Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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We Three Heroes (Medoran Chronicles) by Lynette Noni

3D-WTH.pngTitle: We Three Heroes (Medoran Chronicles)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: EMBRACE THE WONDER

We all have to do our part if we’re to survive the coming storm.

Alexandra Jennings might be the hero of The Medoran Chronicles, but she would be lost without her three closest friends. They are her heroes, and like all heroes, they each have their own story.

Meet the real D.C. in Crowns and Curses and discover how she becomes the princess Alex once despised but now adores.

Follow Jordan on his healing journey in Scars and Silence as he struggles in the wake of being rescued from his living nightmare.

Walk beside Bear in Hearts and Headstones as he faces an unspeakable trauma while helping his world prepare for the coming war.

D.C., Jordan and Bear are the heroes of their own stories.

It is time for their stories to be told.

~*~

Alex has her story told in Akarnae, Raelia, Draekora, Graevale and next year, it will conclude in Vardaesia. In each book, the presence of her three best friends, Dix (D.C., or Delucia Cavelle, the princess of Medora), Bear and Jordan remain throughout, steadfast and important to her journey, even when she’s had to hold things back from them. Now, it’s their turn for their stories to be told. drawing on events from the previous four books, and Dix’s childhood before she entered the academy to bring their characters into their own stories in their own right, and the recollection of certain events from the first four books from their perspectives. So it’s crucial that if you want to read this one, you must have read the first four books – which are all very good, and filled with brilliant humour and friendship.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe first novella, Crowns and Curses, is D.C.’s story, starting when she is thirteen years old, and still living at the palace – she’s friendly with Jeera, who is training to be a warden, and knows Kaiden and Declan, but the rest of the children have believed the stories the son of a diplomat, Maxton has told about her. And it is here that we learn why she doesn’t trust people at Medora initially and learn why she has her own room, why Jordan and Bear aren’t her friends, and what she had hoped for when she awoke to Alex in her dorm room in Akarnae, and lastly, how the three became friends. Through the events in this book, and D.C.’s interactions with Maxton and her initial interactions with Jordan and Bear, and the rest of the students, we learn why she has found it hard to make friends – and share her joy in finally finding people she can count on in her life away from the confines of her royal life.

Reading D.C.’s story is powerful and moving, and where once, at the beginning of Akarnae, readers may not have liked her much or been unsure about her, she is a character we have all come to love and appreciate for her fierce loyalty to her friends. Even though parts of Dix’s story are sad, and lonely, the princess that fans have come to love is still there, and there were times pre-Akarnae when all I wanted to do was hug her – this story brings much more to Dix’s character than we first find out about, and I really enjoyed reading this one, because understanding why D.C. acted as she did is important to understanding her and her journey and how bullying and deception has affected her in the past, and how she has no desire to relive that. With Alex, she sees a chance to make a new friend, someone who has no idea who she is and who comes from another world – Freya as our world is called in Medora. When this is shattered, I felt for her deeply and cheered when she finally became friends with Alex, Jordan and Bear. I also appreciated the sneaky little nod to Harry Potter early on in Dix’s story, which has a happy ending, or at least, as happy as these endings will get.

The second novella takes place around the events of Raelia and Draekora, where Jordan is under Aven’s control, and what happens after. Scars and Silence is Jordan’s story of overcoming the control Aven once had over him, and of dealing with the death of his older brother years before the start of Akarnae, and the struggles with his own mental health as a result. But he’s not alone – Dix sits up with him every night, Bear and Alex are always ready to talk, and help will also come from a source Jordan – and I will say me too – never anticipated. This new-found ally and confidante will help Jordan just as much as his friends do. Like many people, Jordan masks his pain, and struggles to reach out – until his friends, and especially Dix, let him know they are there. This is powerful because it lets readers know they are not alone either and that it is okay to ask for help.

Jordan’s story is heartbreaking, and filled with tension as he yearns to separate himself from his family and their rigid expectations that they had for him, and for his brother – expectations that weight heavily on Jordan and led to events that changed Jordan forever that have deeply affected him, and perhaps, give an understanding of why Jordan presented the way he did initially, until he let Bear, Alex and Dix in and trusted them. This is a story that shows again that we are all vulnerable, human but also that we have the strength to overcome hard times, and that whilst the pain may not completely go away and there will always be scars, silence doesn’t always help – I enjoyed gaining more insight into Jordan, because it helped understand the person he was in the first four books, and gave an insight into where he will be going in Vardaesia next year. Jordan’s story gives a little hope that things will be okay, and that whatever happens, he knows Dix and his friends will always have his back, which is an extremely powerful and important message to send.

Finally, there is Bear’s story in Hearts and Headstones – a dark hint at what is to come, though if you’ve been following the series, you’ll know what is to come – those four words – “Graevale is under attack,” – and the subsequent battle and gut-wrenching, heart-destroying finale – except this time, we see it all unfold through Bear’s eyes. Most of the events of Bear’s story are taken from Graevale, and what happened to him during the meetings with the other races and communities of Medora as Alex tries to get them onside before Aven can attack. It is with the arrival of the four words – Graevale is under attack– that the heart-pounding events begin, and even knowing what was to come, who our heroes were going to lose – was shocking.

Ending with the inevitable cliffhanger that will take us into Vardaesia, We Three Heroes is a great addition to the series, exploring the effects of the events on characters other than Alex, but in a way that fits in with her story, and shows the loyalty these four friends have towards each other. Each novella explores a different demon and tragedy for each of Alex’s friends, and this insight into them has been an interesting and emotional journey for both character and reader – despite the shocks and gut punches, it is still one of my favourite series, and I know there will be more but that’s what makes it powerful: knowing bad stuff will happen but also knowing there are heroes willing to go out and stop Aven from achieving his goal. Each story and its inevitable conclusion are like a punch to the guts, reminding us that we are human, as are the characters we love, and that I will come back to again and again. This is the series that got me blogging seriously as a reviewer – I now have lots to catch up on and get many books now – so thank you to Pantera Press and Lynette Noni for getting me into my blog on a bigger scale. This series will always be special to me for that reason. I look forward to the release of Vardaesia next year.

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Book Bingo Eighteen – A Book with Themes of Culture

Book bingo take 2

First day of Spring, and another book bingo – number eighteen of the year, and the seventh square of twenty-five marked off on my second card – only eighteen to go! I may have to mark off a couple of squares in one post sometime to fill the card by the end of the year.

Book bingo take 2

This week I am checking off the square – a book with themes of culture. A new release, that has just come out, I used Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim, the first in a series called Children of the Dragon. It has Chinese and Eurasian characters at the forefront, engaging in #OwnVoices and diversity in life and literature – and this was something I really enjoyed seeing – a different cast of characters engaging with a mythology and using it in a way that is unique to some readers, but traditional to others, and entirely engaging.

relic of the blue dragon

Harley Spark’s life is rather ordinary. He lives alone with his mother, whilst his father is apparently in jail. When he discovers an old vase on his way home, he has no way of knowing what he is about to unleash from within – a world of dragon daughters and family fighting  – where he is whisked across the world by his father, who is involved in something much more than just organised crime and robberies. With his father, Qing and his father’s associates, Harley is set forth on a quest to help the Daughters of the Dragon.

This novel opens a series that is going to be full of fantasy, dragons, myth and adventure, and filled to the brim with diversity. I thoroughly enjoyed it – I love dragons and mythology, and this combined these interests. It is engaging and gives voices to characters not often seen in literature. I hope this engages readers of all ages and backgrounds, and takes them on an adventure – it certainly took me on one and I finished it just as I felt I had started reading – meaning, it didn’t take me long to read this and I wanted more immediately after! Such is the dilemma of starting a new series – the waiting!  My full review is here, published on the 25th of July, and I look forward to the next books in the series to see where this takes Harley.

Across:

Row #2 –

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

Down:

Row #5

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

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Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

fairytales for feisty girls .jpgTitle: Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Author: Susannah McFarlane

Genre: Fairytales, fantasy, children’s fiction, short stories

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 128

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Renowned girl hero and feisty author Susannah McFarlane presents an illustrated collection of ’tilted’ fairytales featuring girls with smarts.

Feisty: typically describes one who is relatively small, lively, determined and courageous.

Girls can rescue themselves – just watch Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina create their own happily ever afters in this beautiful and emboldening bedtime book.

A glorious treasury for young girls – and boys – featuring artwork from four leading Australian illustrators: Beth Norling, Claire Robertson, Lucinda Gifford and Sher Rill Ng.

~*~

Fairytales for Feisty Girls is my sixty-second book in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. The author, Susannah McFarlane, has taken four well-known fairytales, turned them on their heads, and given the female characters agency and gusto that in the older versions and many sanitised versions, they do not have. Here, we have Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina all acting for themselves, in active and innovative roles. Rapunzel, forever inventing things, works out how to cut off her own hair, and asks a young man to tie one end around a tree so she can come down on a flying fox, Little Red Riding Hood uses her knowledge of plants and tea to trick the wolf, Cinderella makes her own fortunes, and Thumbelina seeks a family of her own.

These girls do not let anyone stop them, they’re bold, brave and where their counterparts wait for someone to save them, it is refreshing and fun to see these girls do it for themselves whilst embracing a form of femininity that works for them, and where they do not give up who they are for their happy ever after, which is still there, but they make their own happy ever after,  and stick to their convictions and beliefs.

Allowing these girls to explore their identities beyond their name, and beyond what people think of them. They are empowered and show all children – all readers of this book, really, that you can be anything and do anything. So instead of passive Cinderella waiting for the prince, she finds a way to up and leave her step-mother and step-sisters, and create a new life for herself, just as Thumbelina journeys alone to find those like her. I am hoping there will be a second volume with different stories to show readers what they can do if they set their minds to it.

AWW-2018-badge-roseFairy-tales and fairy-tale retellings have been a passion of mine for many years. From the oral traditions to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to Disney and all the authors such as Kate Forsyth wo have used fairy tales in their stories, the tradition of the fairy-tale is alive and well. Each retelling reveals something new, a new layer to the story, a new way to see history through the scaffolding of a fairy-tale, or a new way to explore diversity and identity. Each story is empowering and funny, set in a time of magic and wonder, and invention, in a place that is both far away but that could be anywhere.

Each story has been illustrated by a different artist – and yet, they flow seamlessly from one storey to the next in a wonderfully cohesive style that feels as though one person was in charge of the illustrations. They work brilliantly with the short stories that are divided into short chapters, perfect to read with your child or to be read alone.

An excellent book for all ages that defies stereotypes and empowers girls of all ages and backgrounds to be and do what they wish.

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

Book bingo take 2

 

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.

mitford 1

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.

Book bingo take 2

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

 

 Booktopia

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

AWW-2018-badge-rose

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.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

bronte mettlestone.jpgTitle: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: November, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 512

Price: $22.99

Synopsis: An enchanting and whimsical spell-filled fantasy novel from Jaclyn Moriarty, the award-winning author of Feeling Sorry for Celia and A Corner of White, suitable for readers who loved A Most Magical Girl.

I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think – I hardly knew my parents.

Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.

But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.

Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…

From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.

Awards:Longlisted Book of Year, Younger Readers – Australian Book Industry Awards 2018 AU; Longlisted CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers 2018 AU; Shortlisted Readings Children’s Book Prize 2018 AU; Longlisted Indie Book Awards – Children’s Fiction 2018 AU; Shortlisted Best Children’s Novel, Aurealis Awards 2017 AU

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseTen-year-old Bronte Mettlestone has been raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler, ever since her parents, Lida and Patrick, left her on her Aunt’s doorstep to go off on adventurers and hunt down pirates. The book opens with Bronte recounting the day she found out her parents had died, that they had been killed by pirates, but having been raised by her Aunt Isabelle, it does not affect her as it might other children. Following the news of their deaths, their will is read out and she is sent on a series of quests and adventures to visit all her aunts across the Kingdoms and Empires to deliver a series of gifts to them. Aunt Isabelle tries to get her out of it and go with her, but the border has been adorned by Faery cross-stitch- binding Bronte to the quest and rules set forth by her parents – and so, she must go alone.

Each gift it seems, as Bronte delivers them, is special or relevant to that aunt – and as she travels, her mind is constantly going over what will happen if she breaks the rules of the Faery cross-stitch, which will result in Gainsleigh, her home town, being destroyed. It is a journey of utmost importance, and is filled with aunts, and new friends, cousins she has never met or seldom met, as she stumbles – accidentally and against her wishes – into trouble and unforeseen scenarios, Bronte’s colourful, magical and humour filled world comes to life with the array of aunts, whose vastly different approaches to Bronte’s visits are all different, and some are far more interesting than others – her visit to the cruise ship with Aunt Maya and Aunt Lisbeth – one of her longest visits – is interesting and filled with danger, whereas her visit with Aunt Nancy is one Bronte finds rather dull and limiting, a visit where she fears the magic of the Faery cross stitch might come undone if she allows Aunt Nancy to keep her from her parents instructions.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is a book of beauty, from the lovely cover, to the adorable illustrations, to the magical words that fly off the page on the back of a flying unicorn and envelop the reader in the story – so much so, that whilst reading one day, I didn’t even realise how much I had read and that I was only a few chapters from the end of the story. So I’m not surprised that it has had several award nominations, long-listings and short-listings – these accolades are very well deserved, and this bridges a gap between early readers who have the confidence to read and those about to embark on Harry Potter, Narnia and other books, but is also a book that anyone can enjoy and lose themselves in as I invariably did the one day.

I loved Bronte’s character – she wasn’t a stereotype or archetype, she was a little girl, who had fears, and flaws, and who managed to find ways out of sticky situations, in a world she had not had much contact with, and yet, seemed to fit into really well. Determined to make sure she abides by the wishes and rules set forth for her in her parents will, yet still individual, and creative, able to see solutions to problems, and not the typical fairy-tale girl, Bronte is exactly the kind of character who we need these days – brave, and confident, active and able to think for herself, yet also able to accept help when she needs it. Whether it’s negotiating with water sprites to get an aunt out of jail, inadvertently causing an avalanche, or exploring a ship with a boy named Billy and a girl named Taylor, Bronte is the childhood hero for girls that my generation needed, that this generation needs, and in fact, that every girl, and woman, no matter her age or identity, will hopefully enjoy, and have a laugh with, worry and hope with her, and share in everything she feels and does.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series, and I hope Bronte makes another appearance as she is a rather enjoyable character, and I would like to see more of her. Aimed at what I hope will be a varied audience, it was the title and cover that attracted me to this book, and it’s fabulous first line is an excellent hook for the story – bring on book two!