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

Check in #5: Australian Women #60 to #78

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn what is likely my final Check in for 2018 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m making my list a little longer as it did not make sense to make another post for one or two books, given I did this in blocks of fifteen – and am debating whether to do monthly, or blocks of ten for next year to increase my content output. Most books are already out, but the seventy-sixth book is only out in January, and based on challenge rules and discussions with a fellow participant, counts in both years – as the review goes up in 2019. This is one of my wrap up posts for the year – still to come, my overall challenge, my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, my overall reading log and number books read over the past twelve months, and my wrap up post for book bingo, which in theory, should include the intro for next year and that means I need to pick a book to read for the first square I’ll be marking off on the fifth of January, 2019 for book bingo with Theresa and Amanda.

My past check-ins have each had fifteen books – but given how close to the end of the year we are, I did the final seventeen in one post. Over the year, I have read a wide variety of books by Australian Women, but mainly Young Adult, Fantasy, Kids, and Historical Fiction or Crime. Of these books, Graevale, We Three Heroes, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls have been amongst my favourites, for various reasons.

Graevaleis the fourth book in the Medoran Chronicles and sees Alex and her friends trying to prevent their visions of the future coming true, now that Aven Dalmarta sits on the Meyarin throne. He is a threat to all Medora, and Alex must find a way to unite all the kingdoms and species. Despite resistance, for the most part, she succeeds. Until it comes to Graevale and the Shadow Walkers – whose indifference to the message she has been delivering around Medora will lead to a series of catastrophic events with devastating consequences.

In the same series, is We Three Heroes – a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of D.C., Bear and Jordan across the series, based around key events that affected them as well as Alex. Chronicling their lives before, and after they met Alex and became the group of friends we love, as they navigate Akarnae and the ups and downs of life as their world heads into a war that they may not be able to win.

Taking quite a different turn, is Lenny’s Book of Everything.  A story about a family, a brother and sister whose lives revolve around building an encyclopedia letter by letter, and a rare genetic disease that makes Lenny’s brother Davey keep growing. With a bittersweet storyline told through Lenny’s eyes about these years and her search for her father and his family, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal amounts and stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Finally, for everyone who always wanted to be the princess but be more than the girl waiting to be rescued – the girl who can take care of herself and where sometimes, the prince changes his fate for her, we have Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls. Filled with four fairy tales where the girl traditionally must wait for the male to come, these tales show Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood taking charge of their own fate, as inventors and activists, adventurers and scientists within a fairy tale word frame. A wonderful addition to a growing fairy tale collection of traditional and reimagined ones.

The Final Seventeen:

My stats and final comments will appear in my wrap up post in the coming days – but to finish off the year, I am looking forward heading into the 2019 challenge as the YA editor for the AWW blog as well as everything else. This has been a great challenge and I have had some excellent crossover with other challenges, that I hope to continue into next year.

Booktopia

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

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

 

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

 

– a book with love in the title

– a book with a girl on the cover

– a novel (boys apparently prefer comic books)

– a girl in the title

– a female author.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

Kate Forsyth

Chain of Charms series

The Gypsy Crown

The Silver Horse

The Herb of Grace

The Cat’s Eye Shell

The Lightning Bolt

The Butterfly in Amber

Jacqueline Harvey:

Kensy and Max series

Kensy and Max: Breaking News

Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

George Ivanoff

Other Worlds series

Other Worlds: Perfect World

Other Worlds: Beast World

Other Worlds: Game World

Other Worlds: Dark World

frogkisser

 

Garth Nix

Frogkisser!

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Have Sword, Will Travel series

Have Sword, Will Travel

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

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

 

Book Bingo Twenty – A Book by an Australian Woman, A book that’s more than 500 pages and a foreign translated novel.

Book bingo take 2

It’s that time of the fortnight, when Book Bingo Saturday with Amanda Barrett of Mrs B’s Book Reviews and Theresa Smith of Theresa Smith Writes has rolled around. As this is my second go around, and after this week and next fortnight, I still have ten squares left, there will be a few posts where two or more squares are included, and where books used from last time will appear in a different square, to ensure complete coverage should I not be able to read something new for any square. As the year rushes towards the final months, I’ve got many books that will potentially fill each of the remaining squares in November and December.

This week sees three books – two by Australian Women, which gives me a bit of a double bingo for that square, and a bingo in a down row – Row Four, as seen below:

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Row #1 down

 A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover:

A book written by an Australian woman:  Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #4 -BINGO (down)

 

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018,

A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

Across:

Row #3:  –

 A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book:

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018*

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

Row #1 – –

 A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book written more than ten years ago:

A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A Foreign translated novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

cherry tree

First off. a foreign translated novel – The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti. The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree is the story of nine-year-old Mafalda, who has a genetic condition known as Stargardt disease, affecting her vision that will eventually result in complete blindness, exploring a world of disability not often seen in books, and in a realistic, and touching way, using personal experiences to do so.

It is one of those rare books that allows disabled children and readers to see themselves in it, and to see that there are other disabled people out there, not just them. It makes these readers feel less alone, knowing other people live with disability whether it is the same one, or different ones. It is also about finding connections, and people who will stick by you throughout life, and help, and the reality of life and the ups and downs that affect us all. My longer review is linked here.

the clockmakers daughter

The next two books are by Australian women, and both fit into the square for A book by an Australian woman, and one fits into a book over five hundred pages. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. Published on the twelfth of September, The Clockmaker’s Daughter weaves in and out of time and space, between decades and centuries, and throughout generations of people all connected in some way to Birchwood Manor. The focus is on the 1860s, and the Magenta Brotherhood – an artistic guild that hints at Pre-Raphaelite influences, and dips into the early decades of the twentieth century, and hints at a character researching and reading about Birchwood Manor, whose story bookends those f the others, and reaches a conclusion that is a little ambiguous but at the same time, delightfully executed in a way that the stands of ambiguity are what makes the overall mystery work – not everything is straightforward or clean-cut, and not every answer will be uncovered, nor will any sense of justice necessarily be dealt out – or does it need to be? Was an honest mistake made, did people just not realise? It is these unanswered questions, that, even though the mystery of Birdie’s fate is solved in a way, nobody will ever know, and in this instance, it worked out really well.

Kensy and Max 2My third book fills the book by an Australian woman square as well – Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey. In the second book in the Kensy and Max series, the twins are in training to be spies at Pharos, and the headquarters called Alexandria during their Christmas break with their friends and teachers – who are also spies. After Christmas, they will set off to Rome with other classmates who are none-the-wiser to the spy training going on around them. Whilst in Rome, Kensy and Max receive more coded messages from their parents and are caught up in their first mission to save the Prime Minister’s son – but is one of their classmates somehow linked to the disappearance of the boy, or is it merely her family they need to be suspicious of? And which student does everyone need to look out for and avoid? Together with their new friends, Kensy and Max will solve the case – the first of many and keep hot on the trail of their missing parents. Will Kensy and Max finally be reunited with their parents?

Kensy and Max is a series for all readers – regardless of age and gender. They defy gender roles and are heroes for children today, where there are many books coming out where male and female characters defy stereotypes and take on their own identity rather than the stereotypes perpetuated by earlier works, which of course, drew on the world that inspired them. Kensy is the kind of girl hero I needed growing up, to have alongside Matilda Wormwood and Hermione Granger, the kind of character who isn’t what she seems and who stands up for herself and her beliefs and doesn’t let people define her – especially those who don’t like her. She is heroic yet at the same time, can be vulnerable and needs grounding – but threaten those she cares about, like her brother, and I reckon you’d be sorry! I adore this series and I cannot wait for future books to see where Kensy and Max take us next.

Thus ends my twentieth book bingo post of the year. Post twenty-one will be up in two weeks time.

Booktopia

Kensy and Max #2: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max 2.jpgTitle: Disappearing Act (Kensy and Max #2)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Spy stories, children’s fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Kensy and Max are now agents-in-training at Pharos, a covert international spy network. Christmas break sees the twins back at Alexandria for training and a celebration like no other, but where are their parents and why can’t they come home?

Thankfully, a school trip to Rome provides a welcome distraction. Amid the history and culture of Italy’s capital, they discover a runaway boy and whisperings of Mafia involvement. It looks like Kensy and Max’s harmless excursion may just turn into their very first mission.

~*~

The second instalment of the Kensy and Max series sees the twins in training with the fellow Pharos agents in training, who are also their school friends from the Central London School and their teachers.  After rigorous training and a spectacular Christmas, Kensy and Max head off on a school trip to Rome with their classmates and teachers – most of whom are involved in Pharos. Whilst there, they receive more coded messages from their parents, and the Prime Minister’s son goes missing. Kensy, Max and their friends become embroiled in a mission to save him and stop a plot to undermine the prime minister.

But Kensy and Max miss their parents and Fitz, and are wondering where they are, and why they haven’t made contact since the last coded messages hinting at their whereabouts. As the teachers try to keep a modicum of control, one of the children, Misha Thornhill, has another, ongoing assignment related to Lola Lemmler, the school bully who seems determined to ruin the trip for as many people as possible.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Travelling through Rome, Kensy and Max spend more time on ciphers and the mystery of the missing boy, than taking in the art, history and architecture of Rome, despite their teachers’ best attempts to ensure they stick with their groups and don’t reveal the existence of Pharos to the few students on the trip not part of the organisation.

As twins go in literature, these days Kensy and Max are definitely my favourites, and this is probably something I would have enjoyed as a child – fun, interesting and filled with adventure, travel and a cipher to unravel. It is exciting and engaging, and the loyalty that Kensy and Max display towards each other and their friends is one of my favourite things about the book and series.

This time, the Pigpen Cipher is used for the chapter headings, and readers of all ages will enjoy the challenge of unscrambling these to discover what each chapter is called.

I am now eagerly awaiting the third instalment to see where Kensy and Max head off next!

Australian Women Writer’s Check-in three: thirty-one to forty-five

AWW-2018-badge-rose

My next fifteen takes me to book 45 of the challenge – The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell. In this set, I read a wide array of fiction – all by authors I had never read before, from contemporary fiction, to historical fiction, literary fiction, and kids’ books that delved into the world of spies, and one of my favourite periods of antiquity, the Minoans and the explosion of Akrotiri on Thera. I read a non-fiction book by Kitty Flanagan, which was more like an extended comedy routine, to mysteries and family legacies.

From World War Two seen through the lens of Jewish refugees in Shanghai, to book illumination in the middle ages, and the melding of various mythologies and histories to create unique characters and voices that stretch out across the decades and centuries to tell stories of war, family, fear and mystery, and the fun of child spies and wildlife adventures.

These next fifteen were recently completed and, the last fifteen will take me to the start of August. Just over half way done for the year, I have read four times what I pledged, and hope to read many more in the months to come, adding to my ever growing list.

Books thirty-one to forty-five

  1. The Jady Lily by Kirsty Manning
  2. The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader
  3. Burning Bridges and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan
  4. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles
  5. The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett and Interview
  6. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones
  7. Into the Night by Sarah Bailey
  8. The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady
  9. Ella and Olivia: A Wild Adventure by Yvette Poshoglian
  10. Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey
  11. Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr
  12. We See the Stars by Kate van Hooft.
  13. The Far Back Country by Kate Lyons
  14. Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron
  15. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

So far I haven’t mentioned favourites on any lists, because there have been so many on the others, but on this one, The Jade Lily, Kensy and Max, Swallow’s Dance and The Peacock Summer are the ones that stood out for me and that I enjoyed the most for various reasons, all stated in my reviews on these books.