Book Bingo Seventeen: A book with a mystery – The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

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Wow, it’s book bingo week again – these weeks roll around fast and for this reason, I quite enjoy using the scheduling tool to schedule posts weeks in advance in case something prevents me from posting one week on the day. Anyway, this week I’m ticking off the a book with a mystery square with a book I have been meaning to read for many months, that I have managed to get to now.

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Filling out the final square in row three across and row five, square three down, is the first in a series by Jessica Fellowes, The Mitford Murders – a historical crime fiction centred around the Mitford sisters – in particular, Nancy the oldest, and their nursery maid, Louisa Cannon. Using the real-life crime – the death of nurse Florence Nightingale Shore, a real life mystery that in reality remains unsolved but on the page, comes to a fulfilling conclusion – encapsulates a post-war England trying to heal from four years of what was then known as The Great War, the War to End All Wars.

 

It is historical fiction and mystery all rolled into one, and it is fabulously written, and an intriguing introduction to a new series that I hope will continue and allow us to see the rest of the Mitford girls grow up and become the women that history tells us they became.

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It is quite possibly one of my favourite books of the year, and the full review is linked to this post.

 

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Book Bingo Sixteen- A Book by an author you’ve never read before

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In this week’s book bingo, I am marking off the square for an author I have never read before. It is If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken – Square two, row two down, and the same across. I was approached by the author via my blog to review the book, and intrigued and at the time, not bogged down in other books as I am now, decided to give it a go.

If Kisses Cured Cancer is about Matt Pearce, recently unemployed and looking for a new motivation in life when he meets Joy, a cancer survivor living each day as it comes, – stealing trolleys and buying someone else’s shopping, hijacking fish and chips orders, – the small, insignificant things that she sees as living life as it comes. But Joy is hiding a secret, and when Matt finds out, his world and the world he has built with Joy, comes crashing down.

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Not a typical romance, I’d say this is focussed on how meaningful a platonic relationship with hints of romance can be as well. For Matt and Joy, it is not about the overall goal of the book. Rather, it is to show two people who are young and at various crossroads in their lives dealing with the challenges of these events that have affected them significantly, and what they do with their time, how they choose to spend the last days they have together and what comes from this time for Matt shows that life is short.

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It is a bittersweet novel – knowing what is coming softens the blow a little but the impact is still there. It still stirs something in readers, and evokes feelings of loss but also feelings of change – a great book that I thought would make me cry, but instead made me laugh, and the realism was wonderful.

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Book Bingo fifteen – A Book Set More Than 100 Years Ago

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Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Between university up until eighteen months ago, reviewing for publishers and most recently, writing quizzes for Scholastic Australia, I’ve been trying to squeeze them in, and have found time lately, so that’s what I have done.

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

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UnknownWhen the family of Emilia and Luka Finch are taken to jail by Coldham, a representative of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, they are sent on a quest by their grandmother to reunite the six charms that were scattered between six gypsy/traveller families many years ago. With only a bear, a dog, a monkey and a horse to keep them company, Emilia and Luka must first evade capture and ending up in jail with their family – and then go in search of the five other families who hold the charms and bring all six together.

I loved this start – and am hoping to have the rest of the series read very soon – in fact, I have just started book two. Set in the late 1650s, this comes into the book set more than 100 years ago by A LOT. Kate often uses history as a backdrop to her novels and she has done it exceptionally well again, right down to the author notes that go through her research and the times that her novel is set in.Kate_Forsyth

My longer review is much more in depth, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series takes Emilia and Luka as they seek to help their family.

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Book Bingo 14 – A Book by an Australian Man

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Another week, another square to check off for book bingo. This time, I’m checking off a book by an Australian man, with a new historical fiction book by Anthony Hill, who has written many historical stories about war and animals in war. This time, he has turned his hand to writing about the voyage that led Captain Cook to discovering the east coast of Australia and Pacific Islands for England and colonisers in 1770 – with 2018 marking the 250th anniversary of Cook’s journey on the Endeavour which was a three year trip, starting in 1768, and ending in 1770.

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

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Captain Cook's Apprentice - cover imageAnthony has taken an interesting tack with his book – using a young sailor named Isaac Manley to tell the story, and how Isaac sees encounters with Indigenous people of Australia and the Pacific Islands throughout the journey – which includes the various understandings and misunderstandings that occur when two cultures clash, and attempts made by the crew of the Endeavour to ensure respect is given to these people. As Anthony said in an interview, he did his best to balance the story, to show that the stories told in the history books are not as black and white as they appear. but more nuanced. Through this story, Anthony hoped to show this – and I hope it opens up conversations about lesser known aspects of history that should be known, and the nuances that go with them to improve upon and contribute what is missing from the current historical records.

Going off available source material, Anthony created a story that whilst seen through a European lens, has balanced what is known, what is taught and what is sometimes hidden or not included. Had stories with more of the facts Anthony wove into his work been available when I was at school, this period of history might have been more balanced – a big might because even if the information had been there, it might still have been dismissed for inclusion.

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I think this is an important story because it shows just how easy it is to misunderstand people, and to react without thinking when these misunderstandings cause friction. It shows how curiosity and uncertainty can contribute to assumptions and understandings, and what can be achieved when two er different cultures make attempts to get along.

So thus ends my 14th book bingo for the year – a very interesting and nuanced book about a period of Australian history often only taught in absolutes – from my own experience, where instead, the nuances should be taught and all those involved in the connection of two cultures should be given a voice in the history books. This would allow for a greater understanding of the development of Australia as the nation it is today.

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Book Bingo 13 – a book with non-human characters

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Book bingo Saturday again – round two, post thirteen of the year for the challenge. To mark off the non-human characters square, I have gone to a book I wrote a quiz for as part of my quiz writer job with Scholastic that fits the category of a book with non-human characters:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

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A Home for MollyA Home for Molly is about a young puppy called Molly – who has been left behind at a beachside town by her owners and forgotten. She befriends two girls – Anya and Rachel, ad plays with them on the beach. When it comes time to go home, each girl leaves with her family, thinking that Molly belongs to the other. Molly’s search for a home, and Anya and Rachel try and help her – before their holidays end and they have to go home. Neither wants to leave Molly alone, but who does she belong to – or will she find a new home with Anya or Rachel?Beast world

A home for Molly is a sweet story, with a sweet ending and fits this category quite well. Molly’s perspective of her world is charmingly written, and I felt as small as Molly did when trying to navigate her world. Molly is an adorable character, and though the story is also about Anya and her desire for a dog and to help Molly, it fits into the category of non-human character quite nicely.

Of the many books I have read, this was always the category I knew I wasn’t sure how I would fill. Animals – I had a few ideas here, such as Paddington, Animal Farm, and a few that had peripheral animal characters. Other options would have been aliens, cyborgs or robots – I received one by George Ivanoff called Beast World that also fits into this category – which is a steampunk London ruled by animals in a world where humans are extinct, which is accessed through a portal and is part of a series – which I have also been writing quizzes for and hope to write on the last two books in the series which came out recently.

I chose these two books because animals were front and centre, and main characters the reader sees the story through rather than a peripheral character who are often seen through the lens of the human characters. Whilst these two books are not by Australian Women Writers, there are many others that will be. I’m not sure how I will fill some squares the second time around, but by ticking off what I can first, hopefully I will manage to wokr out the trickier ones.

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Book Bingo Twelve: Square One of Second Card

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Starting this week, and each first and third Saturday afterwards until the end of the year, I’ll be doing a fresh bingo card, hopefully with different books to the last one. Having finished half way through the year, I decided to fill up another card, and this time, stretch it out a big more over six months. So even though I have three ticked off already, I’m starting with one square.

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A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

 

 

Emily O’Grady’s book filled square four of row five across, and square five of row four down – a book written by someone under thirty and is also one of my reads for the 2018 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, where I met Theresa Smith Amanda Barrett, and signed up to do this book bingo with them over the course of the year.

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The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady revolves around the idea of family legacy, and whether the sins of the father, or in Cub’s case, the grandfather, should be the burden of those left behind. It questions whether the violence committed by a family member and its lasting impact on the family – how they behave, how they see themselves, how their community sees them and whether or not they have a genetic predisposition to the same tendencies – the nature versus nurture debate. For Cub, this world is seen through her ten year old eyes – at first as something she is intrigued by, but with the arrival of her cousin, Tilly, and a new friend of her older brother’s – will Cub learn that family legacy is not what defines her?

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Taking on the topic of serial killers and the legacy they leave behind, Emily O’Grady has created a thought-provoking novel, which, when seen through the eyes of a child who has never been told anything about her family history, is the only daughter and is very inquisitive, but often told off, is rather sobering, especially as there is always a feeling that something has to go wrong, someone has to go missing and that new friend of Cub’s older brother gives off a sense of dread and unease that doesn’t leave at all, even after the novel ends in a way that is both conclusive and at the same time, inconclusive, with hints that what Cub knows or thinks she knows will never come to light.

My next book bingo with Theresa and Amanda (Mrs B) will appear on the 30th of June.

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The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady

the yellow house.jpgTitle: The Yellow House

Author: Emily O’Grady

Genre: Literary Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The winner of the prestigious literary award that has launched over a hundred authors – the Australian/Vogel’s Literary award

Winner of the 2018 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award

Even before I knew anything about Granddad Les, Wally and me sometimes dared each other to see how close to the knackery we could get. It was way out in the bottom paddock, and Dad had banned us from going further than the dam. Wally said it was because the whole paddock was haunted. He said he could see ghosts wisping in the grass like sheets blown from the washing line. But even then I knew for sure that was a lie. 

Ten-year-old Cub lives with her parents, older brother Cassie, and twin brother Wally on a lonely property bordering an abandoned cattle farm and knackery. Their lives are shadowed by the infamous actions of her Granddad Les in his yellow weatherboard house, just over the fence.

Although Les died twelve years ago, his notoriety has grown in Cub’s lifetime and the local community have ostracised the whole family.

When Cub’s estranged aunt Helena and cousin Tilly move next door into the yellow house, the secrets the family want to keep buried begin to bubble to the surface. And having been kept in the dark about her grandfather’s crimes, Cub is now forced to come to terms with her family’s murky history.

The Yellow House is a powerful novel about loyalty and betrayal; about the legacies of violence and the possibilities of redemption.

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AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Yellow House is Cub’s story about her family, told from the point of view of ten-year-old Cub. Living in semi-rural Queensland, she is the granddaughter of an infamous serial killer -Grandad Les – who died shortly before she, and her twin brother, Wally, were born. She knows that there are secrets in her family – though she doesn’t know exactly what at first, though the rest of her family do. Her mother has always kept her hair short like Wally’s – which frustrates Cub. But one day a cousin and aunt – Tilly and Helena- move into the yellow house where Grandad Les lived, and things start to change. The town they live in has always whispered about Cub and her family, and seen them as feral – which, in some ways they are – yet are they feral because that is how people see them, and because of the legacy of Les? Or, are they simply feral and their genetic link to Les simply gives people a reason to justify their hate?

As Helena and Tilly move in, Cassie – Cub’s older brother – begins to change in his demeanour and makes a new friend – Ian – whose presence is immediately disconcerting to Cub and sets the entire family on edge and sends them hurtling towards a precipice that begins to crumble as tragedy begins to touch their lives again.

Whilst Cub is a great little spy and seems to catch onto things easily and find things out. having the story – what she has been told, what she sees and what she finds out throughout the novel – is all filtered through her understanding as a child. Her perception of some things seems quite simplistic -thinking her Mum doesn’t like her, wanting to know if she’s anyone’s favourite. and wanting to be friends with Tilly and doing what she can to try and get along with her cousin.

Throughout the novel, there is always the feeling that something bad is going to happen, like watching the cliffhanger of a television crime drama and knowing that the dread you feel will come to pass, but hoping it won’t, and hoping things will change at the last minute. When certain events happen, when some characters enter the story, there is always the feeling of knowing that either something will happen to that person, or that another person is bad news – Ian was one such character that filled me with dread, and fear, knowing there is something ominous about his presence but not quite being able to put your finger on it.

What I liked was the way Emily balanced the not so normal aspects of the lives of Cub’s family – the way Cassie acted, her mum, whom I didn’t like at all and found myself wishing she cared a bit more about Cub than she actually did – with the normal, everyday actions of going to school, coming home and doing homework, meals and all the rest of the things families usually do. As Cub learns about and comes to terms with the murky family of her history, she is faced with tough decisions and knowledge that she must find a way to deal with.

Emily O’Grady’s novel is an intriguing look at human nature and how assumptions about family and who you are related to can colour what people think of you – and what happens when these secrets come out – and how far some people are willing to go to hurt people and cover it up.

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