Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

dragonfly songTitle: Dragonfly Song

Author: Wendy Orr

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: June 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits – until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

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

There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.

Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.

Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.

A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

~*~

When Aissa is born, she is abandoned at birth, feared disfigured, and taken in by another family until raiders kill them. Alone in the world, she is found by others, and dumped at the gates of the Great Hall of one of the Greek islands of the Bronze Age. Mute and nameless, she is referred to as No-Name by the servants and seen as cursed – bad things happen around her and she is called the cursed child, and so this is her life for eight years until the lottery of the youths who will be sent to the Bull King – to dance with the bulls, on what is most likely the Minoan island, Crete, at Knossos. Banished from the Hall, she is living in a cave for a time, until she is sent away.

Aissa learns that she can sing snakes and animals, but not talk – and she doesn’t realise she is doing this. When the priestesses at the Bull King’s island discover this, they take her under their wing to train as a priestess. Yet when she sings the animals at the bull leaping, she is thrust back into the world of slavery.

Set in the Bronze Age, and drawing on the myth of the Minotaur, the Minoans and Knossos, Wendy Orr has created a world where the role of names and identity is important to knowing who you are, as well as playing with the traditional sacrifice myth – where the maidens and youths of the isles were sent to the Minotaur as tribute every seven years.

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The inspiration for the bull leapers comes from a fresco in Knossos known as The Bull Leaping fresco, depicting the ancient practice of bull leaping. In the novel, it is quite a dangerous affair, where many have died or been maimed over the years and have no returned to their homelands. The original painting is from around 1400BCE.  The true purposes for bull leaping are not clear – without being able to translate Linear A, despite it being close to Linear B, used by the Mycenaeans, much guess work is undertaken about Minoan society from the archaeological evidence on Crete and Santorini. Or at least, perhaps not enough is known to fully translate it.

bull leaping.jpg
The Bull Leaping fresco from Knossos, Crete, ca 1400 BCE

So this is where Wendy Orr starts to imagine what the bull leapers may have done, with a different take on the history and myths that are well known, through the eyes of a mute girl. To do so, the story is told partly in verse song, much like the oral tradition of the time, and the way the Odyssey has been written down, and partly in prose, exploring the rest of the story that way, and putting them together so the story is a whole entity and makes sense, and could easily fit within the mythic cycles, history and the traditions of works by Homer, and other epic poets of ancient times.

Minoan Bronze Age culture is not often used in books. Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman and the well-known stories of gods and goddesses are told. Perhaps because there is more to work with there, but surely there is also a sense of freedom in working with a culture where so much can be imagined and interpreted from the art and archaeology – until the scripts can be properly translated and give us more insight into the Minoans. It is the mystery of who they are and what they did that I think is what makes this book work, as so much must be imagined – but can also be drawn from the myths involving the island and the minotaur that it works well and I absolutely adored this book.

It is I think, appropriate for ages ten and older, for all readers, and can be the kind of book that just triggers an interest in that area of the world or history. For me, having studied the Minoans, I found it fascinating and then found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of research into that area again, looking at frescoes. A great book and a good read to start the year and my many challenges.

Books and Bites Bingo – Intro and square one marked off

Just for fun, I am picking up another bingo challenge. Like all challenges this year, I have chosen them based on the openness of the categories, to fiction and non-fiction and to Australian and non-Australian authors. I feel this will give me a better chance of filling in all or as many of the categories as I can in each.

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Found in the Books and Bites Online Bookclub I am in, started by Monique Mulligan, who works at Serenity Press, this one has a few categories the others do not, but I will easily find books – either one or multiple – that slot into each once easily and nicely. My aim here, as in all others, is to mark off the ones I can do easily first, and work towards the others as I go through the year. Hopefully, many will be checked off by work and review books as well as my own reads, and I have already checked off one in this book bingo, which is published on the 28th of January.

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I’ll add that to this post, and then aim to post an update every couple of weeks. My first square checked off for this one is 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. The review will go live in a few weeks, and I hope to link it to this post then. From there, as with my other book bingo, I will post in fortnightly increments, whilst aiming to post monthly updates in relation to all challenges and reading in general.

Books and Bites Bingo

 

Set in Europe

Debut Novel

Travel Memoir

Published More than 100 Years Ago

Written in the First Person

 

Fairy Tale Collection

A Book with a door on the cover

Written by someone called Jane

An Australian crime or thriller

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

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

Book Bingo one 2020 – A Prize Winning Book

Book Bingo 2020 clean

Welcome to another year of book bingo with my co-hosts, Amanda Barrett and Theresa Smith. This year, we have cut down the number of squares from thirty to twelve, so one square a month to post about, though nothing is stopping us from filling out the card within a few months and scheduling every post. Which perhaps, might be a good way to think about it – filling it out as soon as possible and getting it all scheduled to focus on everything else and running the challenge and our posts for the Australian Women Writers challenge.

Book bingo 2020

With many options to yet come through, and some decisions to still be made, I decided to start with the prize winner category. There were many books I could have chosen for this, in many genres and categories, but settled on Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, which looks at how an ordinary day can turn into one of blindsides, tragedy and things that we don’t expect to happen when we roll out of bed in the morning. I go into much more detail in my review, and this book ticked off at least one category in each of my reading challenges, so I am off to a good start there!

Any Ordinary Day

Any Ordinary Day had nuances in it that gave insight into what goes on behind the scenes of journalism at times and how the ongoing, twenty-four seven news cycle changed the way news was delivered and the trickle of details that come out over time, rather than a report with all the facts at once, which I found interesting in light of current responses to media. Understanding that journalists perhaps can have pressures of networks or publications pushing them to get a certain angle or get everything in by a certain time – shows how only seeing the end result, the story presented or printed – can affect how people react. Either they want to know more, or they get frustrated with so little coming through when they think it should, yet at the same time, people get frustrated when they’re not informed – so in writing this book, Leigh examined the balance of this and ethics and how she struggles  to maintain this balance so she can do her job effectively, whilst still maintaining her humanity. A very well-thought out book in my view.

Adding two more challenges…

 

Today whilst making sure I’d set up my challenge document properly, I came across two more challenges. The Dymocks Reading Challenge, and the STUF #AusLit Reading Challenges. Like my other challenges, both these challenges have categories flexible enough to work with what I read, and with the odd category I’ll need to work to find but I’ll work on that as I go. Sometimes, a book just falls across my path that fits perfectly.

So that’s six challenges but as each complement each other, I am not worried. My first three reads have already ticked off at least one category in five of the six challenges, and hopefully, with one in the sixth to follow soon.

My one challenge is the Dymocks Reading Challenge. To partake in this challenge, I must use the hashtag #DymocksReadingChallenge for my posts on this – easy enough to do, and try to check off at least one book for each of the following categories – one book a fortnight!

Dymocks Readng Challenge.jpg

Dymocks Reading Challenge

1. A book by an Australian author:
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:
7. Ask a friend for a recommendation:
8. A book featuring your favourite country:
9. A book from your TBR pile:
10. An award-winning book:
11. A Mystery/Thriller:
12. A memoir:
13. A book outside your usual genre:
14. A book of short stories:
15. A self-help/motivation:
16. A fairytale/fable adaptation:
17. Book one in a fantasy series:
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:
22. A book about books:
23. A book that made you laugh:
24. A book published this year:
25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t:

The second challenge I chose today was the STFU #AusLit Reading Challenge. Some of these categories require a bit of googling to make sure I find what I want by an Australian author, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to do. The provided links should make it easier, and I can reach out to my book and reading groups for advice if I get stuck. With any luck., review and quiz books will fit into some of my challenges as well as I go through the year. This is another I’ll be contributing to on Twitter and will hopefully be able to finish it as well as all my other ones. Some categories, I have to wait for shortlists or the books to be released, which takes a little pressure off finding them now.

STFU 2020.jpeg

STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge
1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia
* Scroll through #BookstagramAustralia on Instagram and find an Australian title recommended. [Make sure you check the book is by an Australian author, as this hashtag will no doubt find you some great Australian Bookstagrammers to follow, but they won’t read or recommend exclusively Australian books.]

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

11. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

12. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author
Yep, psych! Kiwi authors need love too.

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Pippas Island 5.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The fifth book in the Pippa’s Island series is the most adorable story yet!

Life can be hard when you’re crammed into a tiny caravan with your noisy family. Pippa’s looking forward to moving into their new home above the Beach Shack Cafe, but it’s taking forever! Money is tight, too, and Pippa has her eye on a gorgeous new swimming costume.

Luckily, Pippa has her Sassy Sisters to help. Together they come up with a plan to make some cash: Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering! Before long, Pippa has her hands full with adorable but pesky pups.

What could possibly go wrong?

~*~

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It has been a long ten months since Pippa, her mum, and her siblings, Harry and Bella moved from London to Kira Island. Their home is nearly finished, though they have spent the past ten months living in a caravan in the backyard of Pippa’s grandparents. At school, things are going well – even her friendly rivalry with Olivia. Yet Pippa longs for her own space, and a new cossie. So when the local swimwear store has a sale, Pippa knows she must get something there, and starts saving up.

To do so, she begins a dog care business – walking, grooming and taking care of the dogs of Kira Island. Her friends – Meg, CiCi, and Charlie – help her with her brilliant plan, and step in to help her take care of the dogs – especially Charlie. Pippa soon has her hands full with too many dogs, including her own puppy, Summer.

Pippa’s excitement when she finally gets to start unpacking her boxes is slightly dampened when she struggles to sort through her clothes and books – until her Sassy Sisters come to help. With her friends, Pippa can finally create the haven she has been longing for since arriving on Kira Island.

The fifth book in the series continues to celebrate family and friendship, and the connections people make at all stages of life. This marks my second book in the 2020 Australian Women Writers challenge, and ticks off categories in several other challenges, including my February Book Bingo post – 2 down, ten to go for that one!

I’ve loved reading the Pippa’s Island books, and hope there are more, as they are delightful books to read and engaging for all readers across many demographics. A great book, and a series that I hope to revisit.

Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

apollo 1.jpgTitle: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: The first book in a breathtaking new series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
How do you punish an immortal? By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

~*~

I received the fourth book in this series to review – that came out prior to me receiving it so I thought I should read the first three so I wasn’t lost, as I have heard these are series that need to be read in order. Having not read the original series, I worried I would be lost there, but enough hints were dropped, and enough has been explained for readers new to this world through this new series that I didn’t feel I needed to – others may however, feel differently and that is okay.

Apollo has been cast out of Olympus – the exact event is hinted at and explained but possibly happened in the original series or the other series linked to these books, The Heroes of Olympus. Still, I did get enough backstory to understand without reading everything else.
In this series, Apollo has, as he did in some of the myths, upset Zeus (bad move). As punishment, Zeus makes Apollo a mortal as punishment for starting a riot at Olympus – a myth cycle Riordan has used here. Under the human name, Lester Papadopoulos, Apollo’s service is claimed by demi-god, Meg McCaffrey, and they are taken to Camp Half-Blood by Percy Jackson. Here, Apollo meets several of his demi-god children, and Meg finds out who her godly parents are – complicating her unfolding history more, much of which is deeply hidden until a crucial moment.
Here, they face many tests and trials – and investigate campers who go missing, and take part in a three-legged death race, and finally, face an enemy called ‘the Beast’. And so begins Apollo’s first task – to protect a hidden oracle, who has been hidden for millennia, so the Beast cannot control the future. The book ends on a cliffhanger, that will lead into the next book and his subsequent tasks as he serves demi-god Meg McCaffrey until his punishment is over – rather reluctantly at first, until he becomes quite fond of her.

This book has the right balance of fun and fantasy, adventure and myth. It manages to combine the myth cycles in a way that is interesting way that is accessible to those familiar with the myths, but also those who are not, and introduces them to a new world of research and interest. It will definitely appeal to teens and young adult readers as well, and is suitable for ages eleven and older, I think.

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Any Ordinary DayTitle: Any Ordinary Day

Author: Leigh Sales

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 19th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: The day that turns a life upside down usually starts like any other, but what happens the day after? Dual Walkley Award-winner Leigh Sales investigates how ordinary people endure the unthinkable.

As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories – and a terrifying brush with her own mortality – sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?

In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she’s learned about coping with life’s unexpected blows.

Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have.

~*~

Any Ordinary Day, winner of the 2019 Walkley Book Award, looks at those moments in life, the tragedies, the horrific situations, that happen on days that start like any other – as any ordinary day. A day where we get up and begin our ordinary routine to go about our daily lives. Until something out of the ordinary, like a sudden death, a landslide, an accident – or something like the death of a well-known figure such as Princess Diana, the 9/11 attacks or the Lindt Café Siege – occurs, and the world of the people connected to people involved in such events, and even beyond, is altered forever, and the subsequent grief and other reactions that come from it differ from person to person, and situation to situation. This is what Leigh considers in her book, as well as the role of the media, her career as a journalist and how the beginning of the twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week rolling news cycle altered reporting when it began around the First Gulf War.

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Within this book, as well as the human cost and reaction to events that are life-changing, Leigh examines how the demands of the need to know can impact how a journalist reports – where they need to navigate ethics, time constraints, and pressure not just from the public but by those that employ them. She acknowledges that the new media, the insertion of new technologies that allow people to access, and perhaps wat, news at their fingertips at any time of the day, has and can affect how the media responds to, and reports the news. In one case she talks about throughout the book, the Lindt Café Siege, she talks about one survivor she talked to, who had also been dealt a blow with her health, and how she dealt with the aftermath, and worked her way back to her life and what she was dealt. In some cases, Leigh points out that there were instances where people (specifically, the research she talks about from American institutions where people were asked about why they thought something bad had happened to them) thought it was God’s will, or it was meant to happen and various sentiments along those lines. In contrast, it felt like the Australians she spoke to – Stuart Diver, Hannah Richell and others – found more pragmatic ways to move on, even if it took them some time. Walter Mikac, who lost his wife and daughters in the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, started the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation to help children touched by violence as a way to help him remember his daughters and find a way to move on. What all of these examples have in common is that everyone will find a different way to cope with tragedy and will find their own ways to move on.

The role of the media in presenting stories can drastically affect how the public views those involved. Leigh illustrates a vulnerability in examining her role in inadvertently hurting people, and taking feedback into future stories, so she knows where she has gone wrong as she’s tried to balance ethics and the public need to know. She tells stories where she has been worried about what to write or report on, and where she has held back, especially early in her career where she was plagued with uncertainties. She also points to how a journalist reporting on a medical student who was missing for about two months, and who ran a story on 60 minutes soon after and how the public response was somewhat against him. It was a story she heard about second hand, and as with all the examples here, researched it.

Leigh also talks about a few times where her own life – her children, and the challenges of one being disabled and a difficult birth, things she has managed to get through with the help of friends, and the overwhelming feelings of gratefulness she felt. By combining her experiences and research, I feel Leigh has given a well-rounded take on how news reports on certain events from her perspective, and how something out of the ordinary can change us – and how events like the death of Princess Diana and 9/11 are the kinds of events where we all remember where we were when we found out. I remember that day in August 1997 – we were in David Jones buying a new computer when it was splashed across the television screens in the electronics department. Watching it unfold there and at home is a clear memory, and perhaps a good example of why the twenty-four seven news cycle doesn’t help anyone – those involved in the stories, the journalists and the viewers – because there will always be facts that cannot be delivered when they need to be or when viewers think they should. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is an event like the catastrophic bushfire situation plaguing the whole of Australia at the moment – where we need to know if we need to evacuate or what the fire fronts are doing. Other stories perhaps, can wait until all the facts are in place, and I felt like this is something Leigh grapples with – and has her whole career as she entered the world of journalism as this sensation was taking off.

Finally, keeping in mind that the role of technology has changed the way reporting happens – and the way it can now beam these tragedies as they happen into our living rooms, there is a further impact – on those who see it that way, and the way we try to cope with it. It is at its heart about dealing with the blows of life that come our way, and how everyone deals with them differently.