I’m moving through this challenge a bit slower than I’d like – for several categories I do have the books, I just need to read them. For others, I’m waiting for the right or specific book to arrive. One square I might struggle to fill is the book I keep putting off, as I don’t intentionally put a book off if it’s on my TBR or shelves. In a way I am because I have been working on a strategy to get through everything.
Back to this post though, I had a few ideas of what I was going to read, and I finally settled on the latest in the long-lost fairy tale collection by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington, Snow White and Rose Red – And Other Tales of Kind Young Women. This fulfilled several challenge categories, and was a much-anticipated book. It was released at the height of the pandemic, and so I invited Kate and Lorena to appear on my blog in an interview – I am biased in saying it is one of my favourite interviews of the series, because we chatted about fairy tales, writing and illustration processes and many other things about writing and Kate’s books.
This book is lovely – from the stories chosen and retold, to the beautiful layered, photographic and digital illustrations Lorena created to be paired with Kate’s magical and spellbinding words. It is a fantastic fairy tale book and I am glad I chose it for this square.
In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.
The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165
Title: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women
Author: Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
Genre: Fairy tales, Fantasy,
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: 1st May 2020
Synopsis: An enchanting collection of little-known fairy tales about young women who prevail because of their kindness and compassion
1. Snow-White & Rose Red save an enchanted bear from an ungrateful goblin
2. Marushka is sent to find strawberries in the snow by her cruel step-sister but wins the help of the Twelve Months
3. Ailsa climbs Mischanter Mountain to rescue her sister, armed with nothing more than her sewing kit and her parents’ blessing
4. Reinhilda outwits a witch and saves her sweetheart
5. A kind henwife helps Morag find a home for her family with the help of a magic pot
6. Agnes and a young Romany woman together overcome the curse of an enchanted cup
7. Brigid honours a promise she made, even though it takes her to the underworld and back
With an introduction by Isobelle Carmody, Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women contains tales from Germany, Slovenia, Ireland and the Scottish Travellers.
It will transform the way you think about fairy tales.
For the third time in the past few years, superstar author and illustrator team, Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington have collaborated on amazing collections of fairy tales. These fairy tales come from all traditions, and often have several versions across different countries and cultures, that fit into one of the Aarne-Thompson classifications that categorises fairy tales and folk tales thematically under numbers and a brief description of the type of archetypes and characters present in the tales collected from all cultures across the world. Under this classification system, each fairy tale or folk tale type and then each folk or fairy tale, is listed for comparison and is an easy way – once you’ve learned the system – to find all the tales that come under something like Tale Type 313 – ‘The Magic Flight’. This tale type is one of the world’s most widely told stories, and Kate retells an example in this collection, called ‘Tricking the Witch’.
From the first story retold, ‘Snow White and Rose Red’, is another common tale to the last – ‘The Corpse Watchers’ – Kate has drawn on fairy tales from lesser known traditions, but also, fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm that aren’t as well-known as some, and in some cases, literary Victorian fairy tales written or recorded by women. In these retellings, Kate has given the female characters agency, and carefully removed pejorative terms from one or two where she has been able to, in order to make them inclusive whilst still capturing the oral magic of these tales, and the beauty behind the tales. They capture the historical periods they were recorded in or originated from (at the point we can trace to) perfectly, whilst still evoking a sense of wonder and magic that comes with fairy tales. They are in lands far, far away yet at the same time, in familiar places that live deep within us – even if we have not been there physically.
Kate’s magical and evocative words are accompanied by the delightful illustrations by Lorena Carrington, who uses photography and everyday objects to create her images – in the author and illustrator notes after each tale, Kate and Lorena describe their process for each tale, which adds to the richness of the book, the stories and the illustrations. Each illustration is layered with texture and colour, with silhouetted figures against colourful and textured backdrops, or framed in a door or window against a white background. I found it really hard to choose a favourite – they were all lovely and fit very nicely with the rest of the series. Kate and Lorena are currently working on the fourth book in the series, and I’m eager to see what they do with that one, and if they are able to, any others. Each book has seven stories – a magic number in fairy tales!
This is one of those books that will be treasured and adored, and will set well with other fairy tale collections and fairy tale retellings. I love Kate and Lorena’s work, and hope that there will be many more of these collections to come.
Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Kate Forsyth has written over forty books for all ages. Lorena Carrington is an illustrator, who works with photographic mediums and digitally to create her fabulous illustrations for the Lost Fairy Tale series, published by Serenity Press. The third book, Snow White and Rose Red, is published today, the first of May 2020. I decided I wanted this interview to appear on release day, and will be posting my review as close to it as possible. Kate and Lorena, like many authors, had launches, bookstore appearances, art gallery appearances and other events cancelled in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, much of this publicity is moving online at this time. I’ve read Kate and Lorena’s previous books and have a special edition of Lorena’s art – and they are much treasured books. Kate and Lorena have appeared together for this interview.
Hi Kate and Lorena, and welcome to the Book Muse!
First of all, how did you two meet each other and was Vasilisa the Wise the first project you collaborated on?
KATE: We first met when I wanted to buy myself a piece of fairy tale art as a present to myself for having completed my doctorate in fairy tales. A writer friend of mine Allison Tait sent me a message on Twitter with a link to Lorena’s website, essentially saying ‘Kate, have you seen this? I think you’d like it’. It was a complete coincidence – Allison didn’t know I was actively looking to buy some art, she just thought I’d like what Lorena creates. And I did! I loved it! I bought one of her pieces at once, and we began to communicate via social media, and just found we had so much in common. After a while, we realised that we were both working on very similar projects, quite independently of each other, and we decided to collaborate. We worked in secret for quite a long time, exchanging stories and images, and slowly Vasilisa the Wise came together.
LORENA: I think our serendipitous meeting is an example of the good that social media can do. At its best, social media create communities in which extraordinary connections can be made. Without that one tweet from Allison to Kate, my work life today would be completely different, and I’m so grateful for it!
Snow White and Rose Red comes out at the end of April – did you have any launches or events planned for this book, and if so, what were they?
KATE: Lorena and I have done a tour together with every book so far, and we had so much fun planned for this book! A launch, art gallery showings, school visits, and so on. It was heart-breaking that everything had to be cancelled. Apart from anything else, it means we won’t get to see each other! We live so far away from each other, our launch tours were always a lovely excuse to get together, drink champagne, throw around ideas, and talk for hours. Now we shall just have to do it all virtually.
LORENA: I desperately miss the chance to sit on Kate’s balcony with a glass of champagne this year! But that time will come again, and for now we’re having a fabulous time putting together videos and plotting our online book launch on May 1st. There will be champagne involved.
Are there any future Lost Fairy Tale anthologies planned for the two of you, and will the series hit the magic fairy tale number of seven?
KATE: We are working on Book 4 right now! We chose the stories together, and I have re-written them, and now Lorena is creating the art for them. The book will be called ‘The Gardener’s Son, the Golden Bird & Other Tales of Gentle Young Men.’ And, yes, we like to imagine seven …
LORENA: At least seven! I just started work on The Gardener’s Son this week, and I’m reminded (as I always am) of how much fun it is working with Kate, and with her incredible words.
Do you have a favourite tale that you have worked on?
KATE: All of them! We don’t retell a story if we don’t love it. Though of course (speaking very quietly) some are more beloved than others. It’s made me very happy to bring the beautiful stories of Mary de Morgan to a wider audience, and I particularly love the Grimm stories ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, ‘Six Swans’ and ‘Snow White & Rose Red’. ‘Tam Lin’ is one of my favourite stories to retell in an oral performance, while ‘Katie Crackernuts’ is another old Scottish tale I just adore.
LORENA: I’m with Kate. Every story I’m reading or illustrating at the time is my favourite. I do have a soft spot for some too though: ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘A Mother’s Yarn’ and ‘Strawberries in the Snow’… And ‘The Pot Who Went to the Laird’s Castle’ is so much fun to read aloud.
Lorena, when did you start illustrating, and what was the first medium you experimented with?
LORENA: Before I moved into illustration, I was a photographer and photographic artist. I began as an absolutely purist to the photographic form: I formulated my own photographic chemistry, printed from large format negatives onto fibre-based paper, and only in black and white of course… This all came crashing down when I had children! I suddenly couldn’t justify locking myself in the darkroom for days at a time. So, I moved slowly into digital, but if I was going to adapt to this new medium, I wanted to take full advantage of it. I began montaging photographs together in Photoshop, and having young children inspired me to start thinking more deeply about fairy tales and the stories we tell them. It. was a natural progression then to move into illustration.
When did you decide the photographic layering method you have used in Vasilisa the Wise, The Buried Moon, Wiser than Everything and Snow White and Rose Red was the most effective method for this series of books?
LORENA: The layering method works so well because I’m working with a world reflected in but different to our own. Photography captures what is it front of the camera, but with digital montage I can build something new from it. I can create lions and griffins out of sticks and leaves. A girl can sprout a mermaid’s tail, or tight rope walk over a single hair. I can make a forest from blades of grass, and the ocean from a fish tank. It feels magical, even as I sit at my messy desk with a rapidly cooling cup of tea.
Of all the illustrations you have created so far, Lorena, which have you had the most fun with?
LORENA: The most fun are probably the illustrations where I have to build a creature from scratch. I really enjoyed creating the goblin getting tangled in a fishing line for Snow White and Rose Red. He’s just so delightfully wicked and cranky! I had a fantastic time finding tangles of hair and wigs to make his ridiculous beard.
Kate, you’ve loved fairy tales for a long time – your whole life. What was it about fairy tales that attracted you to them, and was there one in particular that you loved?
KATE: I spent quite a lot of time in hospital when I was a little girl, and so books and stories were enormously important to me, offering me an escape from the physical constraints of being so sick and afraid and alone. My mother bought me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy tales when I was seven, and I read it to absolute tatters. There was something about the darkness in the tales that spoke very powerfully to me. The heroes of fairy tales have to face profound dangers – being turned into toads, being fattened up to be eaten – and that sense of peril resonated with me in a way that most sugary-sweet children’s stories did not. I too was in danger. I too was facing insurmountable odds. Fairy tales gave me hope that I too could triumph, just like the young men and women who defeated the witches and ogres and dragons of their world.
Of all the tales I read, ‘Rapunzel’ was the one that resonated with me most powerfully. This is because my lonely hospital ward was a metaphorical tower, I realise now; and also, because Rapunzel’s tears had magical healing powers, while I was in hospital because I had lost my tear duct in a savage dog attack. I ended up writing a whole novel inspired by ‘Rapunzel’, and a poem, and did my doctorate on the history of the tale, so you can say a great deal of my life has been shaped by seeking to understand this one story’s magnetic pull on my imagination.
Your love of fairy tales is evident in your novels – whether it is the themes or tropes, or the use of a particular fairy tale infusion to tell a story from history – such as the Singing, Springing Lark in The Beast’s Garden – how do you go about choosing which fairy tales work with which historical events?
KATE: That is a very hard question to answer, Ashleigh, because it’s never as mechanical as that. Each book comes to life in my imagination in a different way, and sometimes it’s the fairy tale that inspires the historical events. For example, the idea for The Beast’s Garden came to me in a kind of dream, as I was awakening from sleep. The dream showed me a girl in a golden dress singing to a room full of SS soldiers as she tried to save the man she loved. The setting and the fairy tale were fused together from the start (a golden dress is a key motif in ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’.) I draw upon a number of different fairy tales in The Wild Girl, but all of them were tales told to the Grimm brothers by Dortchen Wild, a real-life woman who was my protagonist in that book. What tales she told, and where and when, became the thematic structure of the book, and revealed to me her story. The Blue Rose is the only book of mine where I went out actively searching for a fairy tale to fit my story, and even then, I stumbled upon it most serendipitously and when I was not actually looking for it.
Can you tell my readers anything about your next fairy tale infused historical fiction, Kate?
KATE: I’m working with an ancient Greek myth this time! The book I am writing is set in Crete, in contemporary times and during the Nazi occupation of 1941-1945, and it draws upon the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur. The novel will be called The Crimson Thread, which is a reference to the ball of red thread that Ariadne gives to Theseus, so that he may find his way out of the labyrinth after he has slaughtered the Minotaur. I’m only in the early stages, but I’m very much loving the writing of it!
This is for both of you – do you have a favourite artist or style of art, and why?
KATE: I am a passionate lover of art, and artists feature in quite a few of my books. The Venetian artist Titian in Bitter Greens, for example, or the Pre-Raphaelite artists at the heart of Beauty in Thorns. I particularly love figurative art which has a story at its core – which is probably why I love the Pre-Raphaelites so much as they were inspired by myth, poetry and fairy tales, just like me.
LORENA: My early work was inspired a lot by modernist photographers like Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti and Edward Western, and I think I still keep a lot of those sensibilities, though it may not be immediately obvious in my work! I think they taught me that so much can be found in a single object, yet you can still hold onto its essence. More obviously, I adore the work of illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edmund Dulac, and Virginia Frances Sterret. The use of silhouettes and broadly coloured and textured backgrounds in Golden Age fairy tale illustrations were a launching point for my own illustration style.
You both work in the arts sector – with recent events and the cancellation of launches and festivals, and booksellers closing temporarily or changing the way they operate for the next few months, how do you think the arts industry overall might be impacted?
KATE: Oh, Ashleigh, this is a terrible time for our creative artists! Our government does not value their work, and does not understand how variable and difficult our income is anyway. The sign of a rich and vibrant culture is always its art, and yet it seems as if we are to live on nothing – creating out of a void. I am so afraid for the young artists, and those that are working outside the norm, and those that come from Indigenous or migrant backgrounds, and those who have staked everything on their creative work. Stories and art are so important! We are not human without them.
Supporting the arts, and in this series, Australian authors and illustrators across the board is something I am passionate about. What is the most important thing about the arts for both of you, and how should Australians support the arts and local bookstores in these times?
KATE: Thank you, Ashleigh, it’s so heartening to know that there are people like you in the world, working tirelessly to help and support our creative artists. What can I say? We should all read more Australian authors, and listen to home-grown music more, and watch more Australian-made films and dramas and dance and theatre and buy Australian art to make our homes beautiful. I do my best, particularly with Australian authors. I buy them, I read them, I post pictures of their book covers on social media, I review them on my blog and for Booktopia, I began a light-hearted book show on YouTube with one of my best friends, I like and share the posts of as many writers as I can, and when they are overcome with hurt and despair, I try and send them loving support and reassurance. I do all this every single day, because it’s all I can do.
LORENA: I second everything Kate says in the last two questions. We need art and books more than ever, and those who make them it haven’t been properly supported, certainly not in our lifetimes, and far less so in times of crisis like these. Our industry will survive: it’s a many faceted thing, but we need to remember that the industry wouldn’t exist without the many individuals that make it. We can all support the arts: by buying a book, chipping in a few dollars a month to an artist on Patreon, purchasing handmade locally made gifts… and by constantly reminding those with money and power that the society they profit from would not exist without the arts.
Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and how are they getting books to customers at this time?
KATE: My local booksellers are Berkelouw Books at Balgowlah, in Sydney, and they have very sadly closed down for the moment. However, The Constant Reader at Mosman are struggling on, having click-and-collect services available – no browsing in the shop allowed but they have a great website (and all of my books are available!)
LORENA: We have a fabulous bookshop in Castlemaine (Victoria), Stoneman’s Bookroom. The staff there are extraordinarily supports of local authors and illustrators. They are taking order for pick-up at the moment, and I hope it’s enough to get them through. I can’t answer this question without also giving a massive shout-out to Blarney Books in Port Fairy. Jo is brilliantly engaged with the Australian book and art community, and works passionately to promote their work. She’s extraordinary.
Favourite author, series or genre to read?
KATE: My favourites genres are historical fiction, crime, fantasy, memoir and – of course! – fairy tale retellings. I have a page on my website that I call ‘Kate’s Favourite Writers’ – I think there’s more than 110 there! https://kateforsyth.com.au/favourite-writers-adult
Lorena: I can’t resist an Australian-written YA or middle grade book. I’m currently reading Alison Croggon’s The Threads of Magic, and loving it. I also have a soft spot for literary fiction by women, classic crime novels, artist memoirs, and historical fiction. I prefer historical novels that deal with the every day, rather than big war adventures. Kate’s Beauty in Thorns and Hannah Kent’s The Good People are two of my favourites from the past couple years.
Best writing companion – cat, dog or both?
KATE: My beautiful dog spends most of the day curled on a chair in my study. My cat wanders home when it gets dark, eats, then wanders off again!
LORENA: I love this question! Once upon a time I would have said cat (warm lap, comforting purrs) but I’m afraid I’ve been converted into a dog person. And there’s nothing like a dog to remind you to get away from the desk for an hour to walk in the fresh air, which is vital to work like ours!
Kate – do you prefer writing by hand, or on the computer, or a combination of both?
I write in my diary every morning long-hand – and scribble down ideas and inspirations long-hand – and write poetry long-hand – and sometimes I do writing sprints long-hand. Everything else I write via my computer. Unless I’m stuck. Then I’ll try writing long-hand to see if it unsticks me.
Lorena – is there a medium you love when it comes to illustrating that you haven’t used in a long time?
LORENA: I still miss the darkroom… And every now and then I like to pick up a pencil and remind my hand how to make marks on a page. Lately I’ve been playing with cyanotypes again and using them to teach illustration workshops. It’s a fantastic way of combining photography, montage and painting. You paint a light sensitive solution onto paper, in any shape you like, lay objects over the top to create a silhouette, and expose it in the sun. You then rinse it to set the solution. It’s (relatively) safe to use, and great fun for students. I’ve even started incorporating it into my work, with a board cover design for a novel coming out through Swan River Press in Ireland, where I combined cyanotype and photography in a digital montage.
What new releases are you both looking forward to in the next six to twelve months?
KATE: Oh my gosh, so many! On my to-be-read shelf I have new releases from Natasha Lester, Kelly Rimmer, Dervla McTiernan, Kayte Nunn, Julia Baird, Alexandra Joel, Melissa Ashley, JoJo Moyes, and Michelle Paver – I want to read them all. So many books, so little time.
LORENA: I recently received a review copy of Shakespeare and the Folktale, edited by Charlotte Artese. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it looks like a fascinating exploration of the tales that inspired some of his plays. I’m also looking forward to Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, Hollowpox, the third Nevermoor book by Jessica Townsend, A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and Vesper Flights by Helen McDonald.
Finally, are there any stories you’d both like to explore in future works?
KATE: I’d like to retell ‘Katie Crackernuts’ and the Psyche myth in novel form. And Lorena and I are toying with the idea of doing a collection of transformation tales next, which means I could do the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd which has long haunted my imagination.
LORENA: I’m very much looking forward to the transformation tales! I also love the idea of exploring some strange and interesting folktales – it would be fun to make some ghosts and monsters.
KATE: The theme of ‘Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women’ is, of course, kindness. We chose it because we think kindness is the most crucial of all human actions. We are living through dark and difficult times. These stories can help us and inspire us to be more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, more kind. We hope you all read them and are inspired.
Thank you both for appearing here! I can’t wait to read Snow White and Rose Red!
In the last year, I’ve discovered podcasts, and the ones I mainly listen to revolve around books, history and popular culture. Because podcasts are generally short – usually no longer than an hour for the ones I listen to, I find them great to pop on whilst working or writing and just listen to them in the background and absorb the information in them. Podcasts cover just about every topic you could ever imagine, but in this post I am focusing on the bookish ones I listen to most days and weeks.
The Book Show is an ABC RN podcast, of a radio show hosted by Claire Nichols. The show airs live on Monday at ten in the morning, and repeated at nine p.m. on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons at two p.m. Claire interviews authors from Australia and around the world and conducts in-depth conversations with them about the book and how they wrote it, what influenced them and lets the interview flow, so there are some very interesting discussions with authors I know and many I do not know. I listen via podcast on the ABC listen app, and the website if you’d like to access the show through there.
Another ABC RN Show, hosted by Cassie McCullagh and Kate Evans, where they review the latest fiction books from Australia and around the world. Sister programme to The Book Show, Cassie and Kate sometimes feature snippets of The Book Show on their show, and at times, interview authors, and record from writer’s festivals from around Australia and in other places at times. It airs Fridays at eleven in the morning, and is repeated on Monday at eleven at night, and Sunday afternoons at three. As with the Book Show, I listen via the ABC listen app as a podcast. The website also has it if you prefer to access the show here.
In this podcast, various Good Reading employees interview Australian authors (so far) about their books, writing and what inspires them. Their very first interview was with Sulari Gentill, and many of my favourite authors have been interviewed. This is one I am still listening to the backlog of as I write this post in fact, and it can be accessed via a podcast app, such as the Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud or via the Good Reading Website. Like with many of the interviews, some episodes are more interesting than others, but it is nice to listen to all of them, as sometimes there are gems in there and lots of random trivia to store away.
I came to this one quite late – after it had been going for about two years, and spent a lot of time binge listening to it and now have one or two to catch up on, as with many of my podcasts, so I use my days where I don’t go anywhere to listen to as many episodes as I can. In this one, Dani Vee interviews authors from Australia, and sometimes overseas, who write for a myriad of age groups and in all genres, which makes it very interesting and she has interviewed some of my favourite authors and I think those are my favourite episodes. Some she has even had on more than once! Dani’s podcast can be accessed via the linked website, or via a podcast app such as Apple Podcasts.
Middle grade books are a genre I enjoy reading, reviewing and close to the genre I work in as an educational quiz writer. I am yet to start listening to it, but their website says they interview key stakeholders in the industry, and it can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Podcasts or Google Podcasts, or on the website. I look forward to hearing from Julie Anne Grusso and Pamela Ueckerman in the coming weeks as I get into listening to this podcast.
These are the five main bookish podcasts I listen to, and all are suitable for what they do. I’m looking forward to exploring Middle Grade Mavens, and hope you find something you like in these recommendations.
In 2019 I also participated in the Pop Sugar Challenge. I missed out on completing this by one, mainly because time just ran out and I never got to it. Below is my list of categories that I completed. I am thinking of trying a different one this year, as I feel the categories are getting too specific and I may struggle to find books to fit some of them, if not many, and whilst it is meant to help expand my reading, I’d be too worried about finding something to enjoy the process. So all of these have been read, and many reviewed in 2019.
Pop Sugar Challenge
A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – 20th Anniversary House Editions
A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
A book with a question in the title: Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
A book by two female authors: The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins, While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Split edited by Lee Kofman – recommended by Myf Warhurst
A book with LOVE in the title: With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story)
A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl, Explorer’s Academy: Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
A ghost story: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
A book revolving around a puzzle or game: Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda
Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:
2016 – A book based on a fairy tale: The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth – based on Chinese fairy tale, The Blue Rose
2017 – A steampunk book: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
A “choose-your-own-adventure” book: Choose Your Own Adventure #2: Journey Under the Sea by R.A. Montgomery
An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season),The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green (parts are set during Autumn), While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus (Winter), The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel (Winter)
A LitRPG book:
A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights – Open Sesame
A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
At the start of the year, I pledged to read fifteen books across the year, and ended up reading one hundred, and reviewing about ninety-seven of those – as some were read for my job as a quiz writer and I didn’t get a chance to review them all.
Of the one hundred, it is hard to choose a favourite, however one highlight was meeting the author of the Ella and Olivia books, and the Puppy Diaries books, Yvette Poshoglian, and getting to read and review a book I edited earlier this year. I read quite broadly, in various genres, as well as kids, young adult and adult books.
Four Dead Queens
I completed the Matilda Saga this year – and hope to reread the entire series back to back soon. It was a journey of one hundred years of the people of Gibber’s Creek, and has to be one of the most well written and well-researched series I’ve ever read. Below is my list, and linked reviews.
As 2019 comes to an end, I am starting to wrap up my reading challenges and getting my wrap-up posts done. First cab off the rank is for #BookBingo with Amanda and Theresa, wrapping up just before Christmas, with the rest to follow shortly or early in the new year.
This year, I completed the following Bingo Card by September – where we had to double up a few times to make the card fit the year – some categories proved to be tougher than others, and there were a few I stretched for my needs but in the end it all worked. Next year, in 2020, we’re back with a glittery card with fewer squares and less restrictive categories to make finding books easier – something we all struggled with this year in various ways. Chances are, we may pick the same books again, as so often we do, but this is half the fun, and we get a good laugh out of it. Below is my text bingo card, with all the reviews linked.
A link to this post itself will be included in my year-round round-up as well, which will hopefully capture all my links and roundups neatly. As for the 2020 card, I already have a few ideas but will also be hoping to find some new reads as the year goes on, so I will not be choosing any yet, but will still have these ideas in the back of my mind just in case I need them.
A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019
Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,
Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019
Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant
Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019
Row Two: BINGO
Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018
Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019
Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019
Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019
Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019
Row three: BINGO
Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019
Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019
Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019
Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019
Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Row Four: – BINGO
Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019
Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019
Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019
Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019
Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Row Five: BINGO
Four Dead Queens
Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019
Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)
Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019
Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019
Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019
Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
I have provided the links once, but the images twice as they appear in different rows and columns, and hopefully, this has captured it all as a snapshot of what I have done this year for my Book Bingo challenge. Until next year, when my book bingo posts will appear on the second Saturday of each month.
In compiling this list, I had to go back to all my reading log lists – which I began in about 2006, and to date have over 1300 on my combined list. But in doing this, I discovered it was quite difficult to narrow things down to just a handful of ten or fifteen like Theresa did. In fact, there was one series that had one book a year from 2010 to 2019 that could have made up my entire list – but instead, it has comprised one entry as a series.
So, in no particular order:
The Matilda Saga (2010 – 2019)
The Matilda Saga began with A Waltz for Matilda in 2010 and ended this year with the ninth and final book, Clancy of the Overflow. It tells history from a different side – the voices often silenced based on race, gender, class or a combination of these, and other factors such as disability, and other experiences that are not always recorded in the history books. From 1894 to the 1980s, the series spans nearly one hundred years of changes in Australian society – from cars to Federation, to war and the social movements of the sixties and seventies. This is a series well-deserving of a place on this list.
Miss Lily series (2017-2019)
Miss Lily begins just before the outbreak of World War One and has taken us so far to the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression that would lead into Nazi Germany and another war that would see millions killed in concentration camps, and on the battlefield. With book four due out in 2020, this is a series I am watching keenly to see where it takes us and our beloved Sophie. The Miss Lily series also has three e-books set at Christmas, one of which I am yet to read.
Medoran Chronicles (2014-2019)
This has a place as a whole series because this is the series that got my blogging journey started seriously – when the publisher was looking for reviewers for the first book, Akarnae. I said I would, and from there, the blog grew, as did my love for the series, reviewing each subsequent book for Pantera Press over the years until the final one earlier this year, Vardaesia. From wonder to heartbreak, and everything in between, this series has it all, and the way certain aspects are executed are exceptional and done in a way that is heart-warming, heartbreaking, and very, very fitting for the characters.
Rowland Sinclair Mysteries (2010 – 2019)
Ahh, Rowly. I was introduced to Rowland Sinclair by the NSW Writer’s Centre when they were seeking reviewers with book two, and since then, have read the entire series and sent the reviews to Pantera Press. I am looking forward to reading more of these books as they come out. Poor Rowly has been through many beatings and been caught up in investigating many murders, attacks and with politics that are quite the opposite to his brother, Wilfred. Accompanied by sculptress, Edna, fellow artist, Clyde, and communist Jewish poet, Milton, Rowly travels the world and Australia during the turbulent 1930s as Europe hurtles towards yet another war, twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars.
Kensy and Max (2018-2019)
I have read all four available Kensy and Max books, and love them all. They’re fun, and engaging, and filled with danger, wonder, intrigue and friends. As spy kids, Kensy and Max – twins – are training with fellow students at Pharos, whilst trying to keep the kids who aren’t spies at school from discovering what they are up to, and travelling across the world on various missions. From London to Sydney, Rome and Paris, it seems trouble will always find Kensy and Max – but they will always manage to find a way out of it and get back to their family.
Again, many of these are Australian authors, some with multiple entries but their books just stayed with me and wouldn’t let me rest, for a variety of reasons. Of course, some appeared on my list for this year – as the books for the year, but these are the ones that made deep impacts on me, and the ones I can actually remember being published in these years – some I wanted to include I wasn’t sure but I loved them anyway and may need to write something about other books I have enjoyed at some point when things calm down. As for the ones with entries in both – these were ones that had such impact, it was difficult to choose which book from the series to include.
So rather than one per year, I probably now have closer to up to five for each year, and many are fairly heavy in what they deal with, but some are lighter, and filled with humour. It was very hard to decide – I wanted to include everything possible! Okay, 2016 has two entries – but for very different reasons. Upon reading the reviews you will see why. So there you have it. The books that made the biggest impressions on me for many, many reasons over the past ten years. Some authors get multiple mentions – because they wrote books that had many impacts on me and they created worlds I never want to leave, and worlds I will have to revisit.
As the year comes to a close, many in the book blogging and reviewing community, and the book community in general – radio shows, podcasts, authors – have been posting and recording about this. And let me tell you, it is hard, and often, so many good ones are left off, and to me, ranking them is just mean because how can you rank books? Especially all those ones that stayed with you.
I had hoped 2019 might be easier to start with – not only do I have the list with me now, but for 2010-2019 I need to go back into other lists and hope I have those records. Or at least be able to work out what books I read that were published between those dates. 2019 seems to be the easiest place to start – as I have that list easily at hand for now. Out of 196 read so far, I found fourteen I loved – and the majority are by Australian women. Of course, these are in no particular order of favouritism, simply the order I read them throughout the year as that was easier to copy across.
Even though we still have two weeks left in December, I’m trying to get as many of these posts ready as possible – with my full wrap up posts appearing at the very end of the month or early in the new year, as well as the start of all my reading challenges in 2020 as well.
Choosing best of lists is always hard – there are often so many good books, but this year I went with the ones that stood out for me. Some that did were published earlier than 2019 and will possibly make it onto the 2010-2019 list – which of course, is bound to be longer and have entire series on there as I simply cannot choose only one from each year. It feels like a betrayal to a whole series to do that!
So there you are – for once I was able to choose fourteen favourites!