Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

 

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.

 

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Jacqueline Harvey is the best-selling author of three wonderful series of books for children and readers of all ages – Clementine-Rose, Alice-Miranda and Kensy and Max. Jacqueline also has a background in teaching and works with several reading charities and is an Australia Reads ambassador for 2020, which has had its major events moved to November. Much like other authors, Jacqueline has had events and launches cancelled – and below, she discusses Clemmie, Alice-Miranda and the wonderful spy twins, Kensy and Max, as well as the reading and writing industry and how her educational career has complemented her writing career.

 

Hi Jacqueline and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. I first came to your books through Kensy and Max two years ago – but you got started in the writing industry elsewhere – what was the very first thing that you had published?

 

I’ve been writing for quite a while now. The first book I had published was Code Name Mr Right with Lothian Books in Melbourne. There were three books in that series and I also had a picture book called The Sound of the Sea. They were all published between 2003 and 2005 then nothing for five years until the first Alice-Miranda book was released in 2010.

 

  1. Where did the idea for Clemmie (Clementine -Rose) come from, and how many books do you have planned for that series?

 

I wanted to write a shorter book than Alice-Miranda and loved the idea of a little girl who lives in a rather ramshackle country house hotel. The first line came to me quite out of the blue and was the start of the Clemmie back story (she was a foundling delivered to her adoptive mother in the back of the local baker’s van). Her full story is revealed throughout the series. She also had to have an interesting pet and Lavender the teacup pig was perfect. I’ve written 15 books in the series with the final book, Clementine Rose and the Best News Yet published in November 2019 (I think the title is a tad ironic given it’s the last book so it’s not the best news in some ways but it is for Clemmie).

 

  1. Similarly, where did the idea for Alice-Miranda come from – and after she heads to the outback later this year – where will she head next?

 

I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book – how wrong I was about that! In the beginning she was based on three little girls I used to teach but over time she grew to have the best characteristics of many children I’ve worked with over the years (boys and girls). Having worked in schools for a long time it just seemed natural that I would write a school story. I love the outback adventure – there are some really funny new characters and lots of challenges for Alice-Miranda and her friends. At this point I’m not sure where I’ll take her next but the second animated film is currently in production so I’m excited to see that towards the end of the year. It’s called Alice-Miranda: A Royal Christmas Ball and follows on from last year’s film, Alice-Miranda Friends Forever, which is now airing on STAN and Nine Now. You can also download it from iTunes.

  1. Onto my absolute favourite of your series – Kensy and Max – where did this idea come from, and how many other places do you think you’ll take the twins?

 

Kensy and Max grew out of my curiosity about all things spies. I also wanted to create a series to make the reader think – hence the chapter headings are written in code and the whole name of the spy organisation, Pharos is linked to the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria (also the name of Granny Cordelia’s country estate). A beacon is a light in a lighthouse and also the name of the newspaper which provides the ‘front’ for the spies. We had been doing a lot of travelling in the UK and on several occasions visited a pub called The Morpeth Arms which is right on The Thames opposite the Mi6 building. Upstairs the pub had a restaurant called The Spying Room and when you sat at the tables with a view, there were binoculars available and a sign that said, ‘Can you spy on the spies?’ I had a conversation with the publican about whether he’d seen anything interesting over there and he told me (and he could have been pulling my leg but that didn’t matter) that he’d worked in the pub for 16 years and in that time he’d seen the lights go on and off, computer screens flicker and occasionally someone on the balcony but that he’d never seen a person in the building. True or not it got me thinking – what if Mi6 was more like a publicity company and the real spies were somewhere close by that you’d never think to find them. Hence Kensy and Max was born. We have also visited some interesting places like Scotland’s Secret Bunker – a war time hideout just south of St Andrew’s and another hotel north of London which had been used for spy activities during the war.

I’m currently signed to write 8 books in the series though hopefully if children love them I’ll be able to write more. Kensy and Max have been on adventures in London, Rome, Sydney, Paris, New York and I’m in the middle of writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which begins in London but will head to the Swiss Alps. I have plenty of ideas for more stories and had actually been planning a trip to Russia later this year – that’s currently off the agenda for me but definitely not for them!

 

  1. What 2020 releases, launches and author events have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

I had a huge tour planned for March and April but we only managed to get three days of bookshop and school visits and our Sydney High Tea Celebration for 10 years of Alice-Miranda before everything went pear shaped. My Melbourne and Perth tours were cancelled and I’ve had lots of festivals cancelled too including one in Tasmania in September and touring in New Zealand in June. So far pretty much all of my school events have been postponed or are in state of flux although I do have some online bookings that are set to go ahead. I’m still writing and none of my release dates have been impacted as yet.

 

  1. When it comes to Kensy and Max, what sort of research have you had to do into spies, ciphers and codes, and all the locations they visit across the world?

 

Kensy and Max requires a considerable amount of research from all angles. Just this week I’ve been taking virtual tours of the Palace of Westminster and the British Houses of Parliament and I also wrote to the London Fire Brigade to ask them some specific questions on their uniforms. It was lovely to receive a very comprehensive reply on Friday morning. I have to research all the codes and ciphers and my husband loves that sort of thing (and is something of a maths genius) so his help has been invaluable. Location wise, I’ve been to all of the places they’ve been so far but some, not for a while, so Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View are always on my other screen when I’m in a city that I need extra reminders of. For example in Italy I took myself on loads of walking tours of Rome on Street View and it jogged my memory for the small details like the fabulous door knockers and the cobbled streets.

 

  1. Is there a favourite place in the world you haven’t taken any of your characters in any series yet, but that you would love to send them to?

 

Well I’m not sure if it’s going to be a favourite place as I haven’t been there yet but I am desperate to send them to Russia and I am very keen to go there. I could also set a full story in New Zealand as we spend a lot of time in Queenstown.

 

  1. Does Ballypuss help with your writing, or hinder it?

 

He’s a great help most of the time because he’s the world’s best sleeper. Although when he’s out roaming in the garden he often demands that I let him back inside (he sits on the wall outside my office and meows to tell me he’s ready to come home). Lately that has turned into a game of ‘follow me around the garden’ and he has this bizarre habit of needing someone to watch him while he eats.

 

  1. Did your teaching career help you when it came to writing?

 

Absolutely as I spent a lot of time testing early material on a captive audience. I have always loved visiting schools and talking to children and teachers. It also helps when it comes to classroom management and being able to speak to groups of all sizes. My raised left eyebrow has an excellent effect on a rowdy audience 😊.

 

  1. You are one of Australia’s most popular authors – what kind of reception do you get from readers – and do you find that some of your books might be read more by a certain readership than another?

 

I am so grateful to my readers. I get lots of beautiful messages from children and adults about my books. I think it’s tricky when you write books with girls as the central characters to convince some boys that they too, can read the stories – they seem to cop a bit of pressure at times not to. Both Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose have plenty of boys in the stories and I am a strong proponent of the idea that there are no books for girls or books for boys – just books. Kensy and Max has definitely opened the market to a lot more boys (though thankfully I get plenty of parents telling me their boys love Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose too).

 

  1. Your books are not aimed at boys or girls specifically – how have you managed to capture readers across the board with all your series?

 

I have a lot of loyal boy readers who have loved Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose but I still struggle with adults who will sometimes steer boys away from those stories. I’ve heard horrible comments at times – one story that was heartbreaking when a boy whose school I had visited that week saw me signing books outside a shop and he ran up and was very enthusiastically telling his dad, ‘That’s her – the lady who came to our school. I really want that book.’ He pointed at Alice-Miranda to the Rescue – which has a green cover and a picture of Alice-Miranda holding a puppy. It’s not especially feminine or overly ‘girly’. The father growled at the boy, ‘Maaaate, you don’t want that book – it’s got a girl on the cover.’ I was mortified and asked the fellow if he’d heard what had just come out of his mouth. He muttered some choice words and quickly ushered his son away. The little boy was upset and I was too. I find it hard to believe that in 2020 attitudes are still quite archaic at times. Only last year I visited a school where the librarian told me I was talking to the Year 3 and 4 girls. I asked what the boys were doing because unless it was flying on a rocket to the moon I didn’t imagine it was anything more exciting than listening to my talk. She told me that the ‘powers that be’ had decided ‘you only write books for girls.’ I was aghast and said (politely) that if the powers that be didn’t let the boys come I was not planning to stay. Suffice to say the boys arrived and that afternoon I had an email from a mum whose son had begged to go into town and get some of my books. She said that he never read but he couldn’t stop talking about all the stories I had told them. She was so grateful and I was really pleased that I made a fuss and the boys were allowed to come to the talk.

 

  1. You’ve worked in the arts and teaching – like a few other participants – how do you think these two roles complement each other?

 

Quite a few authors and illustrators have backgrounds in education – and I think the two occupations are very complementary. I spent year’s trialling stories on my captive audiences and I also read so many books to the children – it was wonderful training to see what worked well. I’ve had quite a diverse school career from classroom teacher to deputy head to director of development and find that many of the skills I needed back then have stood me in good stead now – presenting, organising events, communicating with children and adults, writing – both creatively and non-fiction.

 

  1. As a writer with an education background, how do you think both industries will be affected by the pandemic?

 

Education has been turned on its head. Teaching remotely has created a huge additional workload for teachers, many of whom are just getting to grips with the technology they are required to use. One of my sisters is a high school teacher and she has been overwhelmed with extra work as well as trying to monitor her own four children who are studying from home. I guess the one good thing is that most teachers have secure incomes (casuals aside) and that’s an area where the arts have been hugely impacted. For me personally almost all of my festival gigs have been cancelled for the year and while schools are beginning to book authors for online events, it’s very different to being there in person and interacting with the students. Obviously the rates of pay are much lower too. Royalties for book sales are paid twice a year so it’s difficult to know how they will be impacted in the long term. Some of my author friends have been tutoring to help make up the shortfall in income while others have been creating online content – though there is some concern about ongoing intellectual property issues particularly ensuring that once we do come out of lockdown schools will once again book authors and illustrators to do ‘in person’ gigs.

 

  1. You’re also an ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities – what sort of programs does the charity support, and what work do you do for them?

 

Dymocks Children’s Charities have wonderful programs including Book Bank and Library Regeneration, and have recently run a fantastic fundraiser for bushfire affected schools. They have introduced ‘Books for Homes’ to ensure that disadvantaged children who have been isolated by the pandemic are still getting books to read. I’ve recorded some short videos for their new You Tube channel which we hope will be viewed and used by schools and in homes. Under normal circumstances I would do a couple of Library Regen or Book Bank presentations a year and I also promote their campaigns via social media and an awareness page in all of my books. The past couple of years, Ambassadors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have edited a fabulous book called Total Quack Up and Total Quack Up Again and I’ve contributed to both of those as well.

 

  1. Has any of this work been affected by the pandemic or can you do it remotely?

 

Unfortunately a lot of the charity’s work has been impacted by Covid 19. The first thing to go was the annual Great Debate which is a huge charity fundraising event – and their largest source of income. Initially it was postponed until later in the year but with things so up in the air they have decided to move it to 2021. Obviously they have had to adapt so the Books for Homes program was born and the You Tube channel was developed to help spread awareness.

 

  1. Favourite writing snack?

 

A cup of white tea and a handful of raw cashews.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite place to write?

 

Anywhere with a view – especially of water or mountains.

 

  1. What would you like to see in terms of support for the arts, and how can people support the arts and authors in these difficult times?

 

I wrote an article for Reading Time –  http://readingtime.com.au/supporting-childrens-authors-during-the-corona-crisis/ about ways people can support authors and illustrators during this time. Certainly buying books (if you can afford to) but also giving recommendations – there are some wonderful sites like Your Kids’ Next Read on Facebook where parents can comment and support authors. It has been good to see some additional grants offered by organisations like the Copyright Agency and the City of Sydney, though I know not everyone is able to access these.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you’ll be trying to support during the pandemic?

 

So far I have ordered books online from Dymocks and when I get through that reading pile I will definitely be supporting my local shops including Novella at Wahroonga and Book Review St Ives. My second last public event before we went into lockdown was at Book Review and I can’t wait to get back out and do more events once it’s safe to do so.

 

  1. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

 

I’m writing the sixth book in the Kensy and Max series. It’s called Kensy and Max: Full Speed and will be out in October. I’ve just finished writing a short book, Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads Campaign which will be out in November and I’m also working on some other exciting secret projects.

 

Anything further?

 

 

I think that just about covers everything – well except I’d love to give a big shoutout to all of the school and municipal librarians across Australia who have been working hard to keep kids supplied with books and resources. They’ve had to adapt in record time and I know they’re doing a brilliant job. So a huge thanks from me!

 

Thank you Jacqueline!

 

 

June 2020 Wrap Up

 

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12

AWW2020 – 67/25

Book Bingo – 12/12

The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52

Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25

Books and Bites Bingo 15/25

STFU Reading Challenge: 9/12

General Goal –110/165

 

In June, I managed to read eighteen books in total, fourteen by Australian authors, and all but one of those were Australian women authors. Fifteen of the eighteen were by women authors from Australia and the United Kingdom, and my reading crossed all kinds of genres and audiences this month as I work towards my yearly reading goals.

Towards the end of the month, I participated in an Emma versus Pride and Prejudice read-along with some blogger friends – it seemed several of us went with Emma- perhaps because we had not read it yet and had already read Pride and Prejudice – and two of us found we could use it for a classics book bingo square.

I’m moving slowly through my stacks of books to read, and will hopefully be on top of all of them soon.

June – 18

Book Author Challenge
Elementals: Battle Born Amie Kaufman Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Lilies, Lies and Love Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kid Normal and the Final Five Greg James and Chris Smith Reading Challenge
Toffle Towers: Fully Booked Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge
Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Wonderscape Jennifer Bell Reading Challenge
When Rain Turns to Snow Jane Godwin Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Undercover Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Rogue Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kensy and Max: Freefall Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Silk House 

 

Kayte Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle

 

Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up Angela Woolfe Reading Challenge
Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by

 

Monique Mulligan and Kate Fox (Illustrator) Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Mia by the Jetty Janeen Brian and Danny Snell Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts  Kathryn Harkup Reading Challenge
Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey

kensy and max 5Title: Kensy and Max: Freefall
Author: Jacqueline Harvey
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 3rd March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Where do you draw the line when your family and friends are in grave danger? Do you take action even though it means ignoring the rules?
Back at Alexandria, with their friend Curtis Pepper visiting, Kensy and Max are enjoying the school break. Especially when Granny Cordelia surprises them with a trip to New York! It’s meant to be a family vacation, but the twins soon realise there’s more to this holiday than meets the eye.
The chase to capture Dash Chalmers is on and when there’s another dangerous criminal on the loose, the twins find themselves embroiled in a most unusual case. They’ll need all their spy sensibilities, along with Curtis and his trusty spy backpack, to bring down the culprit.

~*~
Kensy and Max are on their summer break at Alexandria with their grandmother and Song, and new friend from Sydney, Curtis Pepper when they’re summoned to New York! A family vacation – how fantastic! Only…it’s not. When whispers of Dash Chalmers coming to find his family arise, Kensy and Max find their family and themselves in the middle of a race to keep Dash from finding his family and uncovering the culprit behind the poisonings from letters and parcels.

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At the same time, Dame Spencer has her own reasons for including Curtis – she sees him as a possible recruit and spends much of the novel assessing him – we know from the blurb on the back that Curtis is a recruit being considered by Dame Cordelia Spencer. Kensy, Max and Curtis must work together to find out what is going on and who is behind it – and why all the adults around them are suddenly so secretive.

AWW2020The Kensy and Max series gets more and exciting as it goes on, and each book should be read in order – some characters pop in and out of the series, the books refer back to previous events, but don’t give a full recap of what has come before, and there are new things to learn all the time that need to be connected to the previous stories. The codes and ciphers are always fun too – in this one, Jacqueline uses the A1Z26 code – where each letter of the alphabet is represented with the numbers one to twenty-six in that order.

Be swept up in a New York adventure as Kensy, Max and Curtis hone their spy skills, and seek to uncover the person who has been sending poison through the postal system. This is yet another highly addictive adventure in the Kensy and Max series, and as more secrets and hints at why the family is constantly targeted are revealed, we get closer to finding out why Anna and Edward had to go into hiding for so many years.

Kensy and Max: Freefall ramps up the action in the final chapters, where everything seems to happen quickly and seamlessly as Kensy, Max and Curtis get caught up in finding out who they’re after and saving Tinsley and her children, and many other people. It has the perfect balance of humour and action, and I love that Kensy and Max get to be who they are, but are growing and changing across the course of the series. This is a great addition to the Kensy and Max series, filled with continuity and in jokes, and a new take on the spy novel that has a fresh take on the world of spies and their training and gadgets. I am looking forward to Kensy and Max book six when it comes out.

Podcasts about Kids Books

 

As I have been listening to lots of podcasts lately – all of them Australian-based – many of them have been about books. Whilst most have been geared at adult reading, there are a few that are about kids’ books. I have already spoken about Middle Grade Mavens, and in this post I want to highlight two more podcasts hosted by Australian authors of children’s, middle grade and young adult novels.

kid lit club

The first is the Kid Lit Club, hosted by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, which has a backlog of episodes up to October 2019, and also appeared as a television show on one of the Channel Nine channels, and in my google searching, I found that it can also be viewed on YouTube. I’ve listened to the audio and am part of the Facebook group – The Kid Lit Club, where articles and news are also shared, and hopefully there will be news about new episodes of the podcast if there are to be any. The associated Facebook group is for those in the industry, and a place where contacts can be made and reviews, and other news can be shared, and it is a great place to check out whilst listening to all my podcasts.

 

one more page

The second kid’s podcast I’ve been binge listening to is One More Page with Kate Simpson, Liz Leddon and Nat Amoore, where I have discovered some new books to check out. They interview authors, invite kids on the show, and talk about books linked to a theme each fortnight, and all the links to their social media and the various podcast apps can be found on their website, One More Page. Like the other podcasts, this is filled with recommendations for all age groups, and is fun for anyone interested in kids’ books and literature to listen to.

They explore book awards, trends in children’s books and the latest in what should be read. I love listening to them as I write or work and it really does make the time go by but are the perfect length to get through several in a day, and to play in the background as well. As I work in the children’s book industry – these podcasts complement my work and I feel keep me informed about what is out there. I thoroughly enjoy these podcasts and encourage you to listen to them if you enjoy podcasts about books. I am a bit biased towards Australian ones but I find that they are my favourites and much more engaging for me.

With that, I am off to listen to some more podcasts!

Bookish Podcasts

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

the book show

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.

The Bookshelf

the bookshelf

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.

Good Reading Magazine Podcast

good-reading-podcast 

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.

 

Words and Nerds

words and nerds

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 Mavens

middle grade mavens

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.

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Pop Sugar Challenge Wrap Up 2019

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

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – 20th Anniversary House Editions
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  11. 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
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
  13. A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title: Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
  17. A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. 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
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. 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
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Split edited by Lee Kofman – recommended by Myf Warhurst
  29. A book with LOVE in the title: With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story)
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. 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
  35. 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
  36. A ghost story: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game: Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda
  40. 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

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book: Choose Your Own Adventure #2: Journey Under the Sea by R.A. Montgomery
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. 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)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. 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)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights – Open Sesame
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

2019 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Completed,

2019 Badge

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.

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.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed

  1. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  2. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  3. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  4. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne– Reviewed
  6. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed/Revisited post
  7. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  8. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  9. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  10. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  11. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  12. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  13. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer– Reviewed
  14. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor– Reviewed
  15. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte– Reviewed
  16. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  17. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  18. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  19. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  20. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career Began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  21. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  22. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  23. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton– Reviewed, Interview
  24. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  25. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  26. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip– Reviewed
  29. Life Before by Carmel Reilly– Reviewed
  30. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green – Reviewed
  31. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley – Reviewed
  32. The Lost Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  33. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss– Reviewed
  34. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  35. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin – Reviewed
  36. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee – Reviewed
  37. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda– Reviewed
  38. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  39. Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  40. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers– Reviewed
  41. Eco Warriors: Microbat Mayhem by Candice Lemon-Scott – Work book, not reviewed.
  42. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer – Reviewed
  43. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  44. Fled by Meg Keneally – Reviewed
  45. The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8)– Reviewed
  46. The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins– Reviewed
  47. Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #6)– Reviewed
  48. Deltora Quest: The Maze of the Beast by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  49. Deltora Quest: The Valley of the Lost by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  50. Deltora Quest: Return to Del by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  51. Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  52. Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – Reviewed
  53. Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail– Reviewed
  54. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey– Reviewed
  55. Firewatcher #1: Brimstone by Kelly Gardiner – Reviewed
  56. The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades– Reviewed
  57. The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus– Reviewed
  58. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  59. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  60. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  61. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  62. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  63. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson– Reviewed
  64. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  65. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed
  66. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  67. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan– Reviewed
  69. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett– Reviewed
  70. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – Reviewed
  71. Whisper by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  72. The Glimme by Emily Rodda-Reviewed
  73. The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch – Reviewed
  74. Weapon by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  75. Total Quack Up Again by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  76. The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  77. With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story) – Reviewed
  78. The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  79. Christmas Lilies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  80. The Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  81. The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  82. Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  83. Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  84. The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  85. The Drowned Kingdom (Impossible Quest #4) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  86. Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  87. Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  88. Ella and Olivia: Reef Explorers by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  89. Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  90. Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  91. Gom’s Gold by S.L. Mills– Reviewed
  92. Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  93. Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  94. Mermaid Holidays #4: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  95. Ask Hercules Quick by Ursula Dubosarsky – quiz book, not reviewed
  96. Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest: Shadowlands #2) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  97. The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  98. Deltora Quest Shadowlands Omnibus by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  99. Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell – Reviewed

Next year, I am aiming to read twenty-five – and will post my official sign up post soon.

Best books of 2010 to 2019

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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.

2010

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Now by Morris Gleitzman

2011

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

2012

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

2013

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

2014

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The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

2015

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

2016

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

2017

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Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

2018

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Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

488 Rules

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

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.

 

Best Books of….2019

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

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.

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Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

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The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

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Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey

women to the front

 Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee

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The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth

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While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus

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Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

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There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

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Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

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The Glimme by Emily Rodda

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Weapon by Lynette Noni

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Pages and Co #2: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

The Lily in the Snow

The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French

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Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French

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All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

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!

 

Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max 4Title: Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: When does a secret become a lie? And how do you tell right from wrong when deception is all around you?

Kensy and Max are gearing up for their first Pharos review, a rite of passage with no room for failure. But juggling studies and the spy life isn’t without its complications. As the dust settles from their last mission, and family members find their place in the new world order, old tensions rise to the surface. There’s also the school play to prepare for – in rather different ways for each twin. However, the play soon takes a back seat as missing journalists and stolen objects see Kensy and Max embarking on a hair-raising ride to the City of Lights. Will they make it before it’s too late?

~*~

In the fourth Kensy and Max book, the twins are reunited with their parents, and back at school, training to become agents of Pharos. They’re facing their first review, whilst coming to terms with their family being reunited – their parents and their grandparents, as well as their other relatives. Not everything is okay though, and as Kensy and Max return to school, and become involved in the school play – Romeo and Juliet in very different ways, danger lurks behind every corner, and they are soon on their way to Paris to uncover a secret theft ring – and all in time to get back for their review.

Picking up soon after the events of the third book, Kensy and Max: Undercover, Kensy and Max: Out of Sight is filled with excitement, codes and adventure. We’re getting to know them better and getting to know their parents – which is exciting. Their mother, Anna, is keen to go back to a life without spies and Pharos and is making sure all her qualifications for her job are in order. A new teacher at school, Theo Richardson, seems to be too good to be true for many students – and new student from Australia, Blair, starts poking her nose into the Pharos sections of the Central London Free School. Is Blair up to something nefarious, or just curious and nosy?

2019 BadgeAs usual, Kensy and Max are drawn into a mystery – uncovering stolen objects and missing journalists and are determined to find out what has happened – even if it means breaking a few rules.

Kensy and Max get better with each outing. Best friends as well as siblings, they’re wonderfully different, and are not stereotypes – Kensy loves pulling things apart and seeing how they work and making drones – and this book is no exception. Max prefers a quieter, more bookish approach, and when they combine their skills, and work together and with their friends, they get the job done.

This time, Morse code is used in the book and for the chapter headings and being able to decode the different ciphers in each book makes them interactive and fun for readers. I also love that the female characters are able to do anything they set their minds to – and Granny Cordelia and her Ducati, and ability to turn anything into something amazing for her family to practice their spy skills makes her one of the most intriguing characters in the books. In this one, she is firm but encouraging with Kensy and Max when talking about their training and review and training at Pharos, and in true Granny Cordelia style, she has managed to expand their home at Ponsonby Terrace to avoid a repeat of the events of book three, and concocts a story to ensure nobody pries into why she did it.

This is just as exciting and fast-paced as the first three, with an exceptional and perfect set-up for the trip to Paris, allowing for all elements of the storyline to be touched on, and I am wondering if Blair will return and what she might be up to or if she’s just going to be an innocent bystander – it will be interesting to see what happens with Blair, and where Kensy and Max go next in their spy adventures with their friends and family, and who they will run into. Of course, it will be a surprise – and it’s fantastic that these books are so interconnected.

A great book for all ages, that I absolutely loved.