The Good Germans: Resisting the Nazis 1933-1945 by Catrine Clay

Title: The Good Germans: Resisting the Nazis 1933-1945

Author: Catrine Clay

Genre: World War Two History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette/W&N

Published: 8th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 404

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Award-winning historian Catrine Clay tells the gripping stories of six ordinary Germans who witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany from within, and dared to resist it.

After 1933, as the brutal terror regime took hold, most of the two-thirds of Germans who had never voted for the Nazis – some 20 million people – tried to keep their heads down and protect their families. They moved to the country, or pretended to support the regime to avoid being denounced by neighbours, and tried to work out what was really happening in the Reich, surrounded as they were by Nazi propaganda and fake news. They lived in fear. Might they lose their jobs? Their homes? Their freedom? What would we have done in their place?

Many ordinary Germans found the courage to resist, in the full knowledge that they could be sentenced to indefinite incarceration, torture or outright execution. Catrine Clay argues that it was a much greater number than was ever formally recorded: teachers, lawyers, factory and dock workers, housewives, shopkeepers, church members, trade unionists, army officers, aristocrats, Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists.

Catrine Clay’s ground-breaking book focuses on six very different characters: Irma, the young daughter of Ernst Thalmann, leader of the German Communists; Fritzi von der Schulenburg, a Prussian aristocrat; Rudolf Ditzen, the already famous author Hans Fallada, best known for his novel Alone in Berlin; Bernt Engelmann, a schoolboy living in the suburbs of Dusseldorf; Julius Leber, a charismatic leader of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag; and Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a law student in Berlin. The six are not seen in isolation but as part of their families: a brother and sister; a wife; a father with three children; an only son; the parents of a Communist pioneer daughter. Each experiences the momentous events of Nazi history as they unfold in their own small lives – Good Germans all.

~*~

The Nazi regime of 1933-1945, fuelled by propaganda, and thrust into place by a small number of Germans who voted for them, saw those 20 million people who never voted for Hitler’s party. During the twelve years the Nazis terrorised Germany and Europe, there were many Germans who resisted.

These Germans found ways to resist. They knew the consequences of resisting or helping those the Nazis had deemed enemies, and wanted to rid the country of, but they still resisted, often at great risk to their lives. There were several ways they did this: moved to the country, joined opposing parties and resisted openly that way, and later, acting as go-betweens for people in a party such as the Communist party. Some resisted from within the system – joining up and working with underground resistance movements, as described in The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth, and several of the people in this book.

The six characters explored in this book – Irma Thalmann, Fritzi von der Schulenburg, Bernt Engelmann, Julius Leber and Fabian von Schlabremdorff – each tackle their resistance in a different way, and the Fritzi’s sister, Tisa, also contributes to the resistance.  

There of course, were other resistance groups operating during this time. These groups did good work too. Here are six individuals who took a different tack and looked at what they could do and how. Catrine Clay also weaves the reality and darkness of what the Nazis did, interspersed with these stories, to illustrate what these six and others like them were up against in a realistic and gritty way. Catrine does not shy away from the grittiness of what they faced and the consequences they faced – imprisonment, torture or execution. Not all would survive to the end of the war. Those who did saw the downfall of the man and regime they had been fighting against for twelve years, proving that resistance in all its forms will eventually have its cumulative effect.

Resisting the Nazi’s was hard – but not impossible. The power in this book was in the way it explored how people resisted, and what they did, and how this impacted their families and lives. Tisa is one resistance fighter whose family, for the most part, were Nazis. Living a reality like this must have been fraught, and there would have been many tensions, but people like Tisa stood their ground, and in the end, that is what counted. This is a book that needs to be read, and is one that is powerful in its historical context, and a contemporary context.

I received this book for review, and whilst it wasn’t one I requested, these sorts of stories are always very interesting, because they’re layered and nuanced, and take what at the surface might be presented as a simplistic good versus bad story at times, and shows that there was perhaps more resistance than we might realise sometimes. It is not easy reading. It is one that does require breaks at times, to process what you’ve just read, and is one that is worth pursuing with. It took me a little longer than most books this size, but it was one that showed that there is more to this period of history than some books let on and opens a narrative that says resistance is effective. It does work. Cumulatively, this resistance and the wider war contributed to the defeat of Hitler and Nazi Germany. We find out how the war wraps up, and the division of Germany into the British, French, American and Russian zones – but we do not know where the surviving resistance fighters ended up.

Catrine used documents and stories from the families of these six resistance fighters to put together this book and has managed to sensitively tell their stories. She’s made them human and flawed but shown their great strength in this fight. This is a must read for anyone interested in World War Two history in all its forms.

I learned many things from this book, but the most important was the importance of resistance and standing up for what you believe in, and finding a way, however small, to stand up against people like Hitler and the regimes that create havoc and pain. A worthy read, but also one that needs time to digest.

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Title: The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder

Published: 20th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The No.1 Bestselling Series. Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

The No.1 Bestselling Series Enter a land of wizards, warriors, mythical creatures and powerful magic in an exciting fantasy adventure from the author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Witches are creating havoc in the Wildwoods and danger lurks behind every tree trunk.

Wish is in possession of a powerful, Magic Spelling Book; Xar has a dangerous Witchstain on his hand. Together they can save the Wildwoods from the curse of the Witches but they are separated by the highest wall imaginable, and time is running out …

It was unlikely that these heroes should meet in the first place. Is it possible they are destined to meet TWICE?

~*~

Picking up several weeks after the first book, Twice Magic begins with Xar trapped in a prison for dangerous Magic people. Wish is back at the Warrior fort. As they grapple with their new situations, the Wildwoods are attacked by Witches. Xara and Wish reunite – and begin to fight the curse before time runs out – but can they convince their parents to put aside their differences?

Wish and Xar visit a dying giant as part of this journey, where all fairy tale and fantasy tropes are combined to tell a unique story and series, aimed at middle grade readers. But readers of all ages will enjoy this series. I’m working my way through this series and am halfway through at this point – with book three ready to go as soon as I can start it.

The continuation of the themes of friendship, unity and acceptance are ever present in this novel, and build on what has come before. Wish and Xar are powerful and unique characters, who promote creativity, intelligence and empathy, and the role these play in problem solving, friendship and understanding each other. The world is also exquisitely detailed, and the illustrations by Cressida add something magic and unique to the text, creating a story that is full of life and joy.

Danger lurks beneath the surface of Xar and Wish’s fun. They’re on a quest to defeat the Kingwitch, and remove the Witchstain from Xar’s hand, and they are accompanied by a band of sprites, including Squeezjoos, a raven called Caliburn and Wish’s bodyguard, Bodkin. Together, they are going to save the world!

I’m in love with this series – the good thing is, I have all four to read, so I don’t have to wait to find out what happens, but at the same time, a little sad that there are only four books to enjoy. It is an imaginative series, and I think the use of an Unknown Narrator telling the story is a powerful and creative way to draw readers in. With each book, the mystery of just who this narrator is intensifies and becomes a driving force to hook readers of all ages in, along with the magical quest Xar and Wish are on.

This series manages to have an ongoing thread as well as a separate narrative for each book, which adds to the magic and intrigue, and ensures that readers remain engaged and the plot is steadily built upon effectively. I’m looking forward to delving further into this world, which is in a way historical, if we are to believe the Unknown Narrator, that this is a world before the British Isles were known as the British Isles. Cressida also cleverly draws on folklore and pulls it into the story effectively and ensures that whilst it is still recognisable as folklore, there are also unique twists on each characteristic and the individual characters, especially Wish and Xar.

A fantastic series about acceptance for readers aged eight and over.  

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

a girl made of airTitle: A Girl Made of Air

Author: Nydia Hetherington

Genre: Historical Fiction, Folklore, Myth, Magical Realism

Publisher: Hachette/Quercus

Published: 8th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 376

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A lyrical debut packed with myth, magic and folklore, perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern and Angela Carter

‘A captivating tale of love and loss and finding connection in the most unexpected places’ Nikki Marmery, author of On Wilder Seas

A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A GIRL MADE OF AIR brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.

~*~

Beginning with an interview transcript in 1983, A Girl Made from Air is told through the eyes of a nameless narrator, referred to at times as Mouse, and is known worldwide as The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived. She lived her life in a post-war circus, with parents who forgot her, and left her to her own devices. Until the arrival of Serendipity Wilson, whose presence and Manx fairy tales will change the circus, and the life of the narrator forever.

As an adult, the narrator is haunted by events of her childhood, and she appears to be writing a memoir – whether for her or someone else, it is unclear. She’s searching for a missing child at the same time, and this is woven throughout her story and Serendipity’s stories, the tales that sustained the narrator as a child. The narrator speaks directly to the reader, inviting us into her world, but on her terms, and only telling us what she chooses to tell. This perhaps makes her unreliable, yet this is after all her story, and there is always the hope that we will have the missing bits revealed at some point. This is what drives the novel and can make you want to read on – to find out if certain things are revealed, and in what way.

It has an ethereal or mystical feel. It is of this world, yet at the same time, not quite. Set between England and New York, the world is cemented in these realities, yet through the characters and themes feels like a fairy tale or world of folk tale where extraordinary and magical things happen. The circus setting is one that feels fantastical, and wondrous, a place where things out of the ordinary happen, and take people away from the mundanity of everyday life. For our narrator, this is everyday life though, made richer and more intriguing when she meets Serendipity.

The almost conversational feel of some parts of the book speaks to the sense that the narrator is writing a memoir, or long-form letter to someone. But we don’t know who at first and must work and read to find out. It is a unique novel that needs to be pondered and where you might need to spend a bit of time with it, to unpack what is going on and immerse yourself in this world.

This is a book for those who enjoy unusual stories, and ones that hold back a bit, and don’t sit neatly within a certain genre. This unusual book will find its audience and is one that is engaging and very readable. It won’t be for everyone, and it was a different one for me, with a change of pace. I hope this book finds its niche and audience.

Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas

Cover of Zombierella. Green cover with gold leaves and bigs, a black girl with curly hair in a leaf dress. She is standing between a ghost cat and ghost dog, and two headstones. One headstone reads Joseph Coelho and the other reads illustrated by Freya Hartas.

Title: Fairy Tales Gone Bad: Zombierella

Author: Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas

Genre: Fantasy, Humour

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: The first in a funny, deliciously dark, three-part series of twisted classics, written in verse by award-winning poet Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas.

A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all? Crawl out of the grave and step into your mushroom carriage for this haunting and humorous adventure of the undead girl searching for her happily ever after.

  • This is Joseph Coelho’s debut middle-grade novel.
  • Joseph Coelho won the 2015 CLPE Children’s Poetry Award, is the presenter of BBC’s Teach Poetry and features in Discovery Education’s Poetry Curriculum.
  • Freya Hartas illustrated the 2012 Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning book, Dark Lord: Teenage Years.

~*~

Fairy tales have always been retold, from the days they were oral tales, to when they were first recorded by collectors such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to contemporary retellings in literature – Kate Forsyth, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and many others, or in television and film, such as the television show Once Upon A Time. Each retelling brings something new to the stories that we have all grown up with in some way.

Cinderella is one of the most well-known fairy tales, that has many traditional iterations, and is also the subject of manty retellings over the years. The most recent one that I have come across is Zombierella, the first in a three-part series by Joseph Coelho, turning fairy tales on their heads completely, and calling the series Fairy Tales Gone Bad.

The essence of the Cinderella tale, a young girl living with her evil stepfamily, is here, but with a difference: Cindrella does not meet her fairy godmother, she meets the Shadow of Death. In the traditional tale, Cinderella has three nights as a zombie to charm the visiting prince, who is hiding a secret of his own, and get revenge on her fake family? Will she find a happily ever after?

This hilarious book is told in verses, some that rhyme, and some that don’t. It uses the traditions of fairy tales and the grotesque of children’s literature by authors like Roald Dahl (though not quite as over the top as Dahl), and creates a fun adventure that is diverse, unique and traditional at the same time. Joseph and Freya have created a beautifully diverse tale, marrying their prose and illustrations seamlessly. Freya’s illustrations enhance Joseph’s story and give new life to the Cinderella fairy tale.

Bringing in zombies gives a new angle to this old story, and the execution is exquisitely done, ensuring that all readers, no matter their age, will be wholly engaged and entertained as they read. It is also the kind of book that can be savoured, or devoured. I read it in one sitting and found it a wonderful example of reception studies and the act of retelling traditional or classic tales and stories. The beauty of these tales is that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and for a myriad of audiences. This new series is one of those examples of how well it works, and the power of illustrating diversity and its role in literature and popular culture.

I’m looking forward to what comes next – there are so many fairy tales to play with, and so many avenues to go down – so many possibilities! I love fairy tales and the retellings – each retelling brings something new to the tale and tradition of fairy tales. Will there be a happy ending for Zombierella? You’ll just have to read and find out!

An excellent middle grade book that all ages can enjoy.

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizards of onceTitle: Wizards of Once

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette/Hodder Children’s Books

Published: 8th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 455

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON comes an exciting high-adventure series – set in an ancient, magical time, full of Wizards, Warriors, Giants and Sprites.

#1 Sunday Times Bestseller Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Until the Warriors came…

Xar is a Wizard boy who has no Magic and will do anything to get it. Wish is a Warrior girl, but she owns a banned Magical Object, and she will do anything to conceal it.

In this whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must forget their differences if they’re going to make it to the dungeons at Warrior Fort.

Where something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring…

~*~

Wish is a Warrior, and she owns a banned Magical Object. She’s out riding with her bodyguard, Bodkin, when she meets Xar, a Wizard boy without magic, beyond the age when magic usually comes in. Xar and Wish clash as they argue about who is superior in a fantasy land that mirrors the British Isles before they were known as such, according to the Unknown Narrator, who intrudes into the story with commentary every now and then, breaking the fourth wall in a very clever and entertaining way.

Xar and Wish forget their differences quickly when one of Xar’s sprites, Squeezjoos, is infected with Witch-blood. But saving Squeezjoos will be a challenge. Should they succeed in their quest to get into the dungeons of the Warrior fort, they could unlock a dangerous enemy that nobody wants to face.

I picked up this series because Hachette sent me the fourth and final book to review. That book is out at the end of the month, and I decided to read the whole series and have fun with it. I was absolutely hooked from the first page and devoured the first book within two days. I loved the alternating chapters that moved seamlessly back and forth when necessary, so we understood everything that was happening and how it fitted together.

This is one of those unique novels and series that is funny, serious and magical at the same time. It draws you into its world and invites you to experience every aspect through Xar and Wish, Cressida’s fabulous and evocative prose and her delightful, fun and joyful illustrations that contribute wonderfully to the story. I am setting out to read all four back-to-back during the next few weeks.

As the Unknown Narrator says, this is a world set in the British Isles, long before this name was used, feeding into the delicious fantasy world that Cressida Cowell has built, and that cleverly leads into the second book, which I am about to start reading. This looks to be a promising and clever series, drawing on tropes and common themes within fantasy, and giving them a twist that will entertain and capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie

HavocTitle: Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Author: Rebecca McRitchie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: From the talented author of Whimsy & Woe comes a series about Cora Bell, who is magical – but could she also be a Havoc?

When magic darkens …

Cora Bell has discovered she is full of magic. But without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake.

When Cora begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

~*~

We last saw Cora, Tick and Tock meeting King Clang in the fairy world. With the revelation that Cora is a syphon, the fairies must find a way to help her stay away from Archibald Drake, and keep her from falling into his clutches. They set off on a journey to keep Cora away from Archibald, but also to find a cure for the nightmares and cracks in her skin, while they search the magical world for Cora’s family – if they’re still alive.

Cora must fight to control her magic, and a chance meeting with a half-troll, Ogg, will lead Cora, Tick and Tock towards an unforeseen battle and uniting with someone least expected. As with the first book, Havoc! ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the read wanting more.

The second book in the Jinxed series delivers another exciting page turner for readers aged eight and older, especially confident readers. It is filled with magic and adventure, and a rollicking fantasy adventure, led by a wonderful girl character, who is at times brave, but also, a reluctant hero who just wants friends, a family and for things to go back to normal. To be with Dot and Scratch. These characters are rich and fulfilling and grow with each book.

AWW2020This fantastic new series from Rebecca McRitchie pulls the reader along on an adventure with Cora and the fairies, Tick and Tock through the fantasy world, and the various towns and places they visit are rich in detail and unique characters drawn from what we know about various fantasy and fairy tale tropes. At the same time, these tropes are spun on their heads into unique and imaginative characters who fill the world with fun and whimsy whilst on a journey of discovery and friendship.

Cora at times feels alone – but Tick and Tock stick with her through thick and thin, proving that friendship is one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against evil, or those forces that want to destroy Cora. The syphon world is still a bit of a secret, and I hope, and think, we will learn more as the series goes on. It is a series that is best read in order, as the first two books end with a to be continued, and book two picks up immediately where book one leaves off. This gives the books a sense of urgency and immediacy: the characters need to act, and they need to act NOW!

The Jinxed series is one that is timeless. It’s not set in a specific time, and so, is a welcome escape from current events. We all need this kind of book right now, where we can just escape into another time and place, or somewhere distant and imagined. A world where what we’re facing now doesn’t exist. I gobbled Jinxed and Havoc up back to back within three or four days collectively, and I am very eager for the next book to find out what happens next!

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford

the-wolves-of-greycoat-hallTitle: The Wolves of Greycoat Hall

Author: Lucinda Gifford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A deliciously funny tale, with equally amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who, you are.

When Boris and his parents learn that Scotland is re-introducing wolves, they leave their mansion in Morovia for their Scottish homeland. But these wolves aren’t planning to settle in the wild, oh no! Instead, they book into the exclusive Highland Hotel, from where they plan to enjoy Scotland’s best tourist spots and cuisine. But is Scotland ready for holidaying wolves? Especially such hungry ones? And why are certain people so unhappy to see them? From spooky dungeons to scheming developers, the Greycoats’ new adventure is full of surprising discoveries.

  • A deliciously funny tale, packed with amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who you are.
  • The lively, heavily-illustrated text will appeal to fans of Alex T. Smith (Claude series) and Chris Riddell – making this a must-read junior fiction novel, with engaging pictures and jokes for all ages.
  • Important theme: At its heart, this is a story about our very refined wolves being judged for what they are, rather than who they are.

~*~

What happens when Scotland decides they want to reintroduce wolves? The Greycoats of Morovia find out and they plan to head off on a new adventure, where they will make new friends and where the humans of Portlessie  welcome the wolves amidst a fight against a developer, who wants to turn a local castle into an exclusive resort, cutting the residents off from their beloved beach.

AWW2020

Boris and his parents, Leonora and Randall, soon find themselves embroiled in a fight for Drommuir Castle, and a fight to be accepted. Some people in Scotland barely bat an eyelid at the presence of the Greycoat family, in a delightful reminiscence of Paddington Bear, whose presence as a bear in London is delightfully accepted and never questioned as well. There are those determined though, to see the wolves driven from Portlessie, especially when Boris starts digging around in the history of the town and castle, both of which are linked to his family.

The story is lavishly illustrated by Lucinda, whose words and images work together in an energetic and immersive way, pulling readers into the story and into Scotland, a world of thistle and tartan, bannocks and Scottish tablet.

Boris and his family face discrimination on their trip to Scotland, and this forms the crux of the novel. It is a story about acceptance, and not judging based on one’s appearance, but the content of character, and accepting people for who they are and how they identify, especially geared towards readers aged seven and older.  It is a powerful story about community, and pulling together to resolve conflict, and find a way to defeat the big wigs who are always trying to take advantage of the society and destroy what is most precious to them.

This story appealed to me because of its setting first, and the idea of wolves s the characters, which made it unique. History-loving Boris shows children that being true to yourself, being a good person and standing up for what you believe in are all very powerful characteristics to have. He also makes history cool, and I am currently loving this wave of characters who are promoting a love of words, books and history, rather than making these characters seem like they must change to suit popular ideas.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall is a delightful novel that works exquisitely as a stand-alone novel and brings wolves and Scotland to life in an imaginative and beautiful way that allows readers to immerse themselves in a world that is real and fantastical at the same time. Confident readers will enjoy this book, and the ending will leave you wanting more from the Greycoats and their adventures.

 

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

mermaid witch seaTitle: The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea

Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Walker Books

Published:    2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 416

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love. Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself. Deftly entwining swashbuckling action and quiet magic, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s inventive debut novel conjures a diverse cast of characters seeking mastery over their fates while searching for answers to big questions about identity, power, and love.

  • Former bookseller Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s first full-length novel, an adventure-packed fantasy which we won rights to in a pre-empt
  • Gender identity is also a theme throughout the novel, which features a romance between nobility-born Evelyn and trans orphan Flora/Florian, two strong queer protagonists
  • Gender identity and gender roles/sexual mores in society are major themes throughout the novel, which features notes of Asian folklore and culture threaded through and alongside the fantastical, adventurous, action-packed plot line

~*~

An adventure set on the high seas of a fantasy world that melds Japanese stories and culture with the traditional British fantasy, paying homage to both and the tropes, characters and creatures that inform a fantasy world. The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea pulls cultures together to create an imagined world filled with diversity.

Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, an Imperial, is travelling on the Dove to an arranged marriage. She is attended by Flora, whom she knows as Florian, during the voyage. All seems well. Until the crew reveals their true nature, and takes the passengers hostages, and the true nature of the Dove as a pirate ship is revealed.

Told in alternating chapters between Evelyn and Florian, through their eyes, The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea also tells a story of magic and the vibrancy of the sea and her children, the mermaids. When Evelyn and Flora/Florian discover what the pirates are doing with the mermaids they catch, the two are determined to help, and prevent the mermaid from meeting the same fate as so many others.

In this story, the sea and the mermaids are as much characters as Evelyn and Flora/Florian, whose lives intersect and become separate to move the story along, as each grows into their own identity together, and apart. There is romance, but the heart of the book is about identity and the breaking free of stereotypes to be true to yourself. Before Flora/Florian and Evelyn can embark on any kind of relationship, they must find out who they are apart, and this is where the power of this story was for me. It spoke to the need to be true to yourself, your culture, your identity–whatever it is that makes you, well, you and find a way to pull all these things together if you can. It is a book that celebrates being unique, and that celebrates not allowing expectations to rule your life.

Women and their lives and identities are at the heart of this novel. Their femininity, their individuality, their strength and ultimately, who they are and their place in the world. This powerful novel will have something for everyone, from exploration of gender identity, to a rollicking adventure filled with diverse characters, to some clever intrigue when it comes to the women characters, and the way the men seem to underestimate them and the surreptitious and subversive ways Evelyn, Flora and other characters show their true colours and abilities.

Aimed at teens aged fourteen and older, this book centres gender identity and gives people and the characters who might not have a voice one, and a chance to see themselves reflected in literature. This powerful story also shows the diversity of the world, and how a class system can determine your role in life, but also, people’s ability to go against this and determine their own fate.

August 2020 Wrap Up

In August, I read twenty-one books. Thirteen were written by Australian Women Writers, and all contributed to my challenges across the board. Several were part of series, and many were review books. Some I had been looking forward to, and one from Scholastic Australia, by comedian Rove McManus was a surprise arrival, and one that I found enthralling and engaging. Some challenges are almost finished, and I am hoping I will be able to complete them by the end of the year.

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

I read a few diverse books this month as well. It’s always hard to choose favourites, but I really loved The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford, The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner and The Firestar: A Maven and Reeve Mystery by A.L. Tait – these were ones that really stuck with me and that I wanted to read again immediately. Looking forward to another productive month in September!

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 – 91/25
Book Bingo – 12/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 48/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25
Books and Bites Bingo 19/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –150/165

August – 21

Book Author Challenge
Lapse Sarah Thornton Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Monstrous Heart

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Moonflower Murders Anthony Horowitz Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Piranesi Susanna Clarke Reading Challenge
Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie Fin J Ross Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Rocky Lobstar: Time Travel Tangle Rove McManus Reading Challenge,
House of Dragons Jessica Cluess Reading Challenge
The Firestar (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) A.L. Tait Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Maggie Tokuda-Hall Reading Challenge
The Wolves of Greycoat Hall Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daughter of Victory Lights Kerri Turner Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
When the Ground is Hard Malla Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Society – Victorian Premier’s Literary Award –
Winner Best Young Adult Literature, Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 US; Shortlisted Best Book for Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2020 AU; Highly Commended Best Young Adult Novel, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 AU

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm Sally Odgers and Christina Booth Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern and Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Girl Made of Air Nydia Hetherington Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm by Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

meet dooley on the farmTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm

Author: Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Dooley from Tasmania.

Hi! I’m Dooley! My cousin is visiting our farm.

We’ll swim in the river, feed the calves and collect berries. But best of all, we’re going to sleep out in the barn!

~*~

Dooley is excited that his cousin, Sienna, is coming to his farm in Tasmania. He can’t wait to show her everything he loves, but when she arrives, she keeps saying the everything pongs! How will Dooley convince her that the farm isn’t as pongy as she thinks?

AWW2020

This is the seventh in the Aussie Kids series, and I’ve read six of them so far. They celebrate the diversity of Australia, from each state and territory, across gender, race and communities, as well as the environs that the characters live in. These short stories are delightful, and Dooley’s story brings farm life in Tasmania to life, and the adventures of sleeping in the barn and renegade animals from neighbouring farms.

Where the previous stories have taken place over one day this one takes place overnight, evoking a sense of fun and unease in a gentle way that kids will relate to and enjoy. The beauty of these books is in the simple way they evoke emotion and setting for younger readers who are starting to learn to read or reading independently. Whilst we only see a small portion of each state or territory, it is a relevant section to the character and what the setting means to them, which fits in with the theme of the series and what it is aiming to achieve for readers.

A great addition to this series!