Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Title: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club)

Author: Monique Mulligan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pilyara Press

Published: 18th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.

~*~

Amy and Matt have moved to Blackwood to escape the vicious whispers and rumours that have plagued them for the past three years. They’re hoping Blackwood will be a new start as they try to reconnect. Yet their marriage is crumbling as Amy tries to navigate her fears, her grief, and her new café, Brewed to Taste. Here, she starts to make friends: Devi, Nick, Bonnie, Irene, and Irene’s great-granddaughter, Ashlee, June, Frank and several others. They form the Around the World Supper Club, and for a while, things seem okay.

Until local gossips, Una and her daughter Sharon, unleash Pandora’s Box – and humiliate Amy, undoing all the hard work. Despite the support everyone else gives Amy, allowing her to talk about what happened when she is ready, Matt threatens to leave. Three years ago, Amy had been in a car accident in Germany, where her daughter, Pandora, died. Amy has run from the secrets and innuendo, the accusations, and finds herself facing them head on in Blackwood.

Most books revolving around a relationship are about the couple getting together, the first delightful sparks of a new romance. The ups and downs, the magic of the first kiss. Usually, these books end with a happily ever after, fading to black as readers imagine the couple together forever. Very rarely do we find out what happens after. The what happens after, and what leads to a family or friends fracturing is sometimes more interesting. A tragedy, perhaps, has created a rift.

This is the premise of Monique Mulligan’s debut novel, Wherever You Go, the first in the Around the World Supper Club series. Wherever You Go introduces the key characters, but mainly revolves around Amy and Matt settling into life in Blackwood and finding a way back to each other and their lives together. It is a touching look at friendship, family, grief and loss, and how people recover and work towards redemption, even if this redemption is insular, and something they need to do for themselves, not for society or legal reasons.

Monique has created a powerful and touching story that gives hope, makes you shed tears and sends readers on a roller coaster of emotions as they go on Amy and Matt’s journey. The book is told in three perspectives: Irene, Matt and Amy. We see the world through their eyes, experience their emotions and their reactions. It doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of depression and anxiety, or the frustrations that some people feel when faced with this. It allows for all characters to express themselves and slowly, come to terms with what is going on in a powerful, emotive and significant way that acknowledges that grief affects everyone differently.

This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful. It allows readers to acknowledge their own anxieties and worries, and centres female experiences, characters and autonomy whilst at the same time, allowing Irene, Bonnie and Amy to who they are within what they want in their lives and society.

Books and Bites Book Bingo Wherever You Go

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

One of the squares in Books and Bites book bingo with Monique Mulligan was Wherever You Go, her debut novel in the Around the World Supper Club series. Monique kindly sent me a copy to review, and it is linked here. When I first saw this bingo card, I wondered what this square could mean, and it turned out to be a specific book, but the topic had me wondering if it meant something else and was open to interpretation.

This powerful story of grief and redemption is beautifully written, very evocative and delves into themes that people don’t often talk about, or sometimes, want to talk about. It is about a marriage after the happily ever after – and how tragedy can alter someone’s life, and moving past this, if they can. My review for the 18th of September goes into more depth.  

I have now completed three rows in this challenge and have five books left to read – with a couple chosen, but I still need to read them.

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)  

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Eco-themes: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

A Neil Gaiman book:

Short story collection: Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen app

Published the year you were born:

Makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn            

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

Someone you love’s fave book:

Made into a TV Series:

A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Fave childhood book:

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie

HavocTitle: Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Author: Rebecca McRitchie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $17.99

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

When magic darkens …

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford

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

Author: Lucinda Gifford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $19.99

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

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

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

~*~

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

AWW2020

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

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

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

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

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

 

August 2020 Wrap Up

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

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

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

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

August – 21

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

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

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

 

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

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

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

Author: Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

AWW2020

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

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

A great addition to this series!

Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

meet matildaTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival

Author: Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

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

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Matilda from the ACT.

Hi! I’m Matilda!

Today there’s a festival at the Japanese Embassy. That’s where my friend Hansuke lives. We’ll have lots of fun. But Hansuke is going back to Japan soon. How will I be able to say goodbye?

~*~

The final book in this series takes us to Canberra, and the world of embassies and Parliament, seen through the eyes of a child. Matilda is friends with the son of the Japanese Ambassador. But Hansuke is about to move back to Japan, and Matilda must say goodbye to her friend at a special Japanese festival at the embassy. She will miss him forever, and wonders if she can say goodbye.

AWW2020Most of the other books in this series are told in first person, but this one is told in third person, and has a few days with relevant time jumps to make the passing of time and major plot points work well for kids, and the characters. Like many of the other books in the series, Meet Matilda at the Festival is filled with diverse characters, and celebrates different nationalities and cultures, and the power of friendship. It evokes the same emotions we all had as kids when we had to say goodbye to friends, and the realistic way Matilda reacts will give comfort to kids that they are not alone when they farewell friends or go through changes in their lives.

With this book, the breadth of Australia and its diversity has been represented, and hopefully, all kids will have found something they can relate to in these books, whether its location, culture, race, or the activities the characters enjoy, and the universal feelings we all have linked to friendship and family.

The beauty of these books is in the simple way they evoke emotion and setting for younger readers who are starting to learn to read or reading independently. Whilst we only see a small portion of each state or territory, it is a relevant section to the character and what the setting means to them, which fits in with the theme of the series and what it is aiming to achieve for readers.

A great addition to this series!

 

The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) by A.L. Tait

the fire starTitle: The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery)

Author: A.L. Tait

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘I was up past midnight finishing this book! The mystery kept me turning the pages, and I felt like I’d known Maven and Reeve forever.’ – Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Ice Wolves

A maid with a plan. A squire with a secret. A missing jewel. A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star. If they don’t, they’ll lose everything.

This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a friendship.

Bestselling author A. L. Tait is back with the intriguing story of two unlikely allies and a mystery to solve that could change their lives.

~*~

A new series from the fabulous and energetic A.L. Tait! Enter a world of knights and ladies, maids and witches, where a magical jewel is handed down from youngest daughter to youngest daughter on the day of her wedding and goes with her to her new home. Lady Cassandra is set to marry Sir Garrick, and has arrived at the castle with her maid, Maven, when the precious stone goes missing. Maven is thrown together with squire, Reeve, to solve the mystery of the missing jewel before Lady Cassandra and Sir Garrick get married.

Taking place across three days, Maven and Reeve must find the Firestar in time, and meet up with witches, and find out who don’t want to see this happen or see the unlikely pair succeed. Who is behind the missing stone, and why did they steal it? Only Maven and Reeve can find out!

AWW2020Maven and Reeve tell the story in alternating chapters–Maven in first person, and Reeve in second person. This moves the novel along nicely, setting the pace and characters up for the rest of the series to come. The world is fantastical, with a sensory medieval feel to it, seen through the eyes of two children from vastly different positions in life and who have very different roles in their new home. A.L. Tait has woven a wonderful mystery around the magic and knights, lords and ladies, in this story, and encapsulated the essence of what a mystery has at its core: something missing, a villain and a whole lot of red herrings along the way as the two key detective characters–Maven and Reeve–investigate the theft, or crime at hand. This intriguing mystery draws the reader in and captures their imagination as they explore this wild new world that is both known from other fantasy books, yet a completely new world that works exquisitely well for this series.

What a bang to begin with. This introduction cements the ongoing characters, settings, and Maven and Reeve’s friendship and investigative skills powerfully and ensures that these themes and characteristics will be central to the rest of the series. Red herrings in this series are sure to be imaginative yet recognisable within the crime genre, and that work within the fantasy world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am very eager for the next one in the series, which I am sure will deliver with just as much oomph and gusto. A spectacular read for all readers aged nine and older.

When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hardTitle: When the Ground is Hard
Author: Malla Nunn
Genre: Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: This CBCA short-listed book is a stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.
SHORTLISTED: CBCA 2020 Awards, Book of the Year, Older Readers

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learning the true meaning of friendship.

A Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2020 Notable Book, Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, winner of the 2019 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, winner of the Children’s Book Committee’s 2020 Josette Frank Award and shortlisted for the 2020 LA Times Book Prize for Young Adults.

~*~

In apartheid-era Swaziland, Adele Joubert and Lottie Diamond attend Keziah Christian Academy – a boarding school for mixed race students. These are the students who are somewhere in the middle of the racial and social rankings based on the apartheid system but are still separated from white and black communities based on the laws of the time. Adele has been part of the popular crowd. That is, until her slot in the pretties is taken by a richer girl. Adele is relegated to sharing a room with the poor student, Lottie Diamond, and Dead Lorraine’s room.

At first, Adele and Lottie struggle to get along, but find connection in books, specifically Jane Eyre, and a time when you can be cast out and bullied for the slightest difference. As Lottie and Adele’s friendship with each other, and fellow student, Darnell, grows, the two girls face bullies and tragedy together. They fight for their place to belong, and stand up against vindictive and at times, racist teachers.

AWW2020The disappearance of a fellow student brings them closer together, and they learn more about themselves, each other and their heritage than they ever knew, and Adele finds that she can be herself with Lottie. She doesn’t have to pretend like she had to with her former friends. Lottie is a true friend, and she guides Adele through a tricky few weeks as the two girls form a bond that ensures they will always have each other when they face the cruelties of their school, society and the Bosman family.

Set in the 1960s, this book is threaded with the undercurrents and impacts of
racism, oppression and apartheid in a world that isn’t accepting of difference, illustrated through the treatment of students based on wealth, how the Bosman family treats Keziah students through racism, and the power he thinks he should have over them. It is also shown through the teachers – the assumption that the American missionary teachers are better than those they work with, and how Adele is also treated differently to Lottie at times, based on wealth and preconceived ideas.

This book speaks to the heart and difficulties of South Africa and Swaziland under the rule of apartheid. The rules and laws are threaded throughout as Adele tells her story of the first few weeks of the new school year, and her experiences. Some are universal, and some are unique to her and her society. This is what makes the book powerful. The thrum of an African heart beats throughout this novel, and evokes a sense of time, place and character. The land is a strong aspect a strong character. It is perhaps stronger than the Christian religion Adele tries to uphold. It is Lottie who unlocks this power within Adele, the shared Swazi and Zulu identity, and shows her that she can accept all parts of her identity.

I can see why this book has received so many awards, commendations and nominations. It is diverse yet seen through eyes that not many of us have. It is an experience that some readers won’t know much about, but there are universal themes of friendship, class, race, and gender that everyone will find something they can relate to. Adele and Lottie were powerful, diverse and complicated characters, who helped each other grow throughout the novel and found something that connected them more than anything that had ever connected Adele to the popular girls.

As I read this book, I could smell and hear Africa, I could feel Africa. The animals, the grass, the voices and the music. It is woven delicately and subliminally through the narrative, and presents a backdrop that gives When the Ground is Hard a true sense of place and transports the reader to a time and place when things were grim, but where the power of friendship could bring light to people’s lives.

Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie, Illustrated by Sharon O’Connor

JinxedTitle: Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell
Author: Rebecca McRitchie
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 19th August 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Magic awaits around every corner …
Cora is eleven years old and missing one eye. She lives with an elderly lady named Dot in a room hidden behind a wall. In a crowded, industrial city, where everyone looks out for themselves, Cora and Dot hunt and sell rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish. Until one day, Cora finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper.
She takes it home and says the words aloud. Then two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx. Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. But Cora isn’t a magical being . . . is she?
Quickly, Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants.
Richly illustrated throughout by Sharon O’Connor, this is a very exciting magical new series from the talented author of Whimsy & Woe.

AWARDS
Shortlisted – 2019 Aurealis Awards (Best Children’s Fiction)
~*~

Cora Bell has lived with Dot for years. She has one eye, is eleven years old and unless she is collecting with Dot, lives behind a wall. She’s out collecting one day when she stumbles across a strange piece of paper. It seems harmless enough, yet when she reads it out loud, two fairies – Tick and Tock – appear with a warning and whisk her away on an adventure to find out what magic she has. Tick and Tock take her across the magical land that Urt is part of as they try to outrun the Jinx.

Along the way, Cora meets witches, wizards, hobgoblins, giants and fairies, as well as enchantresses and nightwalkers and many more as she seeks to uncover her identity.

Jinxed is the start of a magical, energetic series about Cora Bell, whose life has been quiet and normal for eleven years, until everything changes. The world she lives in is filled with dangers, from Jinxes to the warlock, Drake, to those who fear anything they don’t know, or want to know about. Cora sits within this latter category. For years, she’s only had Dot and her cat, Scratch. But Tick and Tock stick with her, and never give up.

AWW2020They’re determined to help her and find the Jinx. In this rollicking fantasy adventure, combined with an industrial feel to the world, which is fresh, unique and at the same time familiar to fans of fantasy. It pulls together well-known tropes present in many fantasy novels and fairy tales, such as magical gateways, and fairy kingdoms, but puts a unique twist on them, pulling together a story that is filled with light and dark moments, and examines what it truly means to be a friend.

Cora is alone, apart from Tick and Tock as she journeys through the various fairy and magical worlds. Her identity has been a secret for years. But will this series of events finally reveal who, and what she is, and how will the world respond to her when they find out what she is capable of?

Starting a new series is always exciting, and as the second book comes out at the beginning of September, I have that to read next. Following Cora’s journey is going to be fun, thrilling and engaging, and I am keen to see where she goes next with Tick and Tock.