Book Bingo Eight – Double Bingo: A Book Set in an exotic location and a book by an author you’ve never read before 

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Hello, and welcome to week eight of book bingo with Amanda and Theresa. This week, I’m taking on another double bingo, and ticking off a book set in an exotic location, and a book by an author I have never read before. In all honesty, both books could fit into the second category, and one could also fit into the science fiction category, but it’s still only April, and I still have many books to read, review and that will hopefully fit into what I have left on my card. Next fortnight, I will be posting another double bingo about a book with a place in the title, and a book set on the Australian coast after both the posts have gone live for the blog tour that it they are part of.

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Here are the rows in the card this week’s choices come from:

Across

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row Five:

Written by an Australian Man:

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35:

Written by an author over the age of 65:

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Down:

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago:

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Square One: Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

four dead queens

Okay, so I may have cheated a tad here, but to me, an exotic location is anything – real or imagined – that is either not my every day or that I have never experienced, something that is new to me and has a sense of the unusual, or the unknown but to be revealed and learned about. Quadara to me fits this, the setting for Four Dead Queens, because each Quadrant is different and therefore, not only exotic to the reader, but also to the characters, who never really venture into each other’s quadrants or meet each other but rely on information and supplies passed to them through those involved in trade. This is also a debut author, and like many books this year, would have fitted into the author I’ve never read before as well, and also had touches of science fiction mixed in with the fantasy, but I am hoping for a different title for that book.

Square Two: Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

the dof runner

Bren MacDibble is another new author to me, and I had plenty to choose from for this category. It was one that didn’t fit into many others, which is why it has found its home here. Looking at an Australia devastated by a germ that wipes out many of the food sources, a brother and sister – who have different mothers but the same father, set out to find Emery’s Indigenous family for help. It brings diversity together in many ways – race, and personality types and the way people unite in times of difficulty or turn on each other. Coming to Bren’s writing for the first time, this one held my attention completely and is one I recommend to people to read.

2019 Badge

I’m planning another double book bingo for next fortnight, and that should hopefully knock off all the squares I have ticked off so far, or be getting close to that stage. See you then!

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018 Completed Post  

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Check in posts:

 

Check in #1

Check in #2

Check in #3

Check in #4

Check in #5

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

 

The Book Muse

Booktopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Seventeen:

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

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Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

early riser .jpgTitle: Early Riser

Author: Jasper Fforde

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Adventure/Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel – full of the imagination, wit and intelligence that has made Fforde a Number One bestseller.

The new standalone novel from Number 1 bestselling author Jasper Fforde. 

Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.

Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder.

Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…

~*~

It has been many years since a Jasper Fforde novel has been released, and of all his books, my two favourite series are the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes books – both of which I hope get updates soon, so I can find out what happens to my favourite characters. In Early Riser, the first stand-alone novel by Fforde, which is filled with the same satire, the same references to history, popular culture, entertainment and reading, as the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series his readers have come to know and love. Yet this is a different world to that of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, set in another alternate United Kingdom, this time in Wales, where humans spend the entire winter hibernating – and where a select few have volunteered to stay awake through winter to ensure everyone makes it through.

Charlie Worthing is one such volunteer. It is his first Winter awake, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is an outbreak of viral dreams that start to kill people, and Charlie must work with the Winter Consul, and contend with the Wintervolk and those infecting the dreams of the hibernating folk and killing them.

This is a sort of dystopian, alternate universe that is quintessentially British, and charmingly so, with the presence of After Eights, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a tongue-in-cheek humour that I have come to expect and love in Fforde’s works. It is a humour that knowing some of the references, such as his cheeky nods to The Sound of Music, that knowing where they are from helps you appreciate them all the more, and it is so typically Fforde – he manages to get the balance of respect and satire just right, and it suits the book and the character of Charlie so well -one wonders if Charlie has ever crossed paths with the Nursery Crime Division and Thursday Next – books I must read again, and am hoping for continuations of.

The cruelty of Charlie’s first Winter is evident in how the Consul treats him, in the hints at hazing and how different departments perform this – where one might be akin to pranks and drills, Charlie’s hazing is said to be more like making tea and doing laundry – that is, until he is given a promotion to take on heavier duties and investigations into the dream deaths. Fforde cleverly shows how this happens but using subversive and discreet language – nothing is obviously stated, and Charlie is constantly warned about the consequences of falling asleep. Part mystery as well as satire as Charlie investigates what happens, he soon finds himself uncovering secrets about people he thought he knew and finding out things he never thought he would.

Fforde manages to capture something unique about the world, about history and literature, and British culture that is entertaining, informative and amusing. He uses the punching up rule of humour, mixed in with equal delectable dollops of parody and satire to complement the seemingly insane and odd mystery that makes sense in the dystopian alternate universe of Wales that Fforde has created for Charlie to live in, with an ending that is both conclusive and open enough for readers to imagine what happens next. It is a novel that will appeal to Fforde fans and hopefully those who appreciate a tongue in cheek humour and nods to things we’ve all encountered or heard of at some stage, which makes the reading experience richer and more enticing when you can understand these references.

Jasper’s first novel in about four years, Early Riser is the beginning of what will hopefully be a barrage of new books, and updates on our favourite characters and stories. I enjoyed being back in the world of Jasper Fforde and can’t wait for his next offering – which I hope will be soon. In the meantime, I plan to re-read the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, that latter of which only has two books at this stage.

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Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

captain cooks apprenticeTitle: Captain Cook’s Apprentice

Author: Anthony Hill

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin-Viking

Published: 2nd July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 290

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The enthralling story of Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia, as seen through the eager eyes of a cabin boy.
When young Isaac Manley sailed on the Endeavour from England in 1768, no one on board knew if a mysterious southern continent existed in the vast Pacific Ocean. It would be a voyage full of uncertainties and terrors.

During the course of the three-year journey, Isaac’s eyes are opened to all the brutal realities of life at sea – floggings, storms, press-gangs, the deaths of fellow crewmen, and violent clashes on distant shores.

Yet Isaac also experiences the tropical beauty of Tahiti, where he becomes enchanted with a beautiful Tahitian girl. He sees the wonders of New Zealand, and he is there when the men of Endeavour first glimpse the east coast of Australia, anchor in Botany Bay, and run aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

Acclaimed and award-winning historical novelist Anthony Hill brings to life this landmark voyage with warmth, insight and vivid detail in this exciting and enlightening tale of adventure and discovery.

~*~

250 years ago, Captain Cook, on the Endeavour, set out on the journey that would lead to his discovery for the British of the East Coast of Australia, and several Pacific nations, and mapping the Pacific region as he went. He was accompanied by a vast crew, including a young boy who would become his apprentice on the journey and rise through the ranks – Isaac Manley. Through Isaac’s eyes, the voyage that begins in 1768, to explore the Pacific and find out if the mysterious southern continent existed.

On their journey, they would stop in Tahiti, New Zealand and Batavia in the Dutch East Indies – now known as Jakarta, and encountered the indigenous people of these lands, whose reactions varied – to Cook and his crew, the Tahitians in the novel were welcoming, whereas other islands and people met them with more hostility and wariness as they approached and mapped the islands. As the novel is set in the eighteenth century, Anthony Hill has done an exceptional job of balancing attitudes of the eighteenth century, the mythos surrounding Captain Cook as what Hill says in his Author’s Note as a great and humane navigator – illustrated by the way Cook is seen to interact with locals on the islands through Isaac’s eyes, and the way the local populations of the islands Cook discovered for England. This balance is not always easy to achieve, but Hill has done it in an educational and authentic way, ensuring the complexity of this history is revealed.

Though this book is fictional, it has a nice balance of fiction and fact, the imagined based on research, and seamless insertion of facts into the narrative, that read almost as non-fiction but that work equally well in the fictional setting of the book. In Isaac’s world, he is discovering lands previously unknown to England, and encountering people he never thought he would ever meet or know about.

The focus of the novel is the voyage, and what happened, rather than the implications and impacts of colonialism on Indigenous populations. However, Hill does hint at this through the actions of Cook and his men, and a few incidents that are the result of cultural misunderstandings, and how each group sees the world. It is an interesting look into the voyage that led Captain Cook to circumnavigate the east coast of what became known as Australia – called at the time of the voyage Terra Australis Incognito due to the crew being unsure if the land existed, and what happened on this voyage.

 

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The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux

the secret books.jpgTitle: The Secret Books

Author: Marcel Theroux

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Faber Fiction

Published: 27th September, 2017

Format: Hardback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A world on the brink of catastrophe. A two-thousand-year-old mystery. A lost gospel. Both a page-turning adventure and an examination of the stories that humans are willing to kill and die for.

Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shopkeeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris.
Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world’s understanding of the historical Jesus.
Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice.

This breathtaking novel by the award-winning author of Far North and Strange Bodies tells the extraordinary tale of Nicolas Notovitch and his secret gospel.

It is the epic story of a young man on the make in a turbulent world of spies and double-cross, propaganda and revolutionary violence, lost love and nascent anti-semitism – a world which eerily foreshadows our own era of post-truth politics.

Based on real events, The Secret Books is at once a page-turning adventure and an examination of the stories that humans are willing to kill and die for.

~*~

With most historical fiction novels, it is easy to delineate between the history behind the story, and the fictional elements the author has employed – whether it is characters, or integration of time travel, employed in books such as the Outlander series, or an alternate history, where elements can be changed but some aspects remain historically the same to ensure a degree of authenticity. The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux takes these aspects and turns them on their head, making the reader question what is real, and what is not, and in doing so, has written a clever piece of literary fiction that captures a figure and a moment in time linked to his family, and that interrogates the Pali Gospels, looking at the lost years of Jesus in a historical context, with a touch of spirituality thrown that illuminates the doubt that the religious scholars the main character interacted with had when he presented them with his theories.

Nicolas Notovitch was a real person, the one who looked into these lost years and tried to bring them to the attention of the world, suggesting that the gospels had somehow ignored these years in favour of spreading the message they wanted. At the same time, it explores the journey Nicolas took that led him to these gospels, and down a path of love, marriage and fatherhood, beginning during the late nineteenth century and moving forward into the early decades of the twentieth century, the First World War and eventually, the beginnings of the Second World War. Nicolas’s obsession with proving the existence of these books will cost him – he does not know what until it happens, and I felt him have his heart broken and the rug ripped from beneath his feet. In following a passion for discovering something of historical importance, he had sacrificed the passion and love of family. Prior to discovering these manuscripts and investigating them, Nicolas had escaped his dreary life in Russia for a new bohemian one in Paris, where he meets a variety of characters who introduce him to new ways of thinking such was McGahan, a female journalist in a male dominated world – one aspect that had me questioning whether this was set in current times, a time travel story or whether the author was having a bit of fun with the history – and I feel it was the latter as it left me questioning whether that would have been possible in the time period and social structure of the time.

With each section book-ended by quotes, it was an unusual yet intriguing format that questions what we know about history and what is known about Biblical history, and how these books could alter our understanding of religion and history, and how it might impact religious scholars. It interrogated how people respond to the unknown with fear, something that happens in many areas and places. It was an intriguing book, but one that needs focus to be read, and fully appreciated. It may not be the best before bed book, but it is indeed one that will have an audience out there – and one that can be appreciated by anyone with an interest in history and society.

Booktopia – 25% off Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

bedlam stacks.jpg

Title: The Bedlam Stacks

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Published: 1st August, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: An astonishing historical novel set in the shadowy, magical forests of South America, which draws on the captivating world of the international bestseller The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Deep in uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a forest. The shrine statues move, and anyone who crosses the border dies. But somewhere inside are cinchona trees, whose bark yields quinine: the only known treatment for malaria.

On the other side of the Pacific, it is 1859 and India is ravaged by the disease. The hunt for a reliable source of quinine is critical and in its desperation, the India Office searches out its last qualified expeditionary. Struggling with a terrible injury from his last mission and the strange occurrences at his family’s ruined estate, Merrick Tremayne finds himself under orders to bring back cinchona cuttings at any cost and dispatched, against his own better judgement, to Bedlam.

There he meets Raphael, a priest around whom the villagers spin unsettlingly familiar stories of impossible disappearances and living stone. Gradually, he realises that Raphael is the key to a legacy left by two generations of Tremayne explorers before him, one which will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.

~*~

Ex- East India smuggler, Merrick Tremayne is at home in Cornwall, recovering from an injury to his leg that inhibits activity for him when the India Office contacts him about an expedition to Peru to fetch some quinine to help treat malaria outbreaks in India. Tremayne instantly knows it is a bad idea : every able-bodied explorer has been unsuccessful, paying with their life, so he questions how he, a disabled explorer, will cope, survive and succeed. Lumped with orders to go, Tremayne is accompanied by a friend, Clem, and they venture into Bedlam, a holy town in uncharted Peru that holds many secrets of the past, and a sense of magic and history that will slowly unfold throughout the five parts of the novel, and reveal secrets about a Tremayne ancestor that Merrick had been unaware of. Accompanied by a priest, Raphael, whose presence indicates something a little out of the ordinary, lending to a sense of fantastical and magical realism within the novel.

The Bedlam Stacks is steeped in history and colonialist ideas and expectations of “The Other”, typically seen through Tremayne’s companion, Clem, whose ignorance and the sense that he felt his knowledge was superior came through at times, in contrast to Tremayne, who I felt made the efforts to understand and communicate effectively with Raphael and show his appreciation for what Raphael was doing for him. In 1860, when disability and injury might be more likely to inhibit what one is able to do, Tremayne copes, albeit with help when he needs it, and in what felt realistic, he is shown to struggle, but readers also get to see what he is capable of, in all areas of his person. It is a travel story with a difference, where the explorers are faced with the harsh realities of an unknown world that challenges their sense of being and self, and shows them just how human and vulnerable they are. They need rescuing by locals, and at times, they are shown to be imperfect, punctures to their egos that their upbringing might have inflated.

I liked Merrick’s sense of humility, and ability to stand back and let Raphael talk. It was refreshing to see this move towards equal standing of characters of vastly different backgrounds, much of which are extrapolated through flashbacks, cleverly inserted into the text without disrupting the flow of the story, and the vast majority is told in first person, with the exception of one chapter towards the end that gives the reader insight into Raphael and his past. Raphael’s absences of long periods of time are explained as catalepsy – by Merrick, who hears of Raphael’s symptoms and urges him to see a doctor – perhaps a marker of how he sees the world, juxtaposed with Raphael’s acceptance of things being the way they are. In doing so, Pulley has illustrated how two different worlds collide, and through this collision, have attempted to find a way to communicate.

Throughout the novel, odd things happen at different times, marking this as more than just an expedition into history and unexplored, uncharted areas of the world as they would have been in the 1860s. These instances hint at elements of fantasy and magical realism, and this makes it a very intriguing novel, as the layers of each chapter and part are revealed slowly to bring the story to it’s conclusion and the wrapping up of the characters and their lives, but at the same time, leaving some aspects open for interpretation and maybe another novel.

It was a enjoyable novel, and has made me want to read Natasha’s first novel. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. An enjoyable novel, and highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, mysteries and novels with that little bit of a difference that make them stand out.

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