 

 

During this blog post, I have worked in the binary because many discussions I read do. This is a whole other level that needs unpacking, the inclusion of all genders, and perhaps a really good reason why we should refrain from using the terms “boy books” and “girl books” – and just go with books so we can all feel included, and all find our way to characters we identify with. This layer is something I do not have enough of an understanding about yet, and will leave to those who do to comment on and write about – and leave it at we need to stop gendering our books and reading habits. Just Read.

 

A list of books that we can all enjoy, whatever our gender:

Kate Forsyth

Chain of Charms series

The Gypsy Crown

The Silver Horse

The Herb of Grace

The Cat’s Eye Shell

The Lightning Bolt

The Butterfly in Amber

Jacqueline Harvey:

Kensy and Max series

Kensy and Max: Breaking News

Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

George Ivanoff

Other Worlds series

Other Worlds: Perfect World

Other Worlds: Beast World

Other Worlds: Game World

Other Worlds: Dark World

frogkisser

 

Garth Nix

Frogkisser!

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Have Sword, Will Travel series

Have Sword, Will Travel

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Comment with your books that you’d recommend to anyone regardless of gender – I have based this on what I have read!

 

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

have sword, will travel.jpgTitle: Have Sword, Will Travel

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams, comes this hilarious, action-packed adventure featuring a very unlikely knight, an admirably stubborn girl and a sword with attitude.

When Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, something very unexpected happens … the sword starts to talk! Much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight. Eleanor would love to become a knight – but she’s not the one with the sword. Unearthing Biter is only the start of their troubles; soon boy, girl and sword must depart on a noble quest to save their kingdom from threats – in both human and dragon form.

~*~

In a new series that started last year, Garth Nix has teamed up with Sean Williams to create a medieval-esque world, filled with knights and dragons, and dark creatures threatening to take over the kingdom, as well as enchanted swords that talk back to those who wield them. What could be more fun? Well, a world where girls have as much of a chance to become a knight as the boys do! In the beginning, we meet Odo and Eleanor as they are undertaking daily tasks for their family and village, looked after by Sir Halfdan, and often teased by twin brothers, Aaric and Addyson. During these tasks, they discover a sword lying in a pool of water, and pull it out, thinking it belongs to Sir Halfdan. When it begins to talk after Odo’s blood awakens it, and introduces itself (or himself, as it turns out), as  Hildebrand Shining Foebiter, Scourge of Scourger, Daragonslayer, and becomes known as Biter the Dragonslayer, or Biter, for short, by Eleanor and Odo, who are on a quest to supposedly save the people of their country from a devastating dragon known as Quenwolf, who is feared throughout the land. Biter knights Odo before the quest, where they come across a female knight known as Sir Saskia, and another magical sword known as Runnel – Biter’s sister.

But all is not as it seems with the dragon, the quest, or Sir Saskia – and Odo and Eleanor must journey across the lands and meet Quenwolf, to find out what is happening before they can return home.

In the few Garth Nix books I have read, the female hero is front and centre, and breaking the mould of what a princess or female fantasy character is expected to do. She is daring, and eager, yet not perfect. She longs for adventure and becoming a knight, whereas Odo, knighted by Biter, would rather stay home in safety, and is a rather reluctant knight, but with Biter and Eleanor’s help – which he doesn’t always want – will become braver, but still desires to return home.

In this story, we have everything: a gutsy girl, a reluctant hero, a kingdom under attack, spies, dragons, magic, dark creatures, and of course, magical, talking swords that don’t shy away from being snarky or sarcastic when it is called for. It is a world that is in many ways, familiar – a low-tech world with magic, dragons and knights, yet with a newness that carries the story in leaps and bounds as Odo and Eleanor travel across the country, to keep out of harm’s way, and save their village and the kingdom from the dark forces that threaten to take over and who start seeking to hunt them down as the story settles into a flow that will continue into the next book, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, which will hopefully be reviewed during the week, as I am, at the time of writing this post, nearly finished it.

I’ve got a few Garth Nix books to read in my many stacks of books and will eventually be getting to them to see what other spectacular characters he has written for all readers to enjoy and relate to. A great start to a new series for younger readers – well, readers of all ages if I am being honest. I’m now looking forward to what, if anything, follows Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.

Booktopia

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2) by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

let sleeping dragons lieTitle: Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2)

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:From New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams comes this funny, exciting fantasy adventure about two friends and a couple of swords with attitude.

Odo and Eleanor are excited to be knights. Only … they’re stuck at home waiting for something bigger to come along. That ‘something bigger’ comes to them in the form of an old man named Egda, a warrior named Hundred and an ancient legend about a sleeping dragon.

Odo, Eleanor, and their trusty and talkative swords, Biter and Runnel, are plunged into a quest that will take them (as all good quests must) to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Also, they will need to keep an eye out for dragons.

As they did with Have Sword, Will Travel, fantasy masters Garth Nix and Sean Williams have crafted a tale full of fire, laughs and twists for adventurous readers of all ages.

~*~

Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor return in a new adventure. In Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, they are off on another adventure, much to Eleanor’s joy and enthusiasm, which is in contrast to Odo, who’d rather head back home to work in the family mill. Instead, they embark on another quest to save the kingdom, and find the rightful king, and battles with bile wolves, that their stroppy swords lead them into. Remember, Runnel and Biter are no ordinary swords – they are enchanted, sentient swords, who desire battle and bravery, much to Odo’s chagrin. In the midst of the dangerous battle, they are swept to safety by blind Egda, and the warrior, Hundred.

What follows is another dangerous quest, to find an all-powerful dragon, and stop an imposter taking the throne. To do so, they must risk, their lives, the lives of many villagers along the way, and the lives of Egda and Hundred to awaken an ancient, mythical dragon who can restore order to their world. However, is it worth the risk, or should they let sleeping dragons lie and find another way?

In the second in the series, Odo and Eleanor are back, this time with an entourage and secret identities as they traverse the kingdom to stop the imposter on the throne. Far from the threat of the false knight of Have Sword, Will Travel, Sir Saskia, Odo and Eleanor dodge thieves and people trying to stop them, fight bravely – Eleanor, and reluctantly on Odo’s part. The continuing theme of the reluctant hero in Odo, and Eleanor’s eagerness to partake in the quest and become the best night she can is threaded throughout the novel.

The presence of female characters like Eleanor, Hundred and Saskia, as well as the mystical dragons like Quenwolf shows that female power in these books is an integral part in the story, and drives it forwards just as much as Odo and the male characters, showing that boys and girls can take on, and enjoy roles that traditionally, might not be assigned to them in fantasy novel. It is refreshing to see these roles more and more, and to have good books aimed at readers of all ages and genders, and not at a specific demographic – it allows all readers to imagine themselves as Odo or Eleanor – or even both if they feel like it, and not feel as though they are identifying with the wrong character. For girls to imagine themselves a knight is one of the reasons I have fallen in love with this series.

It has fairy tale elements of a quest, and the magical swords pulled from the stone, or presented by a lake, in a similar manner to Excalibur and King Arthur, to the motifs of the reluctant hero, thrust into a world they do no understand. However, Odo has a supportive family, who encourage him to go on the quest and help him prepare, whereas other motifs involve an orphan thrust into the world. In this world, Odo and Eleanor mentor each other, but are also mentored by their swords, Biter and Runnel – which makes it a very unique and fun series to read.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this new series, and look forward to what happens next, as I am sure there are characters that we have not heard the last of.