Stella Prize 2018 and #StellaSpark

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There are many major literary awards that cover genres, styles, and various nationalities, and some that are international. However, there is one significant award in Australia that has been running since 2013. The Stella Prize is a major literary award that champions and highlights Australian women’s writing, and as a result, is an organisation that champions cultural change. It is named after one of the most iconic female writers in Australia – Stella Maria Sarah “Miles” Franklin. Fiction and non-fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry. Below is a list of what the Stella Prize seeks to do, quoted from their website:

The Stella Prize seeks to:

  • recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literature

  • bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales

  • equip young readers with the skills to question gender disparities and challenge stereotypes, and help girls find their voice

  • reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing

AWW-2018-badge-roseA prize that works to highlight the voices of women writers in Australia is highly commendable. It serves the purpose of allowing women of Australia, regardless of age, ethnicity, race and so forth, to be represented and be heard in reviews, in writing and across all avenues of connection about Australian Women Writers. Reading has always been a passion of mine and I have always enjoyed Australian literature, and in particular, literature written by Australian Women Writers. In the last two years, I have started to pay more attention to Australian Women Writers that I read, out of curiosity to see what kind of authors populate my list more, whilst still realising that there are many other authors that do not necessarily fall into the category of Australian women writers that I will read and enjoy.

One thing that the Stella Prize works on is the Stella Count – a survey of how many Australian women versus male writers are reviewed by major publications and literary magazines. To build up the profile of Australian women writers and when I can, women writers in general, I try and review as many of them as I can on my blog. To work out my count, I keep a log, not only of every book read during the year, but a separate log for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, to see how I fare in my goals.

This year, there is a new campaign – The Stella Spark Campaign, where people can share their favourite book they have read written by an Australian woman in the past year on social media using the hashtag – #StellaSpark. This is an amazing prize and imitative that works to amplify the voices of women writers in Australia and raise their profile. Each year I peruse the long and short lists of the prize to see if something jumps out at me, and sometimes to see if I have read one of the nominees or the winner.

The long list will be announced in February, with the shortlist announced in March.

My #StellaSparks

Facing the Flame by Jackie French

Facing the Flame

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

BeautyinThorns_Cover

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

nevermoor

A Dangerous Language

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017

Draekora

draekora

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Wrap Up #2: My Year in Reading 2017.  

Wrap Up post #2 – My Year in Reading 2017.  

2017 was a busy reading year for me. It was the year my blog picked up a little bit more, and I managed to read more review books. Overall, I read 121 books. Fifty-five of those were by Australian women writers, although I didn’t manage to read all six books I initially hoped to read for the challenge, I did read most of them, as well as many others that came across my path. There are at least two of the three I initially hoped to include that I did not get to, nor did I get to some of the books I have read but wanted to read again. I did achieve my goal to read books by Lynette Noni, Kate Forsyth and Sulari Gentill, though, as well as many others including the entire Matilda Saga by Jackie French, including the latest book, Facing the Flame.

Of the overall count, ninety-two were women writers, with more than half being Australian Women Writers. Eighteen were male authors or the exhibition catalogues for the Harry Potter exhibit at the British Library. A quick glance over my list, and my most read genres appear to be fantasy and historical fiction.

Of these books, it is hard to pick a favourite, and that will have to be another post, as there are a few that need to be included. As 2017 ends and 2018 begins, I am thinking about my next challenges. I will again sign up for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and read as many books as I can by Australian Women Writers. I will continue writing reviews from publishers with the goal of keep on top of each lot of books as they come in, and endeavour to get the reviews up by release date if they come before, or as soon as I can if they arrive after the book has been released – a system I have always used that has helped me prioritise books.

I am also hoping to stick to reading what I like, and not waste time on things I struggle with. I always let the publisher know if this happens, and so far, it hasn’t been an issue. I don’t have specific goals to focus on certain authors or genres, other than to try and read more Australian authors and more Australian female authors, and to continue supporting them.

la belle sauvage

Below is my completed list of reading for 2017. It includes all the challenge reads, and the individual lists can be seen in the wrap up posts for those challenges. I hope these lists and reviews have helped you find something new to read.

 

2017 reading log

 

  1. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell
  2. A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French
  3. The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
  4. The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French
  5. Frostblood by Elly Blake
  6. The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French
  7. The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  8. New York Nights by C.J. Duggan
  9. To Love a Sunburnt Country by Jackie French
  10. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  11. Love, Lies, and Linguine by Hilary Spiers
  12. The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
  13. The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French
  14. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  15. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  16. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French
  17. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
  18. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
  19. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  20. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
  21. Stasi Wolf by David Young
  22. Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan
  23. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  24. Frogkisser by Garth Nix
  25. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  26. Ariadnis by Josh Martin
  27. Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
  28. A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart
  29. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
  30. Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton
  31. Billy Sing by Ouyang Yu
  32. Draekora by Lynette Noni
  33. Stay with Me by Ayóbámi Adèbáyò
  34. The Mysterious Mr Jacob: Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy by John Zubrzycki
  35. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  36. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (Newt Scamander)
  38. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet by Jennifer Gall
  39. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  40. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  41. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  42. A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly
  43. Singing my Sister Down by Margo Lanagan
  44. Under the Same Sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, and Milad Jafari with James Knight
  45. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  46. Disappearing off the Face of the Earth by David Cohen
  47. Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine
  48. Girl in Between by Anna Daniels

49, Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

  1. Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl
  2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
  3. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin
  4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
  5. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  6. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  7. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins
  8. Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
  9. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
  10. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless.
  11. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  12. The Pacific Room by Michael Fitzgerald
  13. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood
  14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw 20th Anniversary Edition)
  15. Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters
  16. Tell It to The Dog by Robert Power
  17. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  18. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  19. Siren by Rachel Matthews.
  20. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
  21.  J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook
  22. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  23. Her by Garry Disher
  24. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting
  25. Ava’s Big Move by Mary Van Reyk
  26. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  27. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  28. The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War Two by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
  29. The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War by Peter Stanley
  30. Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
  31. The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
  32. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  33. Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing by Daniel Tammet
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  36. The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan
  37. The Last Hours by Minette Walters
  38. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
  39. The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux
  40. Barney Greatrex by Michael Veitch
  41. Soon by Lois Murphy
  42. A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill
  43. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  44. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  45. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
  47. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  48. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  49. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  50. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  51. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
  52. The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington
  53. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  54. Sleep No More by PD James
  55. Five Go Down Under by Sophie Hamley (inspired by the original series by Enid Blyton
  56. Wolf Children by Paul Dowsell
  57. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  58. The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  59. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  60. The Boy Made from Snow by Chloë Mayer
  61. Harry Potter: A History of Magic – British Library exhibition catalogue.
  62.  Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  1. Facing the Flame by Jackie French
  2. Murder on Christmas Eve by Cecily Gayford
  3. Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow
  4. After I’m Gone by Linda Green
  5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  6. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan (2018 Release)
  7. Rain Fall by Ella West (2018 Release)
  8. Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett
  9. The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

121. Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

 

Books 117 and 118 are to be released on the 2nd of January 2018, so the reviews will be live on the blog on that day.

Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

Wrap up #4: Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017: Challenge Completed

 

 

aww2017-badge2017 was the first year I took part in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and it was the sixth year it has been running. Keen to read more Australian Women Writers and raise the profile of our wonderfully talented female authors, I signed up in early January 2017, as a way to keep myself occupied whilst building my blog, and to read more local literature. To start, I initially made a list of books I wanted to read, including The Beast’s Garden (a re-read that I never got to), anything new from Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill, a couple of books I had obtained over Christmas, and A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French. This list was my base, and from there, within the first month, I had completed my goal with the entirety of The Matilda Saga by Jackie French, and several review books that weren’t quite my style, but that I passed on to those who did enjoy them. From there, many of the books I read were review books from publishers, all genres, growing my list substantially, so I had more than doubled my initial goal by April of the year – perhaps even tripled it by then. So I kept reading, devouring fantasy, historical fiction and crime as my favourite genres for the year.

Three of my favourite authors – Kate Forsyth, Lynette Noni and Sulari Gentill released new books this year, all read and reviewed. I was lucky enough to participate in a series of reviews to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2018 of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and discovered a new favourite author, Jessica Townsend, author of Nevermoor. Book two will hopefully be out in 2018 and it is one I am eager to read when it does come out.

nevermoor

I pledged to read six and review at least four books – Miles level. However, as is evident by the list below, I far exceeded that, reading and reviewing fifty-five books in total. I have no plans to purposely surpass this next year, though if I do, it will be a lovely surprise and an accomplishment for me. I have linked each review in this post as well so clicking on a title will take you to that review.

Bring on 2018 and many more reads!AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

  1. A Waltz for Matilda (Matilda Saga #1) by Jackie French
  2. The Girl from Snowy River (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  3. The Road to Gundagai (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  4. To Love a Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French
  5. New York Nights by CJ Duggan
  6. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  7. The Ghost by The Billabong (Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French
  8. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle (Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French
  9. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  11. Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3_ by Lynette Noni
  12. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  13. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
  14. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  15. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  16. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  17. The Song of Us by JD Barrett
  18. Singing My Sister Down and other stories by Margo Lanagan
  19. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman
  20. Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood
  21. Girl In Between by Anna Daniels
  22. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  23. Beauty in the Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  24. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless
  25. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  26. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #4)
  27. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  28. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
  29. Siren by Rachel Matthews
  30. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls
  31. Ava’s Big Move by Mary van Reyk
  32. We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
  33. The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch by Nicki Greenberg
  34. The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher (Book 1) by A.L. Tait
  35. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
  36. Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer
  37. Soon by Lois Murphy
  38. A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair #8) by Sulari Gentill
  39. She Be Damned by MJ Tjia
  40. Gum-nut Babies by May Gibbs
  41. Tales from the Gum-Tree by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  42. The Green Mill Murders by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #5)
  43. Tales from the Billabong by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  44. Tales from the Bush by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  45. Tales from the Campfire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam
  46. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlpie by May Gibbs
  47. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  48. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
  49. Enid Blyton For Adults: Five Go Down Under – text by Sophie Hamley
  50. Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
  51. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways by Janine Beacham
  52. Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn
  53. Facing the Flame by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #7)
  54. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman
  55. Vasilisa the Wise by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

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Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

Wrap Up #3: Favourite Reads of 2017

 

In my third wrap up post for 2017, I am looking at my favourite reads of the year. Over the past twelve months of reading so many books, narrowing down my favourites has been quite hard. There are definitely a few that stick out, though. Deciding how many to include in my favourites for the year was a challenge as well. Three wasn’t enough, five barely covered them and ten seems like the next logical number. However, when it came to ranking the books I chose, I found that it was impossible to do so, because I loved them all equally and for different reasons, so to place one book ahead of another didn’t feel right. With a goal of at least ten favourite reads, more if I need them, I have compiled this list. I have listed them as I thought of them, and linked my review. My one stipulation was that the books on this list had to be published this year. I settled on … books in the end, as these were the ones that really stood out to me as exceptional for a variety of reasons.

 

nevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend – a debut Children’s and YA novel about a cursed chid,Morrigan Crow, who is whisked off to the Wundrous land of Nevermoor to compete for a chance at a place at the academy there, and to escape the death that all children born on Eventide must face at the age of eleven. It has been compared to Harry Potter, and it has that some wonder and magic of the Harry Potter series. With book two out later in 2018, I am anxious to find out what will happen to Mog, Jupiter North and Fen the cat, who became my favourite character rather quickly. I devoured it in two days, and look forward to reading it again.

 

 

Facing the FlameFacing the Flame by Jackie French – the seventh book in the Matilda Saga takes place a few years after the solemn end of If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Jed Kelly is getting married, and is going to have a baby. In the final days of her pregnancy, Jed must run from the fire and an old adversary to save her life, and her baby. As the fire closes in on Gibber’s Creek, lives will be lost and found, and Jed’s world changes forever. The Matilda Saga is one of my favourite series, and with a new book out each year, I look forward to reuniting with the families of Gibbers Creek each December.

 

 

stars across the oceanStars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman – The story of foundling baby, Agnes Resolute, determined to find her birth mother, whom she thinks is Genevieve Breckby. A journey from the foundling home to London and across the world will lead her to her real mother. It is a story about a strong young woman, determined not to let anything stop her, but a woman of her time as well, finding ways to fit in whilst taking her fate into her own hands. It also tells the dual storyline of a young woman in the 21st century, caring for her mother, and following the journey of Agnes that her mother has been researching. It has a touch of romance that happens as a result

of events in the story, rather than driving the plot. It was a good read, and definitely one of my favourites.

 

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – a favourite

BeautyinThorns_Cover

reads list of mine would not be complete without Kate Forsyth’s latest fairy tale infused historical fiction novel.  Beauty in Thorns is about the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art society, primarily the women w

ho inspired the words and paintings of their husbands and lovers and fathers, and what they contributed. In a world where women were expected to raise children and run a household, the Pre-Raphaelite women did this and inspired the men in their lives, and some even contributed their own artistic talents to exhibitions. Exquisitely told, with the flaws as well as the strengths present, Kate Forsyth is a master at telling the little-known stories of women in history, and bringing historical characters such as Lizzie Siddal to life with her words.

 

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill another author whose books I eagerly await each year is Sulari Gentill, primarily her Rowland Sinclair series. Eight books in, and poor Rowly keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting embroiled in murder and mayhem, and involved in the left side of the political spectrum, far from what his brother, Wilfred, wishes he would do. Several months after the total destruction of his Mercedes in a race that almost claimed his life, Rowland is car shopping in Melbourne with Milt, the Jewish Communist poet, and Clyde, a working-class painter, for a new car. On the drive back from Melbourne, they stop in Canberra, where a Communist is murdered, and soon, both Rowly and Milt find their lives in jeopardy. Set in the 1930s as worldwide political tensions lead to the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the devastation of the Second World War, each book gets more political, and Sulari manages this with great skill, ensuring an engaging series that I feel gets better with each book.

 

into the worldInto the World by Stephanie Parkyn – Another historical fiction novel by a debut Australian female author, and another book I read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as all the books so far have been. Set during the French Revolution of the 1790s, Marie-Louise Giradin leaves her son with a trusted friend, and, disguised as a man, travels on a journey to find La Perouse, lost at sea in the Southern Oceans around the newly colonised Australia. Her journey takes her to Tasmania, where the stories she has heard are far from the truth of what she sees here and on stops along the way, where she tries to speak out, horrified when she sees the slave trade in full swing. It is a journey that is full of surprises – where Marie Louise and the crew find that they may never reach the shores of their beloved France again after Louis XIV is beheaded. It was delightful to read a novel where the woman’s primary role was one of strength and courage, and where women were shown to do things beyond what society expected them to do. A great story, and an enjoyable one.

 

draekoraDraekora by Lynette Noni – Returning to Akarnae and its world each year is a pleasure Set just after the events of Raelia, Alex, Bear and D.C. must find a way to save Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven, the Meyarin Prince who seeks to reclaim their world at any cost. Sent to Meya, and thousands of years into the past, Alex must find a way to get back, and complete her testing and training before she can face Aven. In this fantasy series, each book has been engaging and enthralling, with a strong focus on friendship as the primary relationships in the novel. With Graevale out in a matter of months, this is definitely making my list of favourite books I have read this year, and I am looking forward to Graevale.

 

baby ganesh 3The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan Up until now, each book has been by an Australian female author, and mostly fantasy or historical fiction. The Baby Ganesh series is set in Mumbai, and revolves around a private detective, Chopra, investigating crimes with his trusty elephant, Ganesha, who loves Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate. The pair often insert themselves into investigations, much to the dismay of Chopra’s formidable wife, Poppy, and end up getting into scrapes that young Ganesha manages to get them out of. In the third book, a famous Bollywood star has gone missing, and Chopra and Ganesha are on the trail. A few rough turns take them to unexpected places, and with an ending that was surprising this series has a character to it that few I have read do.

 

bedlam stacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – In what I feel can only be described as historical fiction infused with magical realism, this was one of the most interesting books I read this year. As smuggler Merrick Tremayne is at home, he is summoned to go on an expedition to South America to find quinine to help with malaria outbreaks in East India. What Tremayne and his companions find has them questioning what they know, and how to deal with the world as they have understood and known it. What was clever about this book was that it felt like a historical fiction until nearer the end, when the subtle hints towards the magical realism in the book started to come together. Cleverly done so the reader gets a surprise, I hope that Natasha Pulley writes some more books like this.

 

rotherweirdRotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – This one, set in a town that lives in the current times but whose lives mimic those of Shakespearean times, made the list for its inventiveness, and clever execution, much like Bedlam Stacks. It is part historical fiction, part fantasy, with each section opening and closing with a snippet of the history of the town that history teacher, Jonah Oblong has come to teach in. Cast away from Elizabethan England, Rotherweird seems to have moved on in years but is stuck in a time when a Virgin Queen sat on the throne and a playwright who charmed audiences in the Globe Theatre. It is a place full of anachronisms, cleverly used, and where local history and pre-1800 history is not taught. I look forward to the next book, and what it brings to the mystery and intrigue of this anachronistic little town.

 

Of course, there are many more that I loved, but these are amongst my favourites and the ones that made me think and that offered something a little bit different to some other books out there. Bring on 2018!

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Book Muse, Ashleigh

 

 

 

2018 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Sign-up and Pledge

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018 Sign-up Post

 

AWW-2018-badge-rose

 2018 will be my second year participating in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Last year, I aimed for the Miles level – to read six and review four. This year, I decided to create my own challenge, and aim for fifteen – I have at least that on a pile next to my desk, and I am sure many review books will come through that I can include.

The levels to choose from are:

  • Stella:read 4 – if reviewing, review at least 3
  • Miles:read 6 – if reviewing, review at least 4
  • Franklin:read 10 – if reviewing, review at least 6
  • Create your own challenge: nominate your own goal e.g. “Classics Challenge”.

Last year, I made a list of titles to tackle. I missed out on a few, (more about this in my wrap up post), so this year I’m not going to say what I will or won’t read, only to definitely state that review books for 2018 will be added, and I will read whatever else I can read to add to the list and reviews. Instead of committing myself to specific books, other than to read more of the Phryne Fisher series, I shall read what comes to hand each day, or week throughout 2018.

With many books obtained this year that have been written by Australian women that I intended to read this year but never got there, I will aim to read as many of these as possible within my custom challenge of fifteen.

The challenge began seven years ago. Each year participants aim to bring more attention to female writers in Australia, past and present, from diverse backgrounds as much as possible, and I do where I can find something. My main stipulation is that the book has to be in a genre I enjoy and have a compelling plot – which makes it more fun and engaging. I am hoping to read some of the books I had planned to include in 2017 but never got around to.

Authors I will definitely look to include will be: Sulari Gentill, Kate Forsyth, Lynette Noni, and Jessica Townsend. Keeping a keen eye on publicity catalogues and bookstores, I am hoping to write about other aspects of Australian literature too as a side project for myself.

With any luck, I will go beyond the fifteen books I have pledged, and will attempt to post more updates than I did this year so you can track my progress. If you haven’t already, think about signing up if you want to participate, and join the Facebook group where members are always on hand with suggestions, and their reviews to help you reach your goals.

Booktopia

Christmas Reads

Christmas Reads

There are many things that I enjoy about Christmas – decorating the tree and house, buying and making new decorations each year, counting the Santa collection and watching it grow year to year, and watching favourite Christmas movies such as Love, Actually, Home Alone, The Santa Clause movies, and The Holiday each year. Amongst these traditions there is another that I have started – reading Christmas stories.

There are many Christmas stories for all ages, and across all genres, though for adults, I have mostly seen romance novels, and as these don’t always take my fancy, I have delved into the wonderful world of Children’s and Young Adult Christmas stories, short stories and the classics.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

christmas carol

Every year, I either read or watch – sometimes both – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have three movie versions, and attempt to watch them all. Published in 1843, it has been touted as Dickens’ most popular story, and perhaps the most well-known story. The mere mention of the title evokes images of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jacob Marley. The book opens with the line: “Marley was dead: to begin with.” And from this opening line, we are invited into nineteenth century England during Christmas, to witness a man who goes around grunting “humbug” at those who wish to give Christmas greetings, and whose greed leads to the ghost of Marley warning him, and being taken on a journey by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to implore Scrooge to change his ways and keep Christmas in his heart all year around. A classic that has been reimagined many times, still with the same base story, A Christmas Carol is said to have reinvented Christmas, something explored in the book by Les Standiford, The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Some links about Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol:

 

https://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/

 

http://time.com/4597964/history-charles-dickens-christmas-carol/

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

 father christmas beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett is a new purchase this year for me, and the first of Pratchett’s books I have read – with some others on my pile to read at a later stage. It caught my eye in the bookstore window, and it has been published posthumously – Pratchett passed away in March 2015, and many of these stories were published under different titles or without titles. As I am still reading it, I have decided to leave my full review until I have completed it but so far, I am enjoying it. Full of all the Christmas themes we know and love but with a unique twist, I am looking forward to the remaining stories and tracking down a copy of Hogfather after Christmas. These short stories are funny, and full of imagination and intrigue that make Christmas fun. I admit to having been savouring these stories a little to try and finish over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – and as this, and A Christmas Carol, and Murder on Christmas Eve are my main Christmas books so far, I have had to stretch them out – but it has been enjoyable to do so.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

 hogfather1.jpg

This is one that I am hoping to buy in the next few weeks, and read as soon as I can for the first time. It has been recommended to me by good friends, and I have searched for it instore, as my preference is to support my local business. Pratchett’s website describes it as including every secular Christmas tradition but with a few twists. As this is one I am yet to read, I have included the synopsis and look forward to reading it when I find it.

“Susan had never hung up a stocking. She’d never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t believe in such things. They didn’t need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn’t.

There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…”

From reading this synopsis from Pratchett’s website, I am looking forward to reading this!

Crime: Murder on Christmas Eve – edited by Cecily Gayford

 murder on xmas eve

In this collection of some of the world’s most well-known crime authors, previously reviewed here, have had stories published or written new stories for this collection, set at Christmas across the decades, interrogating the human mind and what could drive someone to commit crimes at Christmas. A slightly different, darker and grittier take on Christmas stories, it is still fun and enjoyable to read. Much like the previous books, the theme of Christmas is in each story, and is more obvious in some, but nonetheless, each story encapsulates the good and the bad that Christmas can bring out in people.

 

 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

 

Another classic Christmas story about the true meaning of Christmas beyond the food, and decorations and traditions we participate in is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. It tells the story of the lonely Grinch living above Whoville, disgusted at the cheeriness of the Whos. The premise and reasoning of this is speculated about – that his head may not have been screwed on just right, or that his shoes were too tight. The narrator’s most compelling reason though, is that his heart was two sizes too small. Aimed at children, it uses rhyming and fantastical creatures who celebrate Christmas to teach children the lessons that Scrooge learnt in A Christmas Carol. It also has many film versions, and each draws upon the basics of the story, with some expanding on some aspects of it, but keeping in Seuss’s style.

 

Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me

These three books by Matt Haig, released in recent years, were written for his children, who wanted Christmas stories and had asked questions about what Santa had been like as a boy, a girl who wakes up on the first Christmas ever, and must save Christmas, and the latest one about the adopted child of Santa.

boy who saved christmasA Boy Called Christmas

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.

It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

girl who saved christmas

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is my second children’s Christmas book. It’s the sequel to A Boy Called Christmas and tells the story of Father Christmas’s quest to find Amelia, the first child to wake up on the first ever Christmas morning, and stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .the only person who can bring back the magic of Christmas.

father christmas & meFather Christmas and Me

It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas.

For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs everyday – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests. Also it can get very, very cold.

But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .

A series that should be good, I am looking forward to getting these to add to my Christmas reading.

Other Christmassy stories

 

Of course, there are many other stories that have Christmas within them. The Christmas holidays play a pivotal part in the Harry Potter series, and in Nevermoor, where it is a month-long celebration, where in chapter seventeen, Saint Nicholas and The Yule Queen “battle” on Christmas Eve – for the fun of the citizens and Morrigan, based on a legend about Christmas in Nevermoor. There are many other examples, such as Little Women, where the opening scene is Christmas. Each story that includes Christmas as part of the plot illustrates the cultural impact of the holiday on literature today.

I look forward to reading the books mentioned that I have not read and reviewing them here, in a special Christmas category.

Merry Christmas and have a great holiday season!

Booktopia

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

nevermoor.jpgTitle: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Author: Jessica Townsend

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 10th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 451

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut Australian author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn’t seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

~*~

Step Boldly.

aww2017-badgeMorrigan Crow, daughter of Corvus Crow, an important official of Jackalfax, is cursed. Born on Eventide, she is set to die at midnight when she is twelve – except Eventide has come a year earlier, and with it, a mysterious stranger who whisks her away from a family that has tried to distance themselves from her and the hounds made of black smoke that hunt cursed children. This figure. Jupiter North, is a citizen of the safer and magical city of Nevermoor, where she will enter a series of trials to determine whether or not she gets a place in the coveted Wundrous Society. To pass, it is said she must exhibit an extraordinary talent – but what talent does Morrigan – known as Mog to Jupiter – have? Jupiter whisks her away in a mechanical spider, and travels to Nevermoor, where everything is colourful, and nobody fears Morrigan. A cursed child, once blamed for all that went wrong, must now find her place in this new world, against a threat that wants to engulf Nevermoor, and use Mog for his own means. Together with Jupiter, his nephew Jack, her new friend from the trials, Hawthorne and a Magnificat named Fenestra, who runs the Hotel Deucalion, Morrigan will find her place and push through the trials, lest she be forced to return to Jackalfax and meet her fate there. But what does Jupiter North have up his sleeve? And is the grey, ghostly man she keeps seeing just an assistant, or somebody more sinister, who wants Mog for himself?

Nevermoor is the kind of novel that once you start it, it’s impossible to put down, and the decision to devour it or savour it is a very hard one to make. I wanted it to last forever, and at the same time, find out how Mog got through her trials. With so much to discover about Nevermoor and the Hotel Deucalion, where I now would love to stay, and see the growing chandelier, I hope the next book in the series reveals more about the world to readers. There are many amazing and interesting characters in Nevermoor. And Fen, the Magnificat who runs the Hotel Deucalion became my favourite – she refused to take any of Jupiter’s nonsense, which seemed to delight and encourage him – much like a beloved Headmaster in Harry Potter, Dumbledore – and though she showed a tough exterior, she truly cared for Mog and those who stayed at the hotel. Each chapter was full of excitement and delight as Morrigan encountered a world where umbrellas help you travel, Santa, or Saint Nicholas and the Yule Queen are real, and bring Christmas delight to an already wondrous town. It is too hard to choose a favourite scene or chapter as they were all so enjoyable, and I do look losing myself in Mog’s next adventure when it comes out.

Nevermoor is aimed at readers aged from nine years, and can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good fantasy adventure, where the world isn’t always what it seems, and your friends are your family. Step boldly, and enter the world of Nevermoor. Don’t forget to pick up your umbrella!

Booktopia