Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes (Bella Donna #1)

Bella Donna 1.jpgTitle: Bella Donna: Coven Road

Author:  Ruth Symes

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Picadilly

Published: 7th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

Some girls dream of being a princess, but Bella Donna has always longed to be a witch. The only thing she wants more is to find a family to take her out of the children’s home where she lives. But no one seems quite right until she meets Lilith.

With Lilith’s help, will Bella Donna be able to make both of her secret wishes come true?

Beautifully illustrated throughout by winner of the Egmont Best New Talent award, Marion Lindsay.

~*~

Bella Donna is an orphan, living at the Templeton Children’s Home with her friend Sam – the two are inseparable and keen to find their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are and what they love. For Bella Donna, she has always wanted to be a witch – and wants a family who will accept her for who she is and what she wants to be. When they’re five, they make a pact that they will both wait for their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are, and with whom they can be themselves. When Lilith adopts Bella Donna, she feels Lilith is the right person for her, but why? What is it about Lilith that makes Bella Donna think this is her Forever Family? What follows is a series of shenanigans as Bella Donna enters Coven Road, and starts her time there pretending to be something she is not, until Lilith helps her reveal her wishes and find her new identity within Coven Road – and from here, Bella Donna find a way to keep secrets, and when things go wrong, can Bella Donna fix things and save her new family?

This is a new series to Australia, by British author Ruth Symes. Told in first person from Bella’s perspective, the first book in the series is funny, charming and touching – a story of family and friendship, and acceptance set in what I imagine is a small, British village – it has that feel to it and all the charm of British children’s literature throughout the years and decades. Bella Donna is not a perfect female character. At nine years old, she makes mistakes, she isn’t quite perfect but at the same time she just wants to fit in: much like any child growing up.

It is her awkwardness and imperfections that make Bella Donna such a great character as she grapples with friendship at school and keeping her secrets back in Coven Road – secrets, that if she reveals, could mean she has to leave Lilith and Coven Road. Bella Donna also has a charming friendship with Sam from the children’s home that remains strong throughout and though she makes new friends, Sam will always be there for her, and she will always be there for him – it is a celebration of friendship between boys and girls, and a celebration of liking things that might not be seen as acceptable or normal – but somehow Bella Donna makes it all work – school, her new home, her new identity and family – and so begins a series that is charming and amusing, and a rather quick read – but very enjoyable for kids, and anyone who likes a good story about magic and witches.

What Bella Donna does is take the scary image of the witch and turn it on its head. Sure, Bella Donna dresses like you’d imagine a witch might, but the magic that resides in Coven Road draws on all aspects of witches and fantasy, and links them all together in a very creative and uplifting way that is charming and reinforces positive friendships and individualism. I look forward to seeing where Bella Donna goes next.

Booktopia

Yet Another Reading Challenge: #Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

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Just to add to my challenges, I’m also taking part in the #Dymocks52 Challenge this year – which will also give some overlap with the other challenges I am doing. It will merely add to my goals to complete, and I will certainly bypass it within the first half of the year, but it will at least allow me to get through all my quiz books, review books and TBR piles around my room.

With the basic goal of reading one book a week for this challenge, I hope to do at least this and more with everything else I have to do. And all you need to do to participate is use the hashtag #Dymocks52Challenge on Twitter and Facebook, and update as you go with the titles you read – only once a week if you adhere to the one book a week minimum.

Best of luck, and I will aim to update you on my challenges and their progress as I go throughout the year, with various types of check points to help with my end of year posts, as I found this helped last year with my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge wrap up posts.

Booktopia

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Sign Up Post For 2019

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2019 will be the third year I undertake the challenge, and each year I have given conservative estimates of how many I will read and review because I had tried to plan the books I would read and review and didn’t account for extras that came by. The first year, I did the Miles level, and surpassed that by quite a lot. In 2018, I aimed for 15, and managed 79 read and 78 reviewed. So in 2019, I’m going to aim for 25 – which I will likely surpass.

  • 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”.

The majority will probably come from review books I receive for review from publishers, but some of them will be others from my collection, such as The Impossible Quest series by Kate Forsyth, new releases such as Vardaesia by Lynette Noni and many others – I will have to see what comes across my path during the year.

Because I also read and review books by non-Australian authors, and male authors – the conservative amount is there to cater for this, and so I’m not overreaching on my goals. Starting today, the first of January, I will be aiming to read at least twenty-five books by Australian women and be aiming to review them all.

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The first three I know will be read and reviewed will be:

All The Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – out the 21st of January

Vardaesia by Lynette Noni out in February – the final in the Medoran Chronicles.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte out in March.

Beyond these ones, I will have to see what comes across my path.

Hopefully there will be new books in some of my favourite series to read and explore as well. My book bingo is also a part of this challenge, and the card I am using is this:

Book Bingo 2019

Looking forward to reading a lot this year and making a dent in the piles of books on my floor.

Booktopia

2018 Reading Wrap Up Post

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

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

 

Reading Log

 

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

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

2019 Badge

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

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

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

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

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

Challenge #1

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

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

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

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

Nordic Noir:

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

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

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

A cyberpunk book:

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

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

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

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

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

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

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

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

TOTAL READ: 5

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

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

So ends another year of reading challenges.

Booktopia

The Books That Stayed with Me In 2018

Every year, I try to think about the books that have stuck with me – whether happy or sad, fun or informative, or any combination of these things and more that can and do make a book good. In past years, working this out has left me at the end of the year without a post like this, because reading so many books, it was hard to narrow it down. This year, of the over one hundred and fifty books I have read, I managed to find twelve that stick with me. But first, my year in review:

At the time of posting this, I read 157 books, with the hopes I will get another one or two done by the thirty-first of December. I participated in several challenges: my own reading challenge, where I challenged myself to read 120 books – I have bypassed that by over thirty. My wrap up post for this will appear early in the new year.

My second challenge, which is wrapped up here was the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – I pledged to read 15 books and ended up reading seventy-nine – I was unsure of how many I would get for review purposes or how many of my non-review ones I would get to read, so my estimate was conservative.

In an online reading group, I participated in the Pop Sugar challenge – where some of the categories were too tight, prescriptive and difficult to fill – I managed most categories and some advanced ones, but some, such as an author with the same first or last name as me had to be thrown out as it is incredibly difficult to find this for some names. Whilst I will be giving this a go i 2019 again, I think the more specific categories will need to be ignored or at least, not worried about – if I can’t access a decent book for a category, it may not be filled and I will have to be okay with that, as my focus will be on review and quiz books, and not categories I struggle to find something for. Or where I may be cornered into reading something terrible and wasting time.

Finally, I participated in a book bingo, and completed two cards – my final wrap post will be out next week, but the card wraps are here and here – both part of a general book bingo post throughout the year. I filled both and will be doing it again next year but will aim to only fill one card, as Theresa, Amanda and I now have thirty squares we need to fill.

The upcoming wrap up posts will include lists and links for each challenge.

It was very hard choice to narrow it down to twelve, but to help me, I decided the book had to be a 2018 release, it had to be by an Australian woman, and it had to have entertained, informed or made a significant impact on me. This list is written in the order I scribbled it down in, so there’s no ranking involved, as these all stuck out in my mind as really good books people should try to read if they appeal to them.

Lennys book of everything Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

This little book came as a surprise in a big delivery a couple of months ago. It tells the story of Lenny Spink, whose brother, Davey, is born with a condition where he keeps growing – he just doesn’t stop, and the doctors don’t know what is wrong with him. The darkness that Lenny’s mother felt in her heart when her son was born has stayed and her instincts were not wrong – this is a heart-breaking book with an outcome I was not prepared for. Throughout the novel, each section is divided into a letter or group of letters as the kids construct the encyclopedia and Davey forms an attachment to one letter. It is heartbreaking throughout, but it is the end that will truly get to you. Aimed at kids aged ten and older, I think anyone can read this book. It is one that will shatter your heart and leave with a book hangover you might take ages to recover from.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend   

Last year, Morrigan Crow burst into our lives in Nevermoor. This year, her adventures Wundersmithcontinue with the second book in the series, Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow– where Morrigan, or Mog as Jupiter North calls her, finds out what her knack is. There is something unique and special about this series – it has all the magic we got with Harry Potter, but there are whole dimensions to this that are entirely different and work really well together. It has amazing characters, and nods to our world, and more. I loved this book because I love fantasy stories, and it provided an escape from reality. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series to see where Morrigan takes us.

Graevale and We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni

This list wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Medora, and we got two this year – the main book in the series, Graevale and a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of Alex’s friends, based on the first four books, so reading those first is a must. Graevale is filled with foreboding – and when the gut punch happens, all it takes it four words: Graevale is under attack – and as a reader, you know the worst is coming. The events that follow are heart-breaking and are mirrored in Bear’s story in We Three Heroes – and they are just as heart-breaking seeing them through Bear’s eyes. The other two stories from Jordan and Dix allow us insight into the two and why they are who they are when we first meet them – why Dix is so isolated and why she hopes she can meet Alex first. This series will end in February next year with the release of Vardaesia, which us currently on my review stack.

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

 

9780733640001I had lots of books set during World War Two that I enjoyed and stuck out, but this one seemed to be the one of the two that screamed out to be placed here because it has spies, fashion, twins, resistance and a family story that needs to be uncovered slowly, thread by thread using a dual storyline – one of my favourite devices because it allows the past and present to intersect through the discovery of clues and evidence, whilst still holding back in each section until the climax and the threads start to be tied together. The Paris Seamstress also has a touch of romance. What I liked was that the mystery of the past was the focus, as well as the war, family and the identity of the main character. All these threads made it a very good read.

Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen

egyptian enigma

The third book in this series, Dr Pimms is Australia’s answer to Doctor Temperance Brennan, an archaeologist and librarian who seems to get involved in solving very cold cases – thousands of years old, in fact. Another series that utilises the dual time line – to show how Elizabeth solves the crime, and her family life, and what happened in antiquity – in this case, Ancient Egypt – and the murder of a royal family member, and betrayal in the household. It is up to Elizabeth and her team of librarians, historians and archaeologists and scientists to uncover what happened a world away in Canberra. Another great series that I am keen for the next book to come out – hopefully in 2019.

Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan

burning bridges

This one is here simply because it amused and delighted me. Kitty Flanagan is one of my favourite comedians – and reading her book was like attending one of her comedy shows – full of fun, laughter and wishing I could actually see her live. But the book is a pretty good compromise. So Kitty earns herself a place on my list this year for being unapologetically awesome and herself in writing, and for a very entertaining read that I hope to read again soon.

Kensy and Max: Breaking News and Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

Kids who are spies, missing parents and a secret spy school? What more could we want? Twins Kensy and Max are thrust into the world of spies when their parents go missing – and together with their friends, butlers and instructors, embark on adventures across London and Rome, to uncover plots and find out where their parents are. Each twin has their own unique skill set, and what I like about Kensy is that she’s not a typical girly girl – she likes taking things apart and tinkering, she rushes head first into things, but she also shows vulnerability. She is a character that I would have loved to read about as a kid.

The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

the desert nurse

This one makes my list because the main character refuses to let gender roles and norms of the early twentieth century and the demands of her father, define her. It also has a disabled character, who is shown as capable and strong, and survives – he is not pitied, but Evelyn cares about him and shows him this attention when he needs it – and he is able to be who he is when he doesn’t need help. Their romance and friendship is woven throughout the treacherous years of the First World War, then known as The Great War, or the war to end all wars, and the history and settings are rich and intense, and the narrative complex and filled with compassion. Another great historical fiction read.

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

fairytales for feisty girls

The current trend in kids’ books has been to move towards diversity and what some people might refer to as unconventional roles for male and female characters – however, I’m quite enjoying this trend of empowered fairy tale princesses and stories of historical figures that show people doing all kinds of things, not just what we learn about at school. In these four fairy tales, the girls take charge of their own fate, much as Merida does in Brave. This is the kind of book I needed as a kid – I do love the ones I had but being able to see how these girls tackled things without a man would have been awesome.

No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

no country woman

The only other non-fiction book and memoir, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel. A story of what it is to be a third culture kid – whose ancestors came from India to Fiji, and then her own family moved to Australia – in a world where homogeny is accepted more, and where she had to work out what her identity was straddling her Indian-Fijian identity and her Australian identity – the latter being the country she has spent most of her life, and how the attitudes of others she encountered affected her. It is a story that resonates with many – especially people of colour, but it helped me understand how they feel, and what they might be going through. Anyone can be a third culture kid, but some third culture kids might find it easier to fit in than others.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

the clockmakers daughter

A mixed genre book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter touches on history, crime and family secrets, and told through the perspectives of several people over time, with the story of Birdie, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, woven throughout. It is one of those books you need to pay close attention to and absorb, because of all the intricacies. It weaves between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and hints at the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through the collective of artists at the heart of the novel. The threads of the plot trail off at times, but eventually come together, and it is one of those books that stays with you.

The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

the jade lily

A World War Two novel with a difference. Like many dual timeline books, it delves into the past and present to reveal the secrets of a family, b ut this time, instead of being centred in the usual theatres of war, looks at the life of a Jewish refugee family escaping to China, and their years spent there during the war, and the war between China and Japan that happened concurrently to the Second World War. It opens up a new avenue of this time in history, with a fresh angle on what was a terrible time in history for many.

And so, those are the reads that made an impact on me this year, and my brief summary of the year. I am aiming to do write-ups for my other challenges as well, including the lists of the books I read.

Booktopia

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018 Completed Post  

AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

This year I pledged to read fifteen books – which I had completed by at least March, if not earlier. I read a total of seventy-nine books and reviewed seventy-eight – one review is due to go live in January and as a result, also counts towards my 2019 challenge. One book from this year was read in 2017, but reviewed this year, and so counts towards both years, as discussed with other AWW participants. Of these books, the majority came out this year, with a few older ones, and some that were published in new editions, such as Mary Poppins.

 

 

I read a broad range from general fiction to kids, young adult, fantasy, crime, historical fiction, non-fiction and some that mixed genres eloquently to create stories that would find a diverse audience.

 

I read picture books, entire series and some books that were just one in a series that was continuing this year. One series had two books come out, and the final book comes out next year – as I wrote this post, my reviewer copy of this book arrived, and I am now torn between diving in or saving it for January and finishing everything else first.

 

Below is a list of the books I read and reviewed for the challenge this year,

  1. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan – Reviewed in 2018 but read in 2017.
  2. The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett – Reviewed
  3. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham – Reviewed
  4. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – Reviewed
  5. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier – Reviewed
  6. The Endsister by Penni Russon – Reviewed
  7. Graevale by Lynette Noni – reviewed
  8. Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  9. Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen -Reviewed
  10. The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht – Reviewed and Interviewed.
  11. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  12. Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk – Reviewed
  13. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer – reviewed
  14. Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard – Reviewed
  15. Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  16. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan – Reviewed
  17. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester – Reviewed
  18. The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun by Emily Conolan – Reviewed
  19. The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait – Reviewed
  20. Little Gods by Jenny Ackland- Reviewed
  21. I am Sasha by Anita Selzer – Reviewed
  22. Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  23. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Reviewed
  24. Lovesome by Sally Seltmann – Reviewed
  25. Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  26. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – Reviewed
  27. Eleanor’s Secret – Reviewed
  28. Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – Reviewed
  29. The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela – Reviewed
  30. Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe – Reviewed
  31. The Jady Lily by Kirsty Manning – Reviewed
  32. The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader – Reviewed
  33. Burning Bridges and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan – Reviewed
  34. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles – Reviewed
  35. The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett – Reviewed and Interviewed
  36. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones – Reviewed
  37. Into the Night by Sarah Bailey – Reviewed
  38. The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – Reviewed
  39. Ella and Olivia: A Wild Adventure by Yvette Poshoglian – Reviewed
  40. Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  41. Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr – Reviewed
  42. We See the Stars by Kate van Hooft – Reviewed.
  43. The Far Back Country by Kate Lyons- Reviewed
  44. Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron – Reviewed
  45. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell – Reviewed
  46. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart – Reviewed
  47. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – Reviewed
  48. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2) – Reviewed
  49. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3) – Reviewed
  50. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4) – Reviewed
  51. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  52. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele – Reviewed
  53. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5) – Reviewed
  54. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  55. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6) – Reviewed
  56. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson – Reviewed
  57. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – Reviewed
  58. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios – Reviewed
  59. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Reviewed
  60. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty – Reviewed
  61. Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – Reviewed
  62. Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – Reviewed
  63. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – Reviewed
  64. Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  65. We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  66. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  67. Secrets Hidden Below by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – Reviewed
  69. The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears – Reviewed
  70. Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  71. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – Reviewed
  72. Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – Reviewed
  73. The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2) – Reviewed
  74. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Visits Santa by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  75. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers – Reviewed
  76. Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  77. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed for 2019 (to be counted as part of 2019’s challenge as well)
  78. Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington – Reviewed

 

During the course of the challenge, I completed the Chain of Charms series, and did four check in posts across the year, charting my progress every fifteen books – the way I do this may change next year but here are the four check in posts, where you can access all but one of the reviews, as that one is only going live in the new year. There are a handful of books I know I will be reading towards this and other challenges next year, as they have already landed with me as early copies for review, but typically go up on release day as per publicity instructions. My initial goal of fifteen blew out to seventy-nine – being conservative in my goal means I can plan some reads and any others that come across are a bonus – it also lessens the pressure on trying to find that many books given I get so many from publishers, and they’re not always Aussie authors, even though I do my best to make sure this is the focus of my blog.

 

Check in posts:

 

Check in #1

Check in #2

Check in #3

Check in #4

Check in #5

Signing off for the year, so Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year

 

The Book Muse

Booktopia