Books and Bites Bingo Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

game card books and bites

The third square I am marking off is a book set in Europe. With this one, I had many countries, genres, time periods and authors to choose from that are on my shelf and will be headed my way. However, as my goal is to mark off the easier categories in all challenges first, with one book per book bingo square but knowing that other challenges may well have multiple entries and books, as they are fairly open. If this happens, then it is fine for me – it will just mean a more detailed list at the end!

Josephines garden

Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn is set in post-Revolutionary France, also known as the Terror at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. People are still feeling uneasy with the new way of things on all sides, and in the midst of these politics and politics of gender expectations and family, Josephine Bonaparte creates a garden at her home, Malmaison while her husband heads off on campaigns around Europe to take land for France and its empire.

Whilst Napoleon has his sights set on growing France within Europe, Josephine is focused on her small section of Europe, her little world that she has created, away from the memories of the Terror, yet there are still worries about it at the back of her mind.

So there are three squares already checked off in this book bingo challenge! I am sure some will be more challenging, yet in checking off the easier ones as early as possible, I will be able to focus on those as I get closer and try to get those done as well.

Books and Bites Book Bingo – Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

game card books and bites

My second book bingo card, the Books and Bites Bingo Card, is a more casual one for me. I’ll post as I fill a square, rather than on a schedule as I am with the other one, and ideally, one post per square for better clarity. So this is my post for my second square – written in the first person.

There were many options I could go with here, that I have read, am reading and that I could read in the coming weeks and months. However, as there are other categories to fill in this and all my challenges, I chose one that I read just after New Year.

Pippas Island 5

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium is the fifth in the Pippa’s Island series by Belinda Murrell. Pippa tells these stories as she adjusts to life on an Kira Island after moving there with her mum, brother and sister from England. Across five books, Pippa has told her story as she has made friends and watched her new home being built. I’m hoping there are more to come, but for now, I will be content knowing Pippa has her home, family and friends, and this book has managed to tick off several different challenge categories.

Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Josephines gardenTitle: Josephine’s Garden

Author: Stephanie Parkyn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 3rd December 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 480

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A captivating story of love, nature and identity in Napoleon’s France

‘Stephanie Parkyn is one very talented storyteller.’ -Mrs B’s Book Reviews

France, 1794. In the aftermath of the bloody end to the French Revolution, Rose de Beauharnais stumbles from prison on the day she is to be guillotined. Within a decade, she’ll transform into the scandalous socialite who marries Napoleon Bonaparte, become Empress Josephine of France and build a garden of wonders with plants and animals she gathers from across the globe.

But she must give Bonaparte an heir or she risks losing everything.

Two other women from very different spheres are tied to the fate of the Empress Josephine – Marthe Desfriches and Anne Serreaux. Their lives are put at risk as they each face confronting obstacles in their relationships and in their desire to become mothers.

From the author of Into the World comes a richly imagined historical novel about obsession, courage, love and marriage.

‘Enthralling novel, rich in historical detail … Highly recommended.’ –Good Reading on Into the World

 

~*~

 

Set in the days after the Terror, the French Revolution, Josephine’s Garden is the story of three women – Josephine Bonaparte, Marthe Desfriches, and Anne Serreaux. These three women have lived through revolution in different ways. Josephine, also known as Rose, has lost her husband to the guillotine and is now wed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Marthe Desfriches has lost two husbands, one to war, and is onto her third marriage to Jacques Labillardiere, a botanist who made an appearance in Into the World, along with other characters like Robespierre. Anne Serreaux, married to another botanist, becomes friends with Josephine as a garden grows at Josephine’s home – made up of plants and animals from New Holland, cultivated by Josephine and her botanists as Napoleon fights his way across Europe.

AWW2020He demands an heir from Josephine – something she had been struggling to give him, and she must allow her children from her first marriage to he used as pawns in the political games of Napoleon as survivors of the Terror – either royalists or those who see Napoleon as another leader who will not free them but will be just as bad as the royal family that has recently died, so there is an undercurrent of further rebellion as Napoleon starts to establish himself as emperor of France.

Much of the action takes place at home, away from the war front of the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815 as Napoleon tries to gain power over European states to build the French Empire – many years prior to Europe forming as we know it today, and several decades before Bismarck and the German wars of unification. Napoleon is often away at war, but the moments he appears in the novel are significant – demands of an heir, assassination attempts and plans, and family trying to drive Josephine out because she has failed to produce an heir, so rumours swirl that she is barren. This intrigue builds throughout the novel and causes tension in many relationships. Carefully balanced with what Josephine wants, and what she is able to give, this is explored sensitively and given the attention it needs. Much of what drives all the tensions is the idea of producing heirs to secure empire, and women and their role to reproduce and raise the future generations – the expectations placed on the new aristocracy in as they seek to rebuild the power they lost – or a new power in the new nation of France without a monarchy to lead them.

Marthe is unhappy in her marriage to Labillardiere – she longs for a child, yet he refuses to give her one. He has other plans and is determined to keep botany secrets from Josephine so he can write his book. It would seem that in many ways, there are lots of people plotting against Josephine and Napoleon, separately and apart, but in different ways. As Josephine tends her garden, political unrest and alliances tear her family apart, and her friends become embroiled in various activities – some nefarious and some very personal as rumours swirl about Napoleon’s activities at home and abroad. Marthe’s story is gently dealt with at first, until she discovers secrets later on, and her story, and suspicions about what she is up to within the new empire and whether she is acting against Napoleon ramp up.

The inclusion of the historical figures from Into the World ties the two books together cleverly – but can both be read as standalone novels, separate from each other. This is an intriguing period in history, and I have noticed that there seem to be more stories appearing now about it, or maybe I am just noticing that there are more around as it has been drawn to my attention by these books and Kate Forsyth’s latest. Either way, these stories are given life now, and we see – through Josephine’s eyes – how ego drove Napoleon and his ambitions as she sought to create a beautiful antipodean garden in France.

Josephine’s fate is tied up with Anne and Marthe eventually, and the political undercurrents of the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon’s need to secure his empire as he tries to build the French Empire in the image that Napoleon wishes to see. Intrigue and secrets fill this novel. Stephanie Parkyn has written this exquisitely, evoking the gardens and feelings of post-Revolutionary France – as those who were affected by the Terror navigate a new world. Her research has brought these people to life – and I loved the nods and throwbacks to Into the World. If there is more to come, especially about certain characters who make an appearance in this book, then I am very eager for it and will be recommending this novel to lovers of historical fiction.

Book Bingo one 2020 – A Prize Winning Book

Book Bingo 2020 clean

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

Book bingo 2020

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

Any Ordinary Day

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

Adding two more challenges…

 

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

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

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

Dymocks Readng Challenge.jpg

Dymocks Reading Challenge

1. A book by an Australian author:
2. A book by an Indigenous author:
3. A book from our Top 101:
4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51:
5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month:
6. Re-read your favourite book of all time:
7. Ask a friend for a recommendation:
8. A book featuring your favourite country:
9. A book from your TBR pile:
10. An award-winning book:
11. A Mystery/Thriller:
12. A memoir:
13. A book outside your usual genre:
14. A book of short stories:
15. A self-help/motivation:
16. A fairytale/fable adaptation:
17. Book one in a fantasy series:
18. A book that teaches you something new:
19. A book with a red cover:
20. A book with a colour in the title:
21. A book you can read in a day:
22. A book about books:
23. A book that made you laugh:
24. A book published this year:
25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t:

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

STFU 2020.jpeg

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

2. An Australian classic

3. A book by an Indigenous Australian author

4. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction]
* Bonus: Read both a fiction [cli-fi] and non-fiction book on climate change
* You might want to check out the Climate Reality Book Club over on Insta for some ideas

5. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author

6. A #LoveOzYA book
* #LoveOzYA is a great resource to find an Australian YA read, or check the hashtag on Insta too!

7. A memoir by an Australian woman

8. A poetry collection
* Solo author or anthology

9. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize
* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.
* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020
* The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020
* Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020
Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes

10. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT
Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author

11. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

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

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

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

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

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

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

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

What could possibly go wrong?

~*~

AWW2020

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

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

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

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

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

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Any Ordinary DayTitle: Any Ordinary Day

Author: Leigh Sales

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 19th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $24.99

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

AWW2020

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

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

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

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