Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver.jpgTitle: Silver

Author: Chris Hammer

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 576

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Martin Scarsden returns in the sequel to the bestselling Scrublands.

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands.

~*~

I read Chris Hammer’s first book when it came out last year, and what was interesting about it was that it was more about why the crime happened, rather than the who or how. In the sequel, Silver, the focus is on clearing a single person – Mandalay Blonde – who is Martin’s girlfriend. When Martin arrives back in Port Silver, he is confronted with the murder of an old friend, Jasper Speight, and Mandalay’s supposed guilt. The set-up is promising, no doubt, because a death in Martin’s hometown has the potential to be intricate and, in some ways, it was There were many engaging sections, and at the same time, many that felt like they meandered too much.

I did enjoy it when the crimes were discussed and mixed into the recipe – for me, these were the most interesting parts. I wanted a resolution to the accusations against Mandalay – and we got one, of course – there always has to be, I just wish the baking journey had spent a little more time on the crime rather than just exploring the personal side – both of these can be done equally and I think, in far fewer pages than 580.

At the same time, Martin must confront his past and the people from it – which is done very heavily, and in a very meandering way – I felt this took away from the main murder, and also, from some of the more interesting aspects of the novel even though it seemed to have some baring on what happened, it felt abrupt when it appeared and it wasn’t always clear when we were flashing back into the past. Whilst intriguing and necessary, I had hoped some of these flashbacks were clearer, and it all led to something that I thought came quite out of the blue. Though it gave the characters and story something interesting to do, and explained some of the things earlier on, it came on all too quickly and maybe could have been dealt with earlier and without dropping vague hints – this was one of the aspects I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I should have. The family tragedy and drama is very interesting – and would have been more interesting if some things didn’t feel as though they faded into the distance – without knowing something strange was simmering and cooking away, the Big Reveal felt a bit abrupt.

The one plotline I had hoped would have more meat and intrigue to it was about the cult storyline appears properly more than halfway through and bubbles away until the real crime that occurs there and is loosely linked to the original crime smashes into being in an abrupt way. Cult stories today are much of a muchness. But a cult were crimes might actually happen is an intriguing idea. This had the potential to be really well executed.  Something seems to have interfered somewhere in the process, however, because we ended up with something not as satisfying, and that felt rushed. Perhaps if the preparation had been slower and more detailed, this part of the plot may have had a better outcome. Whilst a lot of the book has worked, it appeared parts of it were rushed and the speed at which it was concluded left me feeling disappointed that this didn’t get as much attention. Then adding a new idea close to the end, without enough setting up left me a bit lost, because that also would have been interesting to tease out a bit more. New ideas should be teased out and added far earlier. In some ways, this did make sense, but in others, I feel like suggesting these things earlier could have made for a better story. Overall, there were many elements I liked, but these faded into the background.

There are elements that work here – many that do, and some that don’t. Whilst the ending was satisfying in some ways, in others it didn’t, but I hope this book works for the fans and others who enjoy this kind of thing. It did have promise, and I do think had some meandering parts been sacrificed to focus on crimes, or at least, some things that happened more than once been tightened a little, this would have worked much better for me. I do hope there are people out there who will like this novel, but in this instance, this just didn’t work for me the way I had hoped it would.

August Round Up 2019

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I managed to read sixteen books in August, and the break down is below for each challenge and collectively in lists and tables. Several were read for review purposes, some for quiz writing purposes and others for my own reading. Some reviews are only going live in September, but others are up and ready to be read.

#Dymocks52Challenge

To date, I have read 135 books, and am up to 66 for my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and to date, have only one book bingo square to fill, with each post except the final one written and scheduled. I haven’t really added to my Popsugar Challenge this month but am still aiming to finish it by the end of the year.

I did add to my Jane Austen reading challenge with a Pride and Prejudice retelling by Fiona Palmer – I still have to add more reads to this challenge. As I am on top of all my review books at the moment, I might have time to read more for this challenge, even if I do not review each book, I read for it. I also took part in a blog tour with Corella Press – a cover reveal and an interview with illustrator, Kathleen Jennings. August also meant Love Your Bookshop Day, and my post about it is here.

In other book news, my new bookcase arrived, and my books are now sorted out nicely, and easy to find. Heading into September, I am busy with quiz writing and editing work, so it’s a good thing I have so many reviews already scheduled so I don’t have to worry about writing them.

Until next month!

Books 119-135

  1. The Battle for Perodia (The Last Firehawk #6) by Katrina Chapman
  2. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  3. A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
  4. The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep by Holly Webb
  5. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis
  6. Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M Martin
  7. The Truth About Stacey by Ann M Martin
  8. Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M Martin
  9. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  10. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel
  11. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer
  12. Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook by Judy Revenson
  13. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  14. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey
  15. The Loneliest Kitten by Holly Webb
  16. The Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith
  17. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers Challenge

  1. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  2. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  3. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  4. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  5. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  6. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  7. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed

Book Bingo

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Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages:Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019 

Row Four: – BINGO

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

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

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: BINGO

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

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: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

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

Row Six: BINGO

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019*

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

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

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

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

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

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

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person:Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

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

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenRow Five: BINGO

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

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

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Emma

Persuasion

Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Pride and Prejudice retelling

 August Round Up – 16

 

Title Author Challenge
The Battle for Perodia Katrina Charman General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Rowan of Rin Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Pinch of Magic Michelle Harrison General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off Delphine Davis General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #aWW2019 -September release
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Truth About Stacey Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Anne Saves the Day Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
While You Were Reading Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
The Unforgiving City Maggie Joel General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
Matters of the Heart Fiona Palmer General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Jane Austen Challenge
Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook Judy Revenson General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

 

Valerie Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

 

Jacqueline Harvey General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
The Loneliest Kitten Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Land of Long Lost Friends

 

Alexander McCall-Smith General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lily and the Rose Jackie French General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – reviewed in September.

Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey

Where the dead go.jpgTitle: Where the Dead Go

Author: Sarah Bailey

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 5th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 464

Price:  $29.99

Synopsis: Four years after the events of Into the Night, DS Gemma Woodstock is on the trail of a missing girl in a small coastal town.

‘Every bit as addictive and suspenseful as The Dark Lake . . . Sarah Bailey’s writing is both keenly insightful and wholly engrossing, weaving intriguing and multi-layered plots combined with complicated and compelling characters.’ The Booktopian

A fifteen-year-old girl has gone missing after a party in the middle of the night. The following morning her boyfriend is found brutally murdered in his home. Was the girl responsible for the murder, or is she also a victim of the killer? But who would want two teenagers dead?

The aftermath of a personal tragedy finds police detective Gemma Woodstock in the coastal town of Fairhaven with her son Ben in tow. She has begged to be part of a murder investigation so she can bury herself in work rather than taking the time to grieve and figure out how to handle the next stage of her life – she now has serious family responsibilities she can no longer avoid. But Gemma also has ghosts she must lay to rest.

Gemma searches for answers, while navigating her son’s grief and trying to overcome the hostility of her new colleagues. As the mystery deepens and old tensions and secrets come to light, Gemma is increasingly haunted by a similar missing persons case she worked on not long before. A case that ended in tragedy and made her question her instincts as a cop. Can she trust herself again?

A riveting thriller by the author of the international bestseller The Dark Lake, winner of both the Ned Kelly Award and the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award for a debut crime novel.

~*~

2019 Badge

The third and final novel in the Gemma Woodstock trilogy goes off with a bang. First, a young girl goes missing. At the same time, Gemma’s ex-husband, Scott, dies, and she’s left to care for her nine-year-old son, despite people around her thinking she should leave him with his step-mother and baby sister. Instead, Gemma takes a job up the coast, near Byron Bay over the Easter holidays and takes Ben with her. She is called to investigate the disappearance of a local girl, Abbey, and the murder of her boyfriend. Everyone seems to think Abbey is dead as well – but is she really, and who in this town would want both of them dead?

The search for answers becomes complex as the story moves along, as suspects ebb and flow, and everyone starts suspecting everyone else. At the same time, whilst staying with the local police officer and his wife, Gemma starts to look into missing drugs from the hospital, and incorrect use of prescription drugs. With these two cases possibly linked, Gemma finds out there is much more to the murders and those on the suspect list than Gemma and her colleagues realises.

The final book wraps up many threads left over from the previous two books, whilst a murder and secondary storyline evolve over the novel to reveal a complex storyline on many levels – for the plot, the crime and the characters, especially Ben and Gemma as they deal with the death of their father and husband while Gemma investigates the crimes.

Referring back to previous cases, Gemma’s story and past is revealed more in this novel, and as she reconnects with her son, she finds herself wanting to be in his life more than she has previously.

Told in first person, everything is seen through Gemma’s eyes, and view of the world. She still feels like her family doubts her and thinks she should leave Ben’s care to Jodie, his stepmother, and try to convince her it would be better for both of them – this has been an ongoing thread throughout the trilogy. However, it feels like things will be resolved in the final book for Gemma and her family, and much like the crimes she investigates, things are not going to be simple or straightforward. But hopefully, she can work it all out.

What I’ve enjoyed about this trilogy has been the mysteries that Gemma has to solve and experiencing the world through her eyes. Intricate and deeply involved in every way and with every thread of the story. It’s an intense mystery that has the characters and reader on their toes – you never know what is coming, and even as various clues are dropped, they aren’t so obvious that I could work out who the real killer was, there was definitely a feeling that came from a couple of characters that made me instinctively not trust them and wonder if they had any involvement.

Overall, this was a really good way to end the trilogy, and I hope Gemma Woodstock fans will enjoy it.

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell

the dragon in the library.jpgTitle: The Dragon in the Library

Author: Louie Stowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Save the library, save the world!

Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

The first book in a fantastically exciting, imaginative and brilliantly funny new series.

~*~

It’s the first day of the summer holidays, and Kit can’t wait to go out and climb trees and get muddy. But her best friends, Alita and Josh, want to go to the new library and check out the latest book in a series they love, Danny Fandango. While they are there, they meet the new librarian, Faith. Alita and Josh head off to scour the shelves, leaving Kit alone to explore the library. When she finds herself pulled into a book of dangerous animals, and has to be rescued by Faith, Kit learns that she is a wizard – the youngest wizard in the world in fact. Showing her powers earlier than usually expected, Kit has to keep the secret from her family – but Alita and Josh overhear, and the three friends and Faith are soon pulled into a quest to save the library from a horrible man called Hadrian Salt – a developer who wishes to take the new library and build a shopping centre. So Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita set out to save the library – and uncover a much more sinister plot, involving the secret hidden beneath the library.

Kit is the third of five children – and at the start of the novel, feels quite left out between her perfect older sister, her rebellious big brother and the youngest children, a toddler and a baby. So when she discovers she is a wizard, she finally has something that makes her special – but like in most stories about wizards, she cannot let anyone know, and her newfound powers are unpredictable.

Louie Stowell combines wizards, dragons, and libraries with a diverse and adorable cast of characters, whose passions for magic and the written word were my favourite aspects of this book, and everyone who reads this book will be able to see various aspects of themselves in all the characters in the book, whether it is what they look like, or what they love or their personality, which is really delightful and fabulous.

Their fight against Hadrian Salt is only just beginning – his quest to buy the library is more sinister than imagined, and it will be up to Faith, Kit, Alita and Josh to save the library – but of course, as the first in the series, there will be much more to come, and I think we will see much more of Salt in subsequent books.

With a reluctant reader as the main character, supported by a diverse cast – Alita, Josh and Faith – Kit is the a wonderful and fun character, and hopefully this book will appeal to eager readers who will see themselves in Alita, Josh and Faith, reluctant readers like Kit, and readers of all ages, genders and races, who will find something about each character to relate to, which I find really nice, and Louie Stowell has pulled this off in a brilliant way to show aspects of the real world alongside magic and fantasy elements.

As the first in a series, it does a fantastic job of setting up the plot and the characters and the challenges they will be facing in subsequent books. I love the idea of a dragon living below the library, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers by Simon Mockler

beatrix-the-bold-and-the-curse-of-the-wobblersTitle: Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers

Author: Simon Mockler

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bonnier/Piccadilly

Published: 1st July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:Ten-year-old Beatrix is very good at telling jokes, dancing and throwing knives. She also happens to be a queen of a distant land – though she doesn’t know that yet. She also happens to be the queen who is quite possibly destined to lead the Wobblers to bold victory over the Evil Army – though she doesn’t know that yet either.

Beatrix lives in an enormous golden palace with Aunt Esmerelda the Terrible and Uncle Ivan the Vicious, but as she’s only been allowed to see one new room per birthday, she’s only ever been inside ten rooms of the palace. Her aunt and uncle have always told her that if she goes beyond the woods outside the palace she’ll fall off the edge of the world.

And the Dark, Dark Woods and all that lies beyond must be avoided at all costs – what if the dreaded Wobblers were to get her? But finally, the veil Beatrix has been living under is starting to slip. Beatrix knows she needs to be bold. Beatrix knows she needs to look for answers. And she’s about to get them.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a small girl, and a big secret. The girl’s name was Beatrix, and the secret was … well, you’ll find out soon enough.

Beatrix is a bold and clever young thing, but she has also never left the palace where she lives – because then she might fall off the edge of the world or get eaten.

Er – really?

What is this big secret everyone’s keeping from her? Beatrix decides it’s time to look for answers. And with her trusty sidekicks Oi the Boy, Dog the dog and Wilfred the Wise, she can do anything.

~*~

Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers is the first in a new trilogy by Simon Mockler, about a princess who has spent her entire life so far in a palace of locked doors with her Aunt Esmerelda the Terrible and her Uncle Ivan the Vicious (who is probably no more vicious than a kitty), and for years hasn’t known anything about her parents. Until she overhears her uncle talking about her and battle plans. This discovery sets in motion a series of events that leads Beatrix to escape the palace, discover that her aunt doesn’t really want to protect her, and find new friends – Oi, Dog and her tutor, Wilfred, who help her plan to take down the Evil Army and find her family.

Beatrix’s story is set in a distant past and land, far removed from our own. However, the author including references to our world, usually as comparisons to how Beatrix does things in her world. These will work really well for a younger audience, and are not overdone, and nor do they take away from the story being told.

Beatrix is not like other princesses. When she’s not reading, watching her aunt paint the palace servants in gold paint, or at school, she’s playing chess and battles with her uncle Ivan. As the story progresses. Beatrix uncovers the secrets that have been kept from her, by the very person who was meant to be protecting her. From here, Beatrix’s quest, with Oi, dog and Wilfred, is to seek out her parents and real home – and save them from dangers that were predicted when she was a baby.

This delightful start to a new trilogy is enthralling and engaging and will appeal to a broad audience of readers. Filled with adventure, magic and everything enjoyable about this kind of book, and I am looking foward to the next two in the trilogy.

Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher #6) by Kerry Greenwood

blood and circuses.jpgTitle: Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher #6)

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st February 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $22.95

Synopsis:Phryne Fisher goes to the circus for her sixth mystery. Stripped of her identity and wealth, it’s only Phryne’s keen wit and sharp thinking that will help her now.

Astute, suave and divine, Phryne Fisher moves at flashing pace through this thrilling sixth adventure.

The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher is feeling dull. But is she bored enough to leave her identity, her home and family behind and join Farrell’s Circus and Wild Beast Show? There have been strange things happening at the circus. And when Phryne is asked by her friends Samson the Strong Man, Alan the carousel operator and Doreen the Snake Woman to help them, curiosity gets the better of her.

Peeling off her wealth and privilege, Phryne takes a job as a trick horse-rider, wearing hand-me-down clothes and a new name. Someone seems determined to see the circus fail and Phryne must find out who that might be and why they want it badly enough to resort to poison, assault and murder.

Diving into the dangerous underworld of 1920s Melbourne and the wild, eccentric life under the big top, Phryne proves her courage and ingenuity yet again, aided only by her quick intelligence, an oddly attractive clown, and a stout and helpful bear.

~*~

In late 1928, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher finds herself bored with her life and the many luxuries she has. Her days seem the same, and so she makes the daring decision to leave behind her identity and luxuries and join the circus for a while. She has friends in the circus who come to her for help first, to find out what is behind the strange goings on and recent murder at their circus. Under her new name, Fern, and much to Detective Inspector Jack Robinson’s worry, she heads into an unknown world where she soon finds herself in danger, and the circus under threat from someone within.

2019 BadgeOnce in the circus, Phryne must find a way to fit in, whilst her friends, Samson, Alan and Doreen, try to keep her identity safe from everyone else so they don’t suspect she’s trying to ruin them. During her stay, Phryne makes friends, enemies and learns a few tricks as a horse rider while she investigates murder, poisoning and assault, and tries to get information to Jack surreptitiously, without the circus people finding out.

Set in the dying years of the 1920s, as the world is about to plunge into the Great Depression and many years of hardship, the Phryne Fisher series shows the differences between the various classes, genders and other aspects of society that in the 1920s, were a lot more restrictive in their expectations than they are today, and where someone like Phryne would also have had certain assumptions and expectations about what she should or should not do.  But in true Phryne style, like many of her friends, she ignores these demands and does her own thing, which is what makes her such a fun and invigorating character to read.

In her sixth outing, Phryne Fisher does nit disappoint. True to form, she uses all her assets to solve the crime – and pulls Jack into the case too. Throughout the novel, it goes back and forth between Phryne at the circus, and her training, and Jack at the police station, looking into the murder that triggered Phryne’s change of lifestyle, however temporary it is.

This series evokes a sense of the 1920s society in Melbourne, Australia, and the issues of class, wealth and gender of the time. Dot and Mr and Mrs Butler play a background role in this story, and appear towards the start and end, bookending the two lives Phryne lives in this book. With each novel, moving through the late 1920s, and the interwar period, there is a sense of comfort but also, a sense of discomfort captured in the lives of those living on the fringes or who might face discrimination. Knowing what is to come as a reader in the next decade of Phryne’s world as a reader, whilst the other characters have no notion or inkling of what is to come from Europe and what it will lead to. It is interesting to read this in hindsight, knowing what we know and where it might lead the characters in years to come.

This is a very good series, that highlights various aspects of society at the time, and is thoroughly enjoyable, and they are quick reads as well. I have fourteen more books to go in the series, and hope to get through them soon.

When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll

when we were warriors.jpgTitle: When We Were Warriors

Author: Emma Carroll

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Faber

Published: 3rd June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: An irresistible return to World War Two for the Queen of Historical Fiction.

A body washed up on the beach…
Evacuation to an old house with forbidden rooms and dark secrets…
An animal rescue service…

Set in World War Two, Emma Carroll explores the resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness of children when their lives fall to pieces. Introducing some compelling new characters, as well as revisiting some familiar settings, these adventures are sure to win over new readers, as well as fans of old favourites such as Letters from the Lighthouse and Frost Hollow Hall.

Air raids, rationing, the threat of invasion: everyday life in wartime Britain is pretty grim, and often pretty dull.

That’s what Stanley thinks, anyway – until his home is bombed and he’s evacuated to a remote old house with the mysterious name Frost Hollow Hall…

It’s what Olive thinks too – until she finds a body washed up at Budmouth Point…

Velvet just wishes she could be useful – and when the air-raid warden brings in a ban that puts all the pets in peril. she grabs her chance.

Three thrilling stories about three different children, who find adventure, courage, untrainable dogs and an impossibly tall American GI where they least expect it.

~*~

Literature and stories set in World War Two for children don’t shy away from the fear and horrors of the war years. Instead, they tell the stories through the eyes of the children, and in a way that younger readers can grasp and relate to without going too far into the darkness of the war or making it too happy. They have a really good balance, and Emma Carroll’s latest, When We Were Warriors does not disappoint.

Here are three separate novellas, about three different children during the war, connected by displacement, air raids and places of isolation, and the presence of Americans in Britain during the days of the war following America’s entry in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

In The Night Visitors, Stanley and his sisters are evacuated to Frost Hollow Hall, and are told not to go near the lake. And not to disturb the mistress of the house. There seems to be a mystery surrounding everything there, and when an American GI turns up, secrets start to come out with revelations that change them all. Here, Emma shows what the reality of evacuees was, and how they adapted to their surroundings in days when fear drove so many things.

In the second story, Olive’s Army, the children and young people of Budmouth Point discover a body on the beach – the body of a German soldier, whose identity becomes confused with Ephraim, the lighthouse keeper. Ephraim is arrested, and the children must prove he is innocent and stop a German invasion. Also present in this novel, is the shadow of the Nazi concentration camps, and the Kindertransport that one character, Esther, was on. Carroll relays this part of the war simply, within a few sentences but still conveys the reality of what Jewish people went through during the war. Again, the American GI shows up to help solve the mystery.

Finally, in Operation Velvet, Velvet sets out to save the animals of her friends and family, after an air raid warden puts forward rules that put them in danger. when she discovers a dog with puppies, together with her friends and the help of an American GI, she saves all the pets and finds homes for the puppies.

With several things connecting these stories, this is a great book, and I really enjoyed the way the connections were at first, surface: the war, seen through the eyes of children, invasion, evacuation and threats. Astute readers will notice the less obvious, or at least more subtle link as they read, and get to the end where things become clearer. It is cleverly put together and shows how war affected people differently through three very unique experiences.