Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Check-in One – books one to fifteen

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All year I have been meaning to write progress posts for every month, or every ten books. Until now, I have woefully neglected this activity, and having read 61 books already, am breaking it up into posts of fifteen – and will continue to do this until the end of the year/early 2019, making the collation of posts for my final wrap up of this challenge easier than last year’s attempt. Each list will be varied, with review books and ones I chose to purchase making up my count – they will be diverse in terms of story, genre, fiction or non-fiction, readership, age and as many other aspects of diversity as I have stumbled across on my reading journey – greatly depending on what I have been able to find, have been sent and what I have access to, but also, I choose books based on what I enjoy as well, and in doing so, I feel like I hit as much diversity in my reading as possible without too much trouble.

These lists – to date so far by today, are a little less than half of my total books logged for the year, which on the 11th of August, stands at 115, and counting. I have well surpassed my goal of fifteen for the challenge – a conservative estimate as I often have a list in mind of upcoming releases and books I own, yet also don’t always know what else will come my way. I find it best to underestimate – and then anything extra becomes bonus points.

So below is my first batch of fifteen out of sixty one, with links to each review.

First fifteen

  1. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan
  2. The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett
  3. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
  4. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner
  5. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier
  6. The Endsister by Penni Russon
  7. Graevale by Lynette Noni  
  8. Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn 
  9. Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
  10. The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht and Interview
  11. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French 
  12. Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk
  13. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer
  14. Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard 
  15. Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen 

Coming up next, posts sixteen to thirty of the Australian Women Writer’s challenge and at some stage, a Book Bingo wrap up post for both of my rounds of the challenge with Mrs B’s Book Reviews and Theresa Smith Writes.

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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.

if kisses cured cancer

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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Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

bookshop girl.jpgTitle: Bookshop Girl

Author: Chloe Coles

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Bonnier/Hot Key/Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:A hilarious tale of female friendship, bookshops and fighting for a cause – perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise Rennison.

Bennett’s Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It’s a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly. and also earn some money.

But, like so many bookshops, Bennett’s has become a ‘casualty of the high street’ – it’s strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking – but that’s not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

~*~

Paige Turner – her real name, not a pseudonym – is sixteen, and works in her town’s local bookshop, Bennett’s. She’s saving up to go away to university, but the impending closure of Bennett’s threatens to ensure she never gets out of Greysworth. Paige and her friend, Holly, and the rest of the staff plan an intervention – protests, a petition – they undertake a month-long campaign to #SaveBennetts, getting local businesses and authors on board, and garnering support from the local community, starting with neighbouring stores and the art school. Here she meets Jamie, and a fellow artist, Blaine, who works at the local stationery store, and is a bit or an anarchist – she wants his support but at what cost?

Bookshop Girl is exactly my kind of book and Paige is a character that is easy to identify with. She’s not perfect and perky all the time – her flaws show through realistically, and they are acknowledged, as is her family reality and what they are going through. Having a character like Paige, more interested in books and studying rather than looks or a boy is a refreshing sight in Young Adult literature – in fact, it is a refreshing thing to see in literature for any age group and demographic. This is a book about standing up for what you love and doing whatever you can to keep it – be it books, family, whatever your cause is – the activism to save the beloved bookshop is what drives the plot in this book.

Seeing a character like Paige – driven by a passion other than wanting a boyfriend – though she does develop a crush, her bookshop, art, family and best friend Holly are much more important to her – is like a breath of fresh air, ad reminds readers that it is okay that they’re not perfect, that they can be the way they want to be, and that being awkward as a teenager or young adult is okay – you don’t have to be perfect. Embarrassing things happen to Paige – and they are relatable events, from dropping personal items out of a bag, to art class and school, and family – Paige is the kind of character girls need to read about for the very reason that she is so genuine and could be any one of us.

The love of books and bookshops in this debut novel from Chloe Coles is lovely and shows that not everyone needs technology to be happy – it is useful, yes, as is shown in Bookshop Girl, pushing the campaign and ensuring the bookstore remains open – but it does not replace the fabulous feeling of a bookstore and the books to be found within the shelves, and the adventures and friends to find.

A funny, heartfelt book about activism, protests and standing up – first and foremost – for what you love and believe in, and friendship in a world so often dominated by the need to be perfect in everything.

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Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook by Warner Bros with Jody Revenson

diagon alley.jpgTitle: Harry Potter – Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook

Author: Warner Bros with Jody Revenson

Genre: Film Guide, Harry Potter, Children’s, Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 5th July 2018

Format: Hardback

Pages: 48

Price: $27.99

Synopsis:Diagon Alley is a cobblestoned shopping area for wizards and witches, and it was Harry Potter’s first introduction to the wizarding world. On this bustling street, seen throughout the Harry Potter films, the latest brooms are for sale, wizard authors give book signings and young Hogwarts students acquire their school supplies – cauldrons, quills, robes, wands and brooms.

This magical scrapbook takes readers on a tour of Diagon Alley, from Gringotts wizarding bank to Ollivanders wand shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and beyond. Detailed profiles of each shop include concept illustrations, behind-the-scenes photographs and fascinating reflections from actors and film-makers that give readers an unprecedented inside look at the beloved wizarding location. Fans will also revisit key moments from the films, such as Harry’s first visit to Ollivanders when he is selected by his wand in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Harry, Ron and Hermione’s escape from Gringotts on the back of a Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Destined to be a must-have collectible for fans of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley: A Movie Scrapbook also comes packed with removable inserts.

~*~

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The latest companion book to the Harry Potter series, specifically related to the movies, is a movie scrapbook of Diagon Alley, its various stores and how the street, exteriors and interiors were created for the series of eight movies that began as a series of books in 1997. With the recent release of the 20th anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this movie scrapbook complements its release and will become a good shelf companion.

Starting at the Leaky Cauldron, and ending with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the book is interactive, with maps, and pictures, stickers, and pieces of wizarding money peppered through the book, to illustrate the visions from the books, and how they ended up being translated onto film, as well as where inspiration came from: Tudor times, Georgian and Victorian times, and Dickensian illustrations. The Wizarding World is shown as being from a distant time and place, untouched by modernity – ensuring the magic remains intact – just as readers would have imagined it when reading the books, and just as I did – Diagon Alley could be a mishmash of various architectures from Tudor times to Victorian times, all imbued with the magic used to create the buildings.

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As each new movie guide or character comes out, a new layer of information and enjoyment is added to the series for fans new, and old. These fun and quick reads can be dipped in and out of as well and used as you watch the movies to identify various aspects of Diagon Alley and keep an eye out for them as they watch. It is an exciting and fun book for the whole family to enjoy.

Each companion book to the Harry Potter series – whether related to the books or the movies enriches the experience, and this one is no exception. I enjoyed reading it and will enjoy revisiting it, either after watching the movies or during them, to pick up on the subtleties that I may have missed in previous viewings. As there are so many things to explore, these guides are the perfect way to discover or rediscover these things and fully appreciate the complexity of the books and movies.

Diagon Alley is shown in the book from the beginning of the series to the end, from light and airy to dark, and dingy, a world that has been destroyed during war time, to accompany the darkening themes and moods of the books and films. Diagon Alley is central to the Wizarding World, in both the books and the movies. It gives readers of the books and those who enjoy the movies a chance to see behind the scenes of how the sets the most well-known areas of Harry’s world were created in a creative, fun and interactive way for all ages.

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The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms #1) by Kate Forsyth

UnknownTitle: The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 10th November 2007

Format: Paperback

Pages:202

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms – a golden crown, a silver horse, a butterfly caught in amber, a cat’s eye shell, a bolt of lightning forged from the heart of a falling star, and the flower of the rue plant, herb of grace. The queen gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.

It is even worse for the Finch tribe – they have been thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are thirteen-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka, who have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

Book 1: The Gypsy Crown:
9th August – 12th August 1658

Maggie has given them the first charm – an old gold coin – but Luka and Emilia must escape the brutal thief-taker, Coldham. With a horse, a monkey, a dog, and a huge brown bear in their train, it is hard to travel secretly as they flee across the Surrey countryside. With a little bit of luck – or, as Emilia believes, magic – they manage to escape, but Coldham will not give up so easily.

Winner of Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

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AWW-2018-badge-roseI have had this series on my shelf for a few years, and between finishing studies and reviewing for publishers, finding time to read them has been tight – thankfully, I am for once, on top of my requests, with a couple directly received from authors to go which will hopefully be up within the next two weeks.

To start, I adore anything Kate Forsyth writes – and The Gypsy Crown, which starts the Chain of Charms series, is no exception. Set during the turbulent days of Oliver Cromwell’s rule over England in the 1650s, Emilia and Luka Finch are sent on a daring quest across England to reunite a chain of charms –  a crown (coin), a silver horse, a herb of grace, a cat’s eye shell, a lightning bolt and a butterfly in amber – that was once split between six traveller/Rom/gypsy families – all three are used throughout the book to refer to the characters and to reflect the attitudes of the time in a genuine and authentic way – the Finches, their family who hold the crown, the Hearnes, the Wood tribe, an elusive tribe who holds the cat’s eye charm, the Smiths and the Graylings. Each family, or tribe, holds a charm, and uniting them will hopefully help their family and gain their release from prison.

Emilia and Luka have the crown – but to start gathering the rest of the charms, they must escape Coldham – responsible for rounding up their family and other thieves. But they also have a bear, a dog, a monkey and a horse with them, making travel harder. But as they run across Surrey, they will embark on a journey that will change their lives.

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Kate Forsyth writes her historical fiction books for adults and children so that the well-researched facts meld seamlessly with the fictitious characters and plot that is engaging, informative and fast-paced. There are no lags, and the intrigue of what is happening and the quest for the rest of the charms. This series for children has an exciting start, filled with mystery and glimpses of the past, with echoes and foreshadows of centuries of discrimination against many groups including Emilia and Luka’s people – as they are hunted by Coldham. It allows readers to explore history in an educational and enjoyable way, and Kate Forsyth has done an excellent job at showing the prejudices of Coldham whilst maintaining respect for Emilia and Luka.

I’m about to start the second book, The Silver Horse, and hope to have the entire series read soon.

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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.

the yellow house

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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Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan

burning bridges.jpgTitle: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Genre: Essays/Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s favourite and most multi-talented entertainers, Kitty Flanagan, provides hilarious and honest life advice in this candid collection of cautionary tales.

Kitty Flanagan has been locked in an industrial freezer in Western Australia, insulted about the size of her lady parts in Singapore and borne witness to the world’s most successful wife swap in suburban Sydney. It’s these valuable lessons from The University of Life that have taught her so many things, including the fact that clichés like ‘The University of Life’ are reeeally annoying.

In these funny, true stories, Kitty provides advice you didn’t even know you needed. Useful tips on how not to get murdered while hitch-hiking, how to break up with someone the wrong way, and the right way, why it’s important to keep your top on while waitressing, and why women between the ages of thirty-seven and forty-two should be banned from internet dating.

Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies is a collection of laugh-out-loud, cautionary tales from one of Australia’s favourite comedians.

‘Finally, a book that doesn’t tell you to stop eating sugar.’
KITTY – CAKE ENTHUSIAST

‘Shut your mouth Flanagan or you’ll do fifteen in the freezer.’
GARY – FACTORY FOREMAN

‘I was hoping there’d be more about arson.’
BERNIE – LOCAL FIRESTARTER

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseKitty Flanagan’s biography – well, more a series of essays on her adventures throughout life, showcases her sense of humour from the very first page. From her early childhood through to now, Kitty has had many careers, including waitressing, a brief appearance as a child actor and as a copywriter – all of which have led her to becoming one of Australia’s best loved comedians. From her adventures hitch-hiking to her disastrous attempts to break off relationships, Kitty’s true stories are filled with her special brand of humour and proves that clichés like the University of Life are really annoying and cultural misunderstandings can lead to disastrous or at least, unseen, consequences.

Kitty’s sense of humour is unique to her, but also incorporates elements of the Australian sense of humour within her comedy, and makes her relatable and funny, and she has excelled in doing this in writing as well. Each chapter is a snippet, a story from Kitty’s life that illustrate what life was like for her as a child – being dropped off at a party where the only parents there were those of the birthday child – and the other parents weren’t around. Having experienced parties like this myself, this was a story I could relate to. Of the others, I laughed, and enjoyed the ride with Kitty.

It’s very hard not to laugh or smile while reading this book – it is like reading a stand-up comedy routine from the comfort of your home, with Kitty’s voice as clear as it would be live. As Kitty cast a humourous eye over her travels across the world and through a series of unsuccessful relationships, she showed how words – spoken or written have power and can impact you in a variety of ways. Her time in Singapore illustrated the cultural differences she has encountered in her career, and how what in one country might be funny, in another can be offensive and have repercussions that she was unaware of – but in true Kitty style, she managed to turn this into an instance of rolling with the punches, lessons learned and the sort of story that can be funny and awkward.

It is biographical but also, reads like a series of comedy sketches – perfect for when you can’t get to her shows and need a dose of Kitty to brighten your day. It is one that having read the whole way through once, I could dip into random stories when I felt like it, and it will be just as entertaining as reading them in order. It was clear that she was a comedic genius from a young age, and I absolutely loved her recollection of the party when she was five and the dress her Mum had made from a pattern – cute and funny in equal helpings!

Kitty is one of my favourite comedians, which was a deciding factor in me choosing this book as part of my 2018 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. It is an excellent read and I hope many of Kitty’s fans will enjoy her book and have a good laugh along with Kitty as she navigates life through comedy.

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