Book Bingo Two: A book with a number in the title, a book based on a true story, a book by an Australian woman

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe next square I managed to fill was the last square in the fourth row a book with a number in the title. This also filled in a book published in 2018 for my other challenge and ticked off another book in the Australian Women Writer’s challenge – I have many books that will fill some categories in book bingo and the other challenge, but I am aiming for a different one for each category if I can.

 

For square twenty, I read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband by Barbara Stoner, which I reviewed on the 29th of January on this blog, and has been linked to this post.

four respectable ladies

 

Sent to me by Penguin Random House, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and its focus on the female characters and their determination to get help where needed but when things went wrong, they banded together to help each other without needing husbands to do it all for them. My previous book bingo book, Rose Rave

nthorpe Investigates, would have fit into this category also, and they would both have fit into a book by an Australian woman, though each square needs its own book, as I will show in my final post when I have hopefully filled the entire square.

 

mr dickensI have managed to check off three other squares as well. For square twenty-two, a book based on a true story, I read Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva, about Charles Dickens journey writing A Christmas Carol, and why he wrote it – more out of economic need than desire to write such a story. And square eleven, a book by an Australian woman, has been filled by The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett, an historical fiction novel using storytelling and fairy tales to capture an arduous journey across the seas.The-Tides-Between-300x450

 

Look out for my next book bingo due in two weeks.

 

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Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

wheres jane.jpgTitle: Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories.

Author: Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

Genre: Children’s and Educational

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Murdoch/Quarto UK

Published: 29TH January 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: An introduction to the novels of Jane Austen with the main characters and elusive author hidden in ten beautifully illustrated scenes.

Can you find Jane Austen hidden in ten scenes from her beloved novels? This beautiful new book introduces young children to Austen’s intriguing Georgian and Regency-era world, filled with all the makings of the best stories – sparky humour, legendary showdowns, secrets, love and triumph. Children spot the main characters in ten major scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. First read a snappy synopsis of the story, then explore key stages through a simple, illustrated narrative as you meet the main characters. Next absorb the wonderfully detailed illustrations as you search for the characters and the elusive author in the big and bustling main artworks. Katy Dockrill creates the fun and engaging scenes that house Jane’s immortal characters, from imperious Lady Catherine to timid Fanny Price, wicked Mr Wickham to sensible Elinor Dashwood, and proud Mr Darcy to feisty Elizabeth Bennet.
Getting to know them all will keep young readers enthralled for hours.

~*~

Where’s Jane? By Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill takes Jane Austen’s novels, and translates them into an accessible book and game for young children and readers of the novels. Including ten major scenes from each of Jane Austen’s novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Each summarises the book in the pages before the pictorial scenes, and gives a list of characters to look for on the page before – each scene has a different set from each book, and each scene also contains a pug, and Jane Austen – additional characters to be found amongst a host of many, in some of the best-known stories in English literature today.

The Georgian and Regency world of Jane Austen is full of traditions, and characters that are well known today. Her books are read by millions each yea, and this is a great way to introduce a younger audience to her work and these periods, inviting them to investigate literature beyond the modern stories available when they are ready. It is ideal for ages six-seven and older, as even teenagers and adults will get enjoyment out of this. Knowing some of the stories and characters helps complement this book and in turn, this book will complement a Jane Austen collection as well. A fun afternoon can be spent searching for Darcy, the Bennet family and other popular characters in a delightfully colourful way after or before reading the books by Jane Austen.

The author, Rebecca Smith, is Jane Austen’s five-times great-niece, and has also written other books linked to Jane Austen, including writing guide, The Jane Austen Writer’s Club, reviewed on this blog as well. Using her ancestor’s stories, and together with illustrator, Katy Dockrill, Rebecca has created a delightful new entry and portal into the world of Jane Austen that will delight fans, young and old. It is a nice addition to any library that includes books by and about Jane Austen.

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The Endsister by Penni Russon

the endsisterTitle: The Endsister

Author: Penni Russon

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Unforgettable characters, chaotic family life and an intriguing ghost story combine in this funny, absorbing tale of a family who inherit a mansion on the other side of the world.

‘I know what an endsister is,’ says Sibbi again.
We are endsisters, Else thinks, Sibbi and I. 
Bookends, oldest and youngest, with the three boys sandwiched in between.

Meet the Outhwaite children. There’s teenage Else, the violinist who abandons her violin. There’s nature-loving Clancy. There’s the inseparable twins, Oscar-and-Finn, Finn-and-Oscar. And then there is Sibbi, the baby of the family. They all live contentedly squabbling in a cottage surrounded by trees and possums…until a letter arrives to say they have inherited the old family home in London.

Outhwaite House is full of old shadows and new possibilities. The boys quickly find their feet in London, and Else is hoping to reinvent herself. But Sibbi is misbehaving, growing thinner and paler by the day, and she won’t stop talking about the mysterious endsister. Meanwhile Almost Annie and Hardly Alice, the resident ghosts, are tied to the house for reasons they have long forgotten, watching the world around them change, but never leaving.

The one thing they all agree on – the living and the dead – is never, ever to open the attic door…

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseMoving to London is the last thing Else, and her siblings, Clancy, Oscar, Finn and Sibbi want to do. Mum, or Olly as Else calls her, doesn’t want to either. But when their father, Dave, inherits an old family home, Outhwaite House, in London, the entire family is uprooted from their little cottage surrounded by rolling hills and kangaroos, and taken away from all that is familiar. Else, the oldest of the five children, is the most resistant and rebellious, purposely leaving a much-loved violin behind, feeling stuck in everything. Clancy is in love with nature, and finds a neighbour, Pippa, to share this with, and it seems that the twins fit in, whilst Dad is out every day and Mum is too busy for Sibbi. For Sibbi, the youngest, it seems everyone is too busy for her, and she slowly becomes paler and thinner, and speaks of ghosts. Two ghosts, Almost Annie, and Hardly Alice, have been tied to the house since their deaths in Edwardian and Victorian times, unsure of what keeps them there, and watching the changes in the world pass them by. If there is one thing that the living and the dead agree on: Don’t open the attic door.

The Endsister is part mystery, part ghost story and partly a story about finding yourself and staying true to who you are, and where you belong in the world. Inspired by Penni Russon’s children and stories of her father being a ten-pound Pom in the sixties, this exciting and fantastic book is told from several perspectives, two in first person and two in third person. Else and Clancy tell their experiences in first person, the stark contrast of Else struggling to fit in and find her place against Clancy’s ease at making the move and making friends a reminder of how we all react to change differently and in our own way. The twins, Olly and Dave are almost peripheral characters who pop in and out as needed. The third person perspectives are taken by Almost Annie, Hardly Alice and Sibbi. Almost Annie and Hardly Alice share their chapters, trapped together as observers of the lives of the living, whilst Sibbi, as a four-year-old, shows us the world through the eyes of a child that age, and the effects that the house is having on her, and what the endsister is doing to her, or so she keeps trying to explain to everyone.

Within each perspective, the history of the house, family and the people the characters are, were and will become are slowly revealed, whilst keeping up a good pace at the same time to ensure the intrigue and desire to keep reading remains. The mystery of what is in the attic, and what is happening to the family drive the story through to the conclusion that seems to race at the reader, whilst climbing to the climactic crescendo in short, dramatic scenes that work for this section of the book. As each chapter is a different length, reflecting the age, personality and mood of that specific character, this contributes to the ease of flow throughout the novel and the magic of the words creating distinct personalities for Else, Clancy, Sibbi, Almost Annie and Hardly Alice.

It was such fun meeting these characters and exploring London and the Outhwaite House with them, and it ended in a positive and lovely way that brought a smile to my face and stayed true to the characters throughout the novel. A great read for younger and middle-grade readers, and anyone who enjoys a good story.

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Smile: The Story of the original Mona Lisa by Mary Hoffman

smile.jpgTitle: Smile: The Story of the original Mona Lisa

Author: Mary Hoffman

Genre: Children’s/Teen/Educational/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Faber Factory/Barrington Stoke/Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 88

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A gorgeous historical novel following the fictional life of the young woman who would become Leonardo Da Vinci’s greatest work

Renaissance Italy is a world of riches open to any man who dares to conquer it. In the life of young Lisa the doors to this world remain closed. Promised in her youth to a widower as a loving wife and mother, she is resigned to an unremarkable existence clinging only to the memory of being “Lovely Lisa” to the now great Leonardo Da Vinci. But when their paths cross again her portrait will become his masterpiece and her smile will capture the imagination of the world.

Information for Adults: This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paper stock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8. It features a removable ‘super-readable’ sticker.

 

Reading Age: 8 Interest age: 14

 

~*~

 

One of the most famous Italian Renaissance paintings known today is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, hanging in the Musée de Louvre in Paris, and attracting millions of visitors a year. In Smile, Mary Hoffman has ficitonalised the story of Lisa Gheradini, the subject of da Vinci’s most famous and most visited painting, in a book aimed at children of all ages, but with those whose reading level and interest level don’t always align in mind. In Hoffman’s story, Lisa is first drawn by da Vinci at the age of three, and it is a portrait she has always treasured, however this likely didn’t happen in reality, but for the purposes of this story, makes for an interesting beginning and way to link the two figures together as the novel progresses.

 

Lisa is the oldest child in her family, and is aware that she must make a good marriage, something drummed into her by her mother since birth. Discouraged from her dreams of falling in love, Lisa is married to Francesco del Giocondo, and bears him several children over the years of their marriage. Leonardo da Vinci comes in and out of the novel, and the historical background of religious and political turmoil of Renaissance Italy and Florence weaves in and out of the novel, giving just enough context for readers to have an idea of what is going on, but also enough so that curious readers of any age and ability can explore the historical background beyond the page on their own.

 

 

It is a story that does not shy away from the difficulties Lisa faced in her marriage and society, but writes about them at an appropriate reading and interest level, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the story without feeling like they can’t understand it or like it is too simple for them. For eager readers, it might be a quick read, and for those who might struggle, a good way to build on their reading skills whilst learning something new or about something they are interested in. Books like this give all children at all reading and interest levels something to read and enjoy, a good move in the book industry to encourage a love of reading, and help children find something they love to do.

 

A great read for any age, and a great initiative for children with dyslexia or other learning disabilities to access books they can read and will be interested in, and for others in their lives to share with them too.

The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan

*Read in 2017, published review in 2018*
sisters songTitle: The Sister’s Song

Author: Louise Allan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Set in rural Tasmania from the 1920s to the 1990s, The Sisters’ Song traces the lives of two very different sisters. One for whom giving and loving are her most natural qualities and the other who cannot forgive and forget.

As children, Ida loves looking after her younger sister, Nora, but when their beloved father dies in 1926, everything changes. The two young girls move in with their grandmother who is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talent. Nora eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny and their lives become quite separate.

The two sisters are reunited when Nora’s life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children.

Ida longs passionately for a family and when she marries Len, a reliable and good man, she hopes to soon become a mother. Over time, it becomes clear that this is never likely to happen. In Ida’s eyes, it seems that Nora possesses everything in life that could possibly matter yet she values none of it.

Set in rural Tasmania over a span of seventy years, the strengths and flaws of motherhood are revealed through the mercurial relationship of these two very different sisters. The Sisters’ Song speaks of dreams, children and family, all entwined with a musical thread that binds them together.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-rose
Most of the time when a novel contains love, it is the romantic kind, between two unrelated people, crossing paths and finding themselves tumbling head-first into a relationship, and its ups and downs, creating a much-loved genre amongst many readers. However, as someone who is not an avid fan of such novels, I always love it when I come across a novel where if there is romance, it is a subplot, or an element of the novel, and the main story shifts the important focus to something else, like family – a kind of love that is not often seen in many novels, but one that I have begun to see as creeping into books by Australian women writers, sometimes alongside a historical backdrop and some romantic love. It is this familial love that drives and instigates the plot of the debut novel by Louise Allan, The Sister’s Song.

 

Beginning in 1926 and set in Tasmania, and spanning the next seventy years, The Sister’s Song follows the lives of Ida and Nora Parker after their father dies, and their mother withdraws into herself. Nora is a gifted singer and piano player, and dedicated to faith, aww2017-badgeguided by the loving hand of her grandmother. Ida is the opposite, unsure of her place in the world, only knowing there are things she is not good at. When they grow up, their paths separate and Nora goes to the mainland to study music, against all her mother’s wishes, and Ida stays behind, becomes a nanny, weds, hoping to start a family. Their mother tries to keep Nora in Tasmania in the rural town they live in with their grandmother, pushing realism, not dreams, into their heads as the way to go. For Ida, this advice sticks with her but so does a feeling of wanting to be a better mother, a better sister. When Nora falls pregnant, she is sent home and married off to another man, and from here, the sister’s lives take a new turn, with Nora bearing the children Ida wishes she could, and each sister turning into what they never thought they would become.

Where Nora becomes more like their mother, Ida becomes more like their mother’s mother, and a supportive Aunt whose nephews and niece turn to in times of strife. Throughout the years, these sisters fight and come together, and ultimately, show the power of sisterly love through hard times. Spanning across seventy years, The Sister’s Song hints at the historical events Ida and Nora live through, but these moments are almost like passing ships as the reader becomes invested in the characters. I found that the love between the sisters, and Nora’s children was stronger, and had more depth in them than some romance novels I have read – deeper, more meaningful relationships always make a book more relatable and readable for me.

Louise Allan has created characters with flaws, that are not perfect and who make mistakes, and she allows them to make mistakes. She allows them to act and live within their time and frame of understanding as well, ensuring that their attitudes suit what they know, even if there are characters who find these attitudes shocking. Through Ida and Nora, various ways of living and thinking are explored, and understood over the years. It is a beautifully crafted story that shows everyone is human, and that everyone has the capability to follow their dreams, to fall, and to find their way back to who they once were, and the changing dynamics of family throughout time.

Ideal for readers looking for a new reader and a new author, and a refreshing take on the relationships that women have in literature and fiction. It’s always lovely to see one that doesn’t focus on falling in love, as it gives some variety and spice to female characters and their stories.

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Angus & Robertson – Up to 25% off all Fiction titles in our Santa’s Little Helpers Showcase

Rain Fall by Ella West

rain fall.jpgTitle: Rain Fall

Author: Ella West

Genre: YA Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A tense, engaging read that will have you racing through the pages.

I’m not running late like I usually am. Maybe that’s why I look in the river, maybe that’s why I stop when I see it. A dark-coloured raincoat, the arms spread wide, floating, hood-first down the river. 

And then it starts to rain.

Fifteen-year-old Annie needs to get to her basketball match, but the police have cordoned off her road. Is her neighbour, who she grew up with, still alive? What has he done to have the police after him?

A murder investigation brings new people to Annie’s wild West Coast town, including a dark-haired boy riding the most amazing horse she has ever seen. But Annie is wary of strangers, especially as her world is beginning to crumble around her. In setting out to discover the truth Annie uncovers secrets that could rip the small community apart.

~*~

Ella West’s new novel, Rain Fall, takes place in a small town in New Zealand – Westport, where the coal mines have long been a source of employment for many there, until recent closures and lay-offs start to gnaw at everyone. Annie, the main character and narrator, is on her way to school, prepared for an important basketball game when she is turned back, with a street blockade preventing her from leaving home as they wait for her neighbour, in trouble with the police, to emerge from his home. Pete is alone, and accused of theft and possibly murder. When his house explodes, the police are propelled into action to try and find him, or find out what happened to him under the shadow of the loss of one thousand jobs at the local coal mine.

As Annie’s life gets back to normal, or as normal as possible with big city police in the town, she encounters a new friend with a love of riding just as she has – and the mystery of what happened to Pete grows throughout the novel, and Jack, Annie’s new friend, soon turns to her for help with something she never thought she’d ever be helping with. In a small town where everyone talks, it seems not many people are very chatty about a potential murderer hiding in their midst.

Rain Fall is an intriguing novel, and a good introduction to the mystery genre to teenage readers who might be encountering it for the first time. Annie is an interesting character, and following her love for horses, basketball and the rain gives insight into her and what to look for in the story. The rain throughout the novel, right from page one sets the scene and foreshadows the mysteries and events to come as the novel picks up pace right from page one, and keeps the action going as you turn the pages.

The mystery and the loss of jobs in the town form the backbone of the story, with Annie and Jack’s relationship evolving as the story goes on, allowing character development and the plot to happen nicely. It is a fairly quick read, and teenagers should enjoy it as a refreshing break from romance driven YA, allowing characters to exist without having to change who they are to be accepted.

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Murder on Christmas Eve edited by Cecily Gayford

murder on xmas eve

Title: Murder on Christmas Eve

Author: Various Authors, Edited by Cecily Gayford

Genre: Crime, short stories

Publisher: Profile Books

Published: 22nd November 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The follow up to the bestselling crime collection Murder under the Christmas Tree

Christmas Eve. While the world sleeps, snow falls gently from the sky, presents await under the tree … and murder is afoot. In this collection of ten classic murder mysteries from the best crime writers in history, death and mayhem takes many festive forms, from the inventive to the unexpected.

From a Santa Claus with a grudge to missing diamonds spirited away by a mysterious visitor, these are stories to enjoy – and be mystified by – in front of a roaring fire, mince pie to hand – or at the beach!

 

~*~

 

In Murder on Christmas Eve, some of the best crime authors have had stories with a Christmas theme collected into one volume. From Ellis Peters and the Trinity Cat, whose inexplicable appearance at the scene of a murder on Christmas Eve has the police and witnesses scratching their heads, wondering what the cat could know – and what exactly happened, to the clever stories by authors such as Ian Rankin, who invite well-known characters such as John Rebus into the fold of Christmas, where what appears to be an innocent Christmas party soon becomes a little more sinister. Some authors are British, such as Ian Rankin, some American, such as John Dickson Carr, mixed in with well-known authors – Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and G.K. Chesterton and some that I had not been aware of, and that perhaps are not as well-known as some of the others.

 

Nevertheless, they are all collected together, with a common thread of crime and Christmas linking them. They are stories that make you think and more often than not, leave you scratching your head at what had driven someone to commit the crimes depicted in the story, that have flawed characters of all kinds that make you question the human condition.  Though each story is set at Christmas, it is not always immediately obvious – sometimes it is mentioned, sometimes there are subtle clues about the setting, and all are blanketed in snow and the feel of winter that sends chills throughout the story.

 

Each story is unique, and the intrigue in each ensures that the reader will be kept guessing, and the assumed outcome will not necessarily be what happens – in clever twists, the authors hint at what could have happened, what some characters might have been driven to or were driven to – not redeeming the criminals but showing the complexity of right and wrong and how, as humans, we navigate these two factors in the world around us.

 

This was an intriguing collection of short stories, a tiny taste of each of these authors and their characters to please current fans and introduce new fans to the authors and their detectives. It showed that crime doesn’t stop just because of the season or holidays, and through these crimes, sometimes the true nature of people is revealed, and that there are times, that even the people we think we know can understand what has driven another to crime and murder. All in all, a very interesting set of stories that even though the show a darker side to humanity, make for great holiday reading alongside Charles Dickens.

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