The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan

dark prophecyTitle: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 30th April 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: The second title in Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series – set in the action-packed world of Percy Jackson.
The god Apollo, cast down to earth and trapped in the form of a gawky teenage boy as punishment, must set off on the second of his harrowing (and hilarious) trials.
He and his companions seek the ancient oracles – restoring them is the only way for Apollo to reclaim his place on Mount Olympus – but this is easier said than done.
Somewhere in the American Midwest is a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again . . . if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate – a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame.
To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of a now-mortal goddess, a bronze dragon, and some familiar demigod faces from Camp Half-Blood. With them by his side, can Apollo face down the greatest challenge of his four thousand years of existence?

~*~

As I work my way (slowly, mainly due to other commitments) through these four books after being sent the latest by the publisher after the publication date, I’m finding the way the author includes mythology and ancient history in the modern world amidst modern issues interesting. It is first and foremost the mythology that I am interested in, and as I was sent book four late last year, decided to read the first three so I knew what to expect and what was going on.

There are some series that I find easy to read out of order, as they tend to be their own singular stories that are linked through a theme, genre or character. However, there are some that I do feel need to be read in order, and this one is one of those series. As Apollo moves through his tasks to earn back his immortality from Zeus, he keeps running into Meg, and is accompanied by Leo Valdez and sorceress Calypso as they journey across America in pursuit of Nero and those who are trying to stop Apollo.

Apollo often references all kinds of literary and musical highlights and has a running commentary about how good he is – and how he is responsible for certain bands and songs. This is secondary to the ongoing plot, and Apollo’s godlike mind and memories is at constant odds with what his mortal teenage body is capable of.

The combination of Greek and Roman elements makes sense as the Romans would eventually usurp the Greek society and culture and assign their own names to the Greek gods, goddesses and heroes. As someone who loves reading about Greek mythology, I find the way it is used in contemporary literature interesting, as each retelling and reimagining is unique, and some are very cleverly done. At the very least, this series makes it accessible to new readers and this will hopefully spark an interest in Greek mythology beyond this series.

The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly #3) by Dervla McTiernan

the good turnTitle: The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly #3)

Author: Dervla McTiernan

Genre: Crime

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 24th February 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Some lines should never be crossed. Police corruption, and investigation that ends in tragedy and the mystery of a little girl’s silence – three unconnected events that will prove to be linked by one small town.

While Detective Cormac Reilly faces enemies at work and trouble in his personal life, Garda Peter Fisher is relocated out of Galway with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. But even that is not as terrible as having to work for his overbearing father, the local copper for the pretty seaside town of Roundstone.

For some, like Anna and her young daughter, Tilly, Roundstone is a refuge from trauma. But even this village on the edge of the sea isn’t far enough to escape the shadows of evil men.

~*~

The Good Turn is the third Cormac Reilly novel, but the first I have read, and I found it very easy to get into, even though I haven’t read the first two, which I will now go back and do. This novel is set in 2015 – and centres around a series of seemingly unrelated crimes and people, and evolves into two separate storylines revolving around Cormac Reilly, whose enemies start to undermine him as he looks into the disappearance of Peggah Abbassi with his team in Galway. When the case comes to an abrupt end, Peter Fisher is sent to Roundstone. In his exile, he is forced to work with his father, faces what looks like further police corruption, in a town where community policing supposedly is the goal. Amidst all of this, Anna Collins and her daughter, Tilly had arrived in Roundstone from Dublin – has their arrival coincided with the series of events occurring around the other cases, or is it a separate reason for their arrival?

Each mystery is seemingly separate – and moves between Galway and Roundstone and also back in time – where hints are dropped about Tilly and Anna, but enough is held back throughout about each mystery that it drives it towards the end, and lays out those we think are guilty, those who people think cannot be guilty and at times, totally throws a spanner in the works when it comes to uncovering what is going on. Slowly, each case and tragedy starts to intersect, and slowly weave together to bring the novel to its conclusion, and the way Cormac, Peter, Anna and Tilly figure out their lives and resolutions to the issues at work and with family that bubble throughout the novel, across Ireland and Europe.

AWW2020This was the first Cormac Reilly book I read in the series, and whilst I am guessing some things in it refer back to the previous books, I found that I was able to follow everything really well despite not having had a chance to read them yet. It was written and told in a way that I feel readers can read from any point and go back to the previous books – each story is its own encapsulated event much like the Phryne Fisher books or the Rowland Sinclair books – each case is its own event and sure, some things from the past might be mentioned in passing, but if the main plot doesn’t hinge on these mentions, it is a joy to read.

Dervla McTiernan also reveals things when it is necessary for the reader to know, and she doesn’t overdo descriptions – she gets the balance of what we need to know and leaving enough up to the imagination really well done, and to me, this is what makes a good crime novel – where we’re told what we need to know without going over the top, but at the same time, given a chance to guess, or fill in gaps for ourselves. It adds to the experience of reading the novel, and I will definitely be going back to the first two books now – hopefully this year.

The Irish setting was also lovely – I love Ireland, and this book marks off several challenge categories, including a book bingo one for later in the year, so keep an eye out for that post. Moving between the small and larger settings worked well too, as it showed that nowhere is ever truly safe or free from insidious crimes and characters – just that these crimes might manifest themselves in different ways and be perpetuated by different people – as it is with all crimes anywhere. It is a series that I will now be eagerly following – and am pleased that I have the two previous books – as well as many others by other authors – to tide me over until the next Cormac Reilly comes out.

Peter, Diedre and Cormac are great characters – not perfect – they are human and flawed and they can recognise these flaws. They are also there for each other, and I liked the dynamics that I got to experience between them throughout the novel and the way they interacted with other police officers, those in their personal lives and in their wider communities. Another great crime novel from an Irish-Australian author I will be watching with keen interest.

Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue #1) by Judith Rossell

withering by seaTitle: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue #1)
Author: Judith Rossell
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: ABC Books/HarperCollins Australia
Published: 19th August 2019 (First published 2014)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: WINNER ABIA BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR YOUNGER READERS
‘Fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will eat up Withering-by-Sea’
— Shelf Awareness
High on a cliff above the gloomy coastal town of Withering-by-Sea stands the Hotel Majestic. Inside the walls of the damp, dull hotel, eleven-year-old orphan Stella Montgomery leads a miserable life with her three dreadful Aunts.
But one night, Stella sees something she shouldn’t have … Something that will set in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for …
Discover the gorgeously illustrated series that’s loved by tens of thousands of readers!

SERIES AWARDS
Withering-by-Sea (Book 1)
Winner — 2015 Indie Awards, Book of the Year: Children’s & YA
Winner — 2015 Australian Book Industry Awards, Book of the Year: Older Children
Winner — 2015 Davitt Awards
Honour Book — 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards
Shortlisted — 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
Shortlisted — 2014 Aurealis Awards
Shortlisted — 2017 Australian Book Design Awards
~*~

Orphan Stella Montgomery lives with her three aunts – Aunt Condolence, Aunt Deliverance and Aunt Temperance in an old hotel in Withering-by-Sea. She’s never known anything else but being expected to live up to what feels like their impossible standards. The novel starts with Stella exploring the conservatory of the hotel as the Amazon, when she meets Mr Filbert, a guest, who later passes something onto her to take care of, and from here, Stella’s adventure begins as she tries to discover what she has been given, and why someone is trying to take it away. Why did someone want Mr Filbert dead, and who did it? What is the secret that her aunts are keeping from her about her mother? Stella is encouraged to remain quiet, never ask questions and above all, become a polite young lady who will be an exemplary member of society.

But no matter how hard Stella tries, she cannot make the aunts happy – but why would she want to, when they’re always being horrid to her, and punishing her whenever they get a chance? It is when Stella meets Ben and Shadow that things start to change, and she is suddenly on the run, and trying to uncover a mystery. I love mysteries – all kinds of mysteries and there are many ways to write them for all age groups and readerships. With its fantasy setting, and magic infused mystery, it is a great way to introduce middle grade readers who enjoy mysteries to younger readers, and even as an adult reader, I found myself swept up by it and loved reading it. I cannot wait to get the next two books and find out what happens next with Stella and hope that we get to see Ben and Gert again, as well as several other characters who had an awesome role in the story. I’d love to see them appear again to help Stella or for Stella to help them. Also, it has an abundance of singing cats, and who doesn’t like singing cats?

AWW2020Stella’s adventure is filled with magic and danger – but not too much danger and is set in a time that evokes a Victorian sense of time and place, which contributes to the magical sense of this book and the characters that populate this novel. In a world where girls are trained to do certain things, and where they are expected to fall in line, characters like Stella and Gert flout the rules and turn the whole world upside down, proving that they are just as capable of the boys. There is a delightful twist at the end that has a fairytale feel to it, as does the whole novel, which makes it very exciting and interesting to see how various fairy tale tropes and characteristics have found their way into children’s literature today. Having won many awards, I can see why this book won them – and as it begins a series, it answers enough questions to wrap the first book up but at the same time, leaves enough unanswered that readers will want to read the next book to find out what happens and get those answers. There is at least one that I wonder if is going to be a thread throughout the series and will be revealed at the end.

Overall, I loved this book. It is probably one that I would have loved to have read as a kid, and it seems like many of the books and series I am discovering these days for middle grade are what I would have enjoyed. Australian authors are bringing out some brilliant middle grade books at the moment and I’m working on reading any that grab my attention. Looking forward to more about Stella!

January 2020 wrap up

In January of this year, I read 13 books, and got a start on each of my challenges – some have more categories filled in than others, and some will have multiple books for each category, apart from the book bingo challenges, which will only have one each.

Below is a table outlining where each book fits in. Some book bingo posts and reviews are scheduled for the next few weeks and months.

January – 13

Book Author Challenge
Any Ordinary Day Walkley Book Award

 

Leigh Sales AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

 

Rick Riordan Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

 Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

Belinda Murrell AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

Dragonfly Song

 

Wendy Orr Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Book Bingo, Nerd Daily Challenge, – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017

 

The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz

 

Heather Dune McAdam Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading

Nerd Daily Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo

Josephine’s Garden Stephanie Parkyn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

The Soldier’s Curse (Monsarrat Series Book One) Meg and Tom Keneally Reading Challenge,

Nerd Daily Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge

Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking   AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah

 

Troy Cummins Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge,
The God Child

 

Nana Oforiatta Ayim Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition) JK Rowling Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy,
Shark Out of Water Ace Landers Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge,
A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10)

 

Sulari Gentill Book Bingo, The Nerd Daily Challenge, Reading Challenge, Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo , Dymocks Reading Challenge

Books and Bites Bingo

game card books and bites

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
Travel Memoir:
Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection:
A Book with a door on the cover:
Written by someone called Jane:
An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
Wherever you go:

Eco-themes:
A Neil Gaiman book:
Short story collection:
Published the year you were born:
Makes you blush:

That Book you keep putting off:
A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
Short story collection:
A book with bad reviews:
Book to movie:

Scary:
Someone you love’s fave book:
Made into a TV Series:
A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
Fave childhood book:

STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge
1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia

2. An Australian classic

3. A book by an Indigenous Australian author

4. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction]
* Bonus: Read both a fiction [cli-fi] and non-fiction book on climate change
* You might want to check out the Climate Reality Book Club over on Insta for some ideas

5. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author

6. A #LoveOzYA book
* #LoveOzYA is a great resource to find an Australian YA read, or check the hashtag on Insta too!

7. A memoir by an Australian woman

8. A poetry collection
* Solo author or anthology

9. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize
* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.
* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020
* The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020
* Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020
Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes

10. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT
Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author

ACT:
NT:

11. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

12. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author
Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

THE MODERN MRS. DARCY
2020 Reading Challenge
a book published the decade you were born:
a debut novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
a book recommended by a source you trust: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Amanda Barrett
a book by a local author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim – literary fiction
a book in translation:
a book nominated for an award in 2020:
a re-read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
a classic you didn’t read in school: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
three books by the same author:
1. Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
2.
3.
The Nerd Daily 2020 Challenge

1. Author Starting with A: Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
2. Female Author:
3. Purchased on Holidays:
4. 2020 Film Adaptation: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
5. Fantasy or SciFi: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
6. Recommended by Us:
7. Under 200 pages: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
8. Six Word Title: The Binder of Doom: Speedah Cheetah by Troy Cummins
9. Written by two authors: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
10. Mystery/thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
11. Green Cover: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
12. Recommended by a friend: Any Ordinary Day be Leigh Sales
13. Set in the past: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
14. 2019 Goodreads Choice Winner:
15. A book you never finished:
16. Protagonist starting with H: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One) – Hugh Monsarrat
17. Reread: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
18. Non-fiction: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
19. Released in February: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking, The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
20. Part of a duology:
21. New York times best seller:
22. Recommended by family:
23. Over 500 pages:
24. An award-winning book: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award 2019
25. Orange cover:
26. Bookstore recommended:
27. A number in the title:
28. An audiobook:
29. Debut author: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
30. Inspired my mythology/folklore: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr,
31. A retelling:
32. A one-word title:
33. Bought based on cover:
34. Author starting with M:
35. Start a new series: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
36. A book released in 2019:
37. Male author: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan,
38. 2020 TV Adaptation:
39. A book gifted to you:
40. Author with a hyphenated name:
41. Released in September:
42. Purchased years ago:
43. A standalone:
44. Author with the same initials:
45. Told from two perspectives:
46. Romance or thriller:
47. A protagonist starting with S:
48. Two-word title: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
49. Set in a foreign country: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn,
50. Animal featured in cover: The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
51. Written by your favourite author:
52. Based or inspired by a true story:

Dymocks Reading Challenge

1. A book by an Australian author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
2. A book by an Indigenous author:
3. A book from our Top 101:
4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51:
5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month:
6. Re-read your favourite book of all time: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
7. Ask a friend for a recommendation: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
8. A book featuring your favourite country:
9. A book from your TBR pile: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
10. An award-winning book: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr – CBCA Honour Book, Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2017 – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017
11. A Mystery/Thriller: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One), A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill
12. A memoir:
13. A book outside your usual genre: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
14. A book of short stories:
15. A self-help/motivation:
16. A fairytale/fable adaptation:
17. Book one in a fantasy series: Trials of Apollo – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
18. A book that teaches you something new:
19. A book with a red cover:
20. A book with a colour in the title:
21. A book you can read in a day: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell, Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
22. A book about books:
23. A book that made you laugh
24. A book published this year: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t:

Australian Women Writers Challenge – 25

1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
2. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
3. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
4. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
5. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
6. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
7. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

 

Book Bingo

Book bingo 2020

Themes of culture

Themes of inequality – The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Themes of Crime and Justice – A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Themes of politics and power –

About the environment –

Prize winning book – Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award

Friendship, family and love – Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Coming of age – Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

Set in a time of war

Set in a place you dream of visiting – The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)

Set in an era you’d love to travel back in time to – Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (Minoan Times)

A classic you’ve never read before

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition) by J.K. Rowling

ravenclaw goblet of fireTitle: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 23rd January 2020
Format: Hardcover, Paperback
Pages: 640
Price: Hardcover: $32.99, Paperback: $21.99
Synopsis: Let the magic of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Ravenclaw House Edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its wit, learning and wisdom. Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts is packed with more great Ravenclaw moments and characters, including the return of Moaning Myrtle, who – with typical Ravenclaw intelligence – helps Harry solve a crucial clue in the Triwizard Tournament.

Each Ravenclaw House Edition features vibrant sprayed edges and intricate bronze foiling. The Goblet of Fire blazes at the very centre of the front cover, framed by stunning iconography that draws on themes and moments from J.K. Rowling’s much-loved story. In addition to a bespoke introduction and exclusive insights into the magical paintings of Hogwarts, the book also boasts new illustrations by Kate Greenaway winner Levi Pinfold, including a spectacular portrait of master wand-maker, Ollivander. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, ‘Better be RAVENCLAW!’

When the Quidditch World Cup is disrupted by Voldemort’s rampaging supporters alongside the resurrection of the terrifying Dark Mark, it is obvious to Harry Potter that, far from weakening, Voldemort is getting stronger. Back at Hogwarts for his fourth year, Harry is astonished to be chosen by the Goblet of Fire to represent the school in the Triwizard Tournament. The competition is dangerous, the tasks terrifying, and true courage is no guarantee of survival – especially when the darkest forces are on the rise. It is the summer holidays and soon Harry Potter will be starting his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is counting the days: there are new spells to be learnt, more Quidditch to be played, and Hogwarts castle to continue exploring. But Harry needs to be careful – there are unexpected dangers lurking.
~*~

The 20th anniversary editions of the Harry Potter books are being released in house colours – red for Gryffindor, yellow for Hufflepuff, blue for Ravenclaw and green for Slytherin, often with additional house information and information about characters in that house who are side characters, such as Garrick Ollivander in the Ravenclaw edition, Rubeus Hagrid in the Gryffindor edition, Cedric Diggory in the Hufflepuff edition and Voldemort in the Slytherin edition. I received a hardcover Ravenclaw edition to review from Bloomsbury, and it’s beautifully put together – the story is there, but it is the additional information that is interesting, as well as revisiting the story.

The additional information also gives insights into Moaning Myrtle and indicates that she was in Ravenclaw when she was alive. Moaning Myrtle has a key part in one area of The Goblet of Fire, and it is always fun to see characters we have met before return, like Dobby. I love reading the books because I think the movies miss out on so much and presume a lot of their viewers – that they’ve read the books, and can they fill in the gaps. Perhaps this is where knowing the books helps fill in those gaps, and why I prefer the books. I remember the time this book came out – it was the year I met my best friend, Laura, and it was Laura and her mother who got me into the books, and for that, I am grateful and that is what makes them special to me – Laura and Liz are in those pages for me.

In the Goblet of Fire, we are at the midway point of the series – where everything changes. Up until now, there have been hints at Voldemort coming back, but not quite, and now, the threats are real, and slowly, across the novel, build up to the darkest ending so far, and starts a new death count of significant characters in the series. It is a turning point for everything and hurtles our once innocent characters into a stage of their lives where they are in more danger than ever before, and nobody knows who will survive what is to come, and who won’t.

A nice addition to a collector’s series of the Harry Potter books.

 

Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Josephines gardenTitle: Josephine’s Garden

Author: Stephanie Parkyn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 3rd December 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A captivating story of love, nature and identity in Napoleon’s France

‘Stephanie Parkyn is one very talented storyteller.’ -Mrs B’s Book Reviews

France, 1794. In the aftermath of the bloody end to the French Revolution, Rose de Beauharnais stumbles from prison on the day she is to be guillotined. Within a decade, she’ll transform into the scandalous socialite who marries Napoleon Bonaparte, become Empress Josephine of France and build a garden of wonders with plants and animals she gathers from across the globe.

But she must give Bonaparte an heir or she risks losing everything.

Two other women from very different spheres are tied to the fate of the Empress Josephine – Marthe Desfriches and Anne Serreaux. Their lives are put at risk as they each face confronting obstacles in their relationships and in their desire to become mothers.

From the author of Into the World comes a richly imagined historical novel about obsession, courage, love and marriage.

‘Enthralling novel, rich in historical detail … Highly recommended.’ –Good Reading on Into the World

 

~*~

 

Set in the days after the Terror, the French Revolution, Josephine’s Garden is the story of three women – Josephine Bonaparte, Marthe Desfriches, and Anne Serreaux. These three women have lived through revolution in different ways. Josephine, also known as Rose, has lost her husband to the guillotine and is now wed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Marthe Desfriches has lost two husbands, one to war, and is onto her third marriage to Jacques Labillardiere, a botanist who made an appearance in Into the World, along with other characters like Robespierre. Anne Serreaux, married to another botanist, becomes friends with Josephine as a garden grows at Josephine’s home – made up of plants and animals from New Holland, cultivated by Josephine and her botanists as Napoleon fights his way across Europe.

AWW2020He demands an heir from Josephine – something she had been struggling to give him, and she must allow her children from her first marriage to he used as pawns in the political games of Napoleon as survivors of the Terror – either royalists or those who see Napoleon as another leader who will not free them but will be just as bad as the royal family that has recently died, so there is an undercurrent of further rebellion as Napoleon starts to establish himself as emperor of France.

Much of the action takes place at home, away from the war front of the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815 as Napoleon tries to gain power over European states to build the French Empire – many years prior to Europe forming as we know it today, and several decades before Bismarck and the German wars of unification. Napoleon is often away at war, but the moments he appears in the novel are significant – demands of an heir, assassination attempts and plans, and family trying to drive Josephine out because she has failed to produce an heir, so rumours swirl that she is barren. This intrigue builds throughout the novel and causes tension in many relationships. Carefully balanced with what Josephine wants, and what she is able to give, this is explored sensitively and given the attention it needs. Much of what drives all the tensions is the idea of producing heirs to secure empire, and women and their role to reproduce and raise the future generations – the expectations placed on the new aristocracy in as they seek to rebuild the power they lost – or a new power in the new nation of France without a monarchy to lead them.

Marthe is unhappy in her marriage to Labillardiere – she longs for a child, yet he refuses to give her one. He has other plans and is determined to keep botany secrets from Josephine so he can write his book. It would seem that in many ways, there are lots of people plotting against Josephine and Napoleon, separately and apart, but in different ways. As Josephine tends her garden, political unrest and alliances tear her family apart, and her friends become embroiled in various activities – some nefarious and some very personal as rumours swirl about Napoleon’s activities at home and abroad. Marthe’s story is gently dealt with at first, until she discovers secrets later on, and her story, and suspicions about what she is up to within the new empire and whether she is acting against Napoleon ramp up.

The inclusion of the historical figures from Into the World ties the two books together cleverly – but can both be read as standalone novels, separate from each other. This is an intriguing period in history, and I have noticed that there seem to be more stories appearing now about it, or maybe I am just noticing that there are more around as it has been drawn to my attention by these books and Kate Forsyth’s latest. Either way, these stories are given life now, and we see – through Josephine’s eyes – how ego drove Napoleon and his ambitions as she sought to create a beautiful antipodean garden in France.

Josephine’s fate is tied up with Anne and Marthe eventually, and the political undercurrents of the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon’s need to secure his empire as he tries to build the French Empire in the image that Napoleon wishes to see. Intrigue and secrets fill this novel. Stephanie Parkyn has written this exquisitely, evoking the gardens and feelings of post-Revolutionary France – as those who were affected by the Terror navigate a new world. Her research has brought these people to life – and I loved the nods and throwbacks to Into the World. If there is more to come, especially about certain characters who make an appearance in this book, then I am very eager for it and will be recommending this novel to lovers of historical fiction.

My 2020 Reading Challenges

2020 Reading Challenge

In 2020, I have decided to take part in four specific reading challenges, and one overall challenge. The overall challenge will be my total books read between these four challenges, reviewing and my work as a quiz writer, and I am aiming to read 165 books in total. Below are the other challenges I am taking part in. Many categories will be easy to fill and I have books in mind that will fill multiple categories, though as usual, will aim as much as possible to read something different for each one, even if this means I end up with multiple entries for some. Some categories, like the audiobook one, may not be met, as I typically don’t read audiobooks – I tend to let anything I listen to like radio, music or podcasts fade into the background whilst working and I fell this would happen tenfold with an audiobook and I would not get much out of it.

Below are the blank lists and cards for the challenges, ready for me to start filling in from tomorrow. It should be interesting, as some are quite broad and others very specific whilst some fall somewhere in between. I’m sure I’ll fill as many as possible, as I did this year, 2019, and will aim to review as many as possible.

My December, yearly wrap and 2019 challenge wraps will appear during the first week of 2020.

My challenges:

 

modern mrs darcy

The Modern Mrs Darcy – signed up via a blog and will aim to read as many as I can off of this list of twelve. Instead of doing the PopSugar one this year, I have opted for this and another as the PopSugar one is getting very, very specific and I fear that I would struggle to find some of the necessary books, and I’d rather do a challenge where I can fit the book I read to a category in a more general way, rather than trying to force it too, or not being able to find the right book to fit a category. This only has thirteen categories, so will be easier and some may end up with multiple reads.
THE MODERN MRS. DARCY
2020 Reading Challenge
a book published the decade you were born:
a debut novel:
a book recommended by a source you trust:
a book by a local author:
a book outside your (genre) comfort zone:
a book in translation:
a book nominated for an award in 2020:
a re-read:
a classic you didn’t read in school:
three books by the same author:
1.
2.
3.

The Nerd Daily – this one has a few more specific categories, but they can likely be stretched and will align with other challenges. The good thing with this one, with categories like New York Times bestseller, is that it doesn’t specify a year, or genre, so is open to interpretation. I like challenges like this, as it gives freedom to read without worrying about anything too specific and also, it allows me to fit in my review and work reading into these challenges, which helps when trying to fit a book to a category that can seem overly prescriptive, but is often easier than it seems.

2020-Reading-Challenge nerd daily

The Nerd Daily 2020 Challenge
1. Author Starting with A
2. Female Author
3. Purchased on Holidays
4. 2020 Film Adaptation
5. Fantasy or SciFi
6. Recommended by Us (Group)
7. Under 200 pages
8. Six Word Title
9. Written by two authors
10. Mystery/thriller
11. Green Cover
12. Recommended by a friend
13. Set in the past
14. 2019 Goodreads Choice Winner
15. A book you never finished
16. Protagonist starting with H
17. Reread
18. Non-fiction
19. Released in February
20. Part of a duology
21. New York times best seller
22. Recommended by family
23. Over 500 pages
24. An award-winning book
25. Orange cover
26. Bookstore recommended
27. A number in the title
28. An audiobook
29. Debut author
30. Inspired my mythology/folklore
31. A retelling
32. A one-word title
33. Bought based on cover
34. Author starting with M
35. Start a new series
36. A book released in 2019
37. Male author
38. 2020 TV Adaptation
39. A book gifted to you
40. Author with a hyphenated name
41. Released in September
42. Purchased years ago
43. A standalone
44. Author with the same initials
45. Told from two perspectives
46. Romance or thriller
47. A protagonist starting with S
48. Two-word title
49. Set in a foreign country
50. Animal featured in cover
51. Written by your favourite author
52. Based or inspired by a true story

Australian Women Writers Challenge – I’ve done this every year for the past three or four years and am also the Children’s/YA editor – which means I collate the monthly and yearly reviews into a nice little reporting post for each month throughout the year. In 2020, we will be combining the two, so I need to find a work around to include at least four of each. As this is an area I studied and work in now, I enjoy putting these together, and writing my own reviews on the books.

AWW2020Australian Women Writers Challenge – 25

Book Bingo – 2020 marks the third year I’ve done book bingo with Theresa and Amanda. On 2018, I managed to fill out two bingo cards – I was overly eager and didn’t want to forget to add anything, so I had at least fifty books that year in book bingo. Last year, we had 30 squares to fill – which meant a few double ups throughout the year. Both of those years, we were posting every second Saturday in each month to make sure we filled the card. This year, we’ve gone sparkly and fancy – and have twelve very general categories (after certain debacles and issues with overly specific categories, we decided to do it this way). So one post a month, on the second Saturday of the month so we can keep on top of this, our other challenges and work.

 

Book Bingo 2020 clean.jpg

Themes of culture
Themes of inequality
Themes of Crime and Justice
Themes of politics and power
About the environment
Prize winning book
Friendship, family and love
Coming of age
Set in a time of war
Set in a place you dream of visiting
Set in an era you’d love to travel back in time to
A classic you’ve never read before

So those are my 2020 challenges! I hope to fill in as many as possible and will aim to post updates throughout the year.