Book Bingo Nineteen: Themes of Culture

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It’s September, and time for book bingo again with Theresa and Amanda. This means I have six to seven books left on my card to fill in, some of which I am unsure of what to do. Science Fiction is always a tricky, because there are times it crosses over with fantasy. I initially had the book I’m using for this square under science fiction but decided to change it to this square.

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When it came to Themes of Culture, there were many ways to go – made up, national, historical and all the arms that splinter off from each of those areas and many more. As I had assigned a more obvious book for this category, I stretched culture out to post-war culture based on this book. So, I assigned a new book – The Lost Magician by Piers Torday here.

lost magician

Set in 1945, World War Two is over, and Patricia, Simon, Evie and Larry are sent to the country while their parents search for a new house. Hints of their lives during war time come through, illustrating that the life and culture of a post-war England had some differences to what had come before and would evolve in the decades to come. It also shows the clash of cultures in the book world, of the various factions of books and their characters who have and have not been read – the past, and the future, and the finished and the unfinished stories, and how they grapple with their own cultural differences in another world unfamiliar to the four children.

This made this book a good choice for this round – it showed the different ways culture can be explored and the cultural impact stories have on us. With the next book out later this year, I hope to return to the world of Folio for more adventures.

Row Three:

Themes of Science Fiction:

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

See you next time!

The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley

the monster who wasn't.jpgTitle: The Monster Who Wasn’t

Author: T.C. Shelley

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 8th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:A brilliantly rich and strange fantasy adventure that will make us all believe in monsters  be they good, bad or somewhere in between.

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being 

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits.

But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass …

~*~

We all know where fairies come from. J.M. Barrie taught us this in Peter Pan – that the laugh of the first baby broke into a thousand pieces, and that was where fairies started. Each new baby laugh is a fairy. Yet little is known of the world of monsters, and where they come from. Using a mix of traditions, myths, fairy and folk tales, though concentrated on the European or Anglo-Celtic traditions, T.C. Shelley explores this in her debut novel, The Monster Who Wasn’t.

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In The Monster Who Wasn’t, it is established that a monster is born of a last sigh of someone, a stark contrast to the birth of a fairy. But what happens when a first laugh and last sigh come together? This is the premise for the main character, Imp, who later becomes known as Sam. He was born in the monster world but has all the features of a human: belly button, gender, heart. But does he have a soul, and where does he truly fit? In the human world, where the gargoyles who adopt him send him to find chocolate.

It is here he finds out he bears a remarkable resemblance to the Kavanaugh family, who take him in, yet when the ogre, Thunderguts finds out his plan for Imp could be thwarted, he will take drastic measures. Throughout the story, told through Imp’s eyes, the collision of worlds feels inevitable as you read on.

It is engaging and fun, seeing how Imp finds his way in the human world and how the gargoyles, grumpy as they are, will do anything to help him, as will an angel, Daniel. The gargoyles are monsters who are neither good nor evil, rather they are a kind of chaotic, neutral force who have a sense of what family is and help Imp in the final chapters of the story.

A fun and engaging fantasy novel for all ages, and that brings together fairy tales and modern fantasy in a fun and exciting way to appeal to readers of all ages. It is one that is delightful as a standalone yet could also potentially become a series. Whichever way T.C. Shelley goes, I very much enjoyed this novel.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke

the secret dragon.jpgTitle: The Secret Dragon

Author: Ed Clarke

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘So if you’re not an animal that’s alive today, and you’re not an animal that’s extinct either, what on earth are you?’

Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven. So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden enough to study it.

Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers.

~*~

Since her father died when she was five, Mari has kept mostly to herself, in a world of fossils and dead things, rather than the world of living animals and the farm she lives on with her mother, Rhian. Mari longs to become a scientist, like her father, and leave the farm life behind. While looking for fossils one day, as she dreams of becoming like Mary Anning, she discovers a baby dragon. After meeting the new boy at school, Dylan, she agrees to let him help her study the dragon and keep it a secret.

Bu the little dragon has other ideas, constantly trying to escape to get back to the beach where Mari found it, not caring who sees it or finds out about it. Mari is determined to keep things strictly scientific, yet as she gets to know the dragon and Dylan she discovers that sometimes, friendship is more important than science, and friendship can’t be measured by science either.

The first in a new series set in Wales, The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke brings together the real world and fantasy, in a small Welsh town where dragons exist. It explores themes of friendship through Dylan and Mari, and families as the two kids fight to save Gweeb, the dragon and keep her safe from those who want to harm her, like Ffion and Dr Griff. At its heart is the mystery of Mari’s father as well, and her desire to find something – fossils, science, naming the dragon species and sharing an interest with Dylan. Though at first, they come at it from separate perspectives, they begin to build a friendship that is charming and delightful.

Reading the first book in a new series is interesting, and delightful, because you get to meet the characters as they are, and watch them grow through the book and series, heading off on their adventures with Gweeb. I loved this story, set in the wilds of Wales with a dragon, and new discoveries that start out as science, but become much more.

I also loved it because it’s about friends, with a female lead who wants to follow her passions and makes friends along the way. This is important to show because it shows all kids that their abilities and passions are important, whoever they are, and that they can be friends with whomever they want to be friends with. Also, the presence of dragons makes everything fun and chaotic, a chaos which is balanced nicely with the rest of the novel and the calmer moments, exploring the strained relationship between Mari and her mother at the start of the book.

I am looking forward to seeing where Ed takes Mari, Gweeb and Dylan in the rest of the series.

Pages and Co #1: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Pages and Co 1.jpgTitle: Pages and Co #1: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Author: Anna James

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 17th June 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A magical adventure to delight the imagination. Eleven-year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop ever since her other disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories. One day Tilly realises that classic children’s characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of ‘book wandering’ – crossing over from the page into real life. With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland, Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.
~*~

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books that take place in bookshops or libraries, or both – aimed at all age groups and as a book lover and weekly visitor to my local bookstore, I am loving these books and feel right at home in them. Tilly and the Bookwanderers is exactly this kind of book.

Tilly has lived with her grandparents her whole life, ever since her mother, Beatrice, disappeared shortly after she was born. All she has left is a necklace with a bee, and a few stories. While on mid-term break, she discovers a box of her mother’s old books while helping her friend, Oskar, find a book for their school holiday reading. One day she bumps into Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables in Pages and Co. Bookshop, and soon she is drawn into their books and others, and the mystery of her mother’s disappearance all those years ago, unsure of what is to come.

Living above a bookstore is an ideal scenario for any reader, and Tilly always surrounded by books, which is where the mystery starts. Throughout the book, she encounters characters from many classic works, including Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes. There were many things I loved about this book, from the setting, in a uniquely delightful bookstore that I would love to be able to visit beyond the page, the magic of reading, and the Underlibrary, and the ability to meet characters in the books I read.

In a way, we all wander through the books we read, disappearing into their worlds for hours on end, and often feeling like we are part of that world. While in the real world, we often feel like everything melts away as we read and we enter the worlds of Hogwarts, or Lyra’s Oxford, or many of the fictional worlds and settings we visit – real or imagined (and sometimes a combination), Tilly is able to draw herself into these worlds.

Perhaps it seems a bit much to have bookstores and libraries featuring so prominently in books, but for me, there is definitely something enjoyable about this – it allows people who adore these kinds of books to see a world they inhabit daily but in a fantastical and relatable way. The bookshop and books become more than  just the setting – they become characters that enrich the book and narrative, and make the reader want to dive into the worlds of the books in the novel, as well as the novel itself. It was a feeling I had, and it is definitely one that permeates my reading, and makes Tilly’s adventures magical and wonderfully written, and I am very keen to read the second book when it comes out.

What is lovely about this book and its idea of book wandering is that one does not lose the ability when they become an adult or hit puberty – people of all ages can book wander, and all in this series have to deal with Enoch Chalk, who I am sure will appear in future books as he creates havoc in his quest against Tilly and her family. Another great start to a new series I am sure will be  savoured and loved.

Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers by Simon Mockler

beatrix-the-bold-and-the-curse-of-the-wobblersTitle: Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers

Author: Simon Mockler

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bonnier/Piccadilly

Published: 1st July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:Ten-year-old Beatrix is very good at telling jokes, dancing and throwing knives. She also happens to be a queen of a distant land – though she doesn’t know that yet. She also happens to be the queen who is quite possibly destined to lead the Wobblers to bold victory over the Evil Army – though she doesn’t know that yet either.

Beatrix lives in an enormous golden palace with Aunt Esmerelda the Terrible and Uncle Ivan the Vicious, but as she’s only been allowed to see one new room per birthday, she’s only ever been inside ten rooms of the palace. Her aunt and uncle have always told her that if she goes beyond the woods outside the palace she’ll fall off the edge of the world.

And the Dark, Dark Woods and all that lies beyond must be avoided at all costs – what if the dreaded Wobblers were to get her? But finally, the veil Beatrix has been living under is starting to slip. Beatrix knows she needs to be bold. Beatrix knows she needs to look for answers. And she’s about to get them.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a small girl, and a big secret. The girl’s name was Beatrix, and the secret was … well, you’ll find out soon enough.

Beatrix is a bold and clever young thing, but she has also never left the palace where she lives – because then she might fall off the edge of the world or get eaten.

Er – really?

What is this big secret everyone’s keeping from her? Beatrix decides it’s time to look for answers. And with her trusty sidekicks Oi the Boy, Dog the dog and Wilfred the Wise, she can do anything.

~*~

Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers is the first in a new trilogy by Simon Mockler, about a princess who has spent her entire life so far in a palace of locked doors with her Aunt Esmerelda the Terrible and her Uncle Ivan the Vicious (who is probably no more vicious than a kitty), and for years hasn’t known anything about her parents. Until she overhears her uncle talking about her and battle plans. This discovery sets in motion a series of events that leads Beatrix to escape the palace, discover that her aunt doesn’t really want to protect her, and find new friends – Oi, Dog and her tutor, Wilfred, who help her plan to take down the Evil Army and find her family.

Beatrix’s story is set in a distant past and land, far removed from our own. However, the author including references to our world, usually as comparisons to how Beatrix does things in her world. These will work really well for a younger audience, and are not overdone, and nor do they take away from the story being told.

Beatrix is not like other princesses. When she’s not reading, watching her aunt paint the palace servants in gold paint, or at school, she’s playing chess and battles with her uncle Ivan. As the story progresses. Beatrix uncovers the secrets that have been kept from her, by the very person who was meant to be protecting her. From here, Beatrix’s quest, with Oi, dog and Wilfred, is to seek out her parents and real home – and save them from dangers that were predicted when she was a baby.

This delightful start to a new trilogy is enthralling and engaging and will appeal to a broad audience of readers. Filled with adventure, magic and everything enjoyable about this kind of book, and I am looking foward to the next two in the trilogy.

Deltora Quest Omnibus #1 by Emily Rodda – Deltora Quest wrap up

Deltora Quest 1.jpgTitle: Deltora Quest Omnibus #1

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st October 2008

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 774

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Here, for the first time, the eight books of the international best-selling fantasy series Deltora Quest are brought together in one superb volume.

For centuries, the evil Shadow Lord has been plotting to invade Deltora and enslave its people. All that stands against him is the magic Belt of Deltora with its seven gems of great and mysterious power.

When the gems are stolen and scattered throughout the kingdom, the Enemy triumphs, and Deltora is lost. Abandoned by their king, suffering under the Shadow Lord’s cruel tyranny, the people live in ignorance, terror and despair.

But while most have abandoned hope, three unlikely companions have not.

The great gems have been hidden in fearsome places throughout the kingdom and are protected by terrible guardians. But Lief, Barda and Jasmine believe that they can be found. They cling to their faith that if the magic Belt can be restored, the Shadow Lord will be banished from their land. With only a sketchy map to guide them, the companions set out into the unknown.

So begins the perilous quest which has captured the imagination of millions throughout the world.

~*~

The Deltora Quest series, consisting of eight books, is the story of Lief, Barda and Jasmine seeking to restore the magical Belt of Del and defeat the Shadow Lord who has invaded their homeland. To start with, I have linked each individual review here in this post, listed below.

The Forests of Silence

Deltora Quest 1

The Lake of Tears

lake of tears

City of the Rats

city of rats

The Shifting Sands

the shifting san ds

Dread Mountain

Dread Mountain

The Maze of the Beast

The Maze of the Beast

The Valley of the Lost

valley of the lost

Return to Del

return to del

I read each book and this omnibus as part of the 2019 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge and for a few other challenges, fulfilling several categories, some which I managed to do by bending and reimagining the parameters given in the challenge. Currently, I have this one slated to fulfil my novel of 500 pages or more, as so far, I have not read one yet in all my reading this year so far, but am keeping this open in case something does come across my desk for review or general reading purposes.

Being able to read all eight books in this omnibus version was a very good thing, as I was able to flick backwards and forwards, putting the clues together from each book as I read it over the past few months in between my work as a quiz writer, editor and book reviewer. So, I finally finished it, and really enjoyed it. Throughout, each novel built on the previous ones, whilst still being individual stories. Yet their interconnection means that it is best to read them in order, so everything makes sense and fits in together like a puzzle or game while you read.

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In wrapping up this series, I have not been as expansive as other posts, as I have included each individual review. Astute readers will piece the clues together as they read, and each clue is cleverly included throughout, culminating in the final books to reveal the secrets that need to be uncovered.

Overall, it was a very engaging and action packed series, with the right amount of adventure, humour, darkness and light for readers of all ages to enjoy and engage with.

Return to Del (Deltora Quest #8) by Emily Rodda

return to del.jpgTitle: Return to Del (Deltora Quest #8)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st November 2001

Format: Paperback

Pages: 132

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:Lief, Barda, and Jasmine have finally retrieved all the gems of the Belt of Deltora and now, in their final step towards overthrowing the Shadow Lord, they must find the true heir to the kingdom’s throne.

~*~

With all the gems of the Belt of Deltora intact, Lief, Barda and Jasmine set out back to Del, where they hope to defeat the Shadow Lord and find the true heir to the throne after the debacle with Dain. On their journey, they are plagued by those who work for the Shadow Lord and want to see them fail. But with protection from members of the seven tribes of Deltora to help escort them home, they hope to make it back and uncover the secrets they have been seeking for so long.

2019 BadgeIn the final epic adventure, Lief, Barda and Jasmine face more dangers from the Shadow Lord on their way home who are determined to prevent the trio from succeeding and restoring the heir, and order to the throne of Deltora. Through several more ups and downs, Lief, Barda and Jasmine arrive home safely – discovering more secrets upon their return about the true heir than they were expecting, resulting in a finale that is satisfying and enjoyable.

Finally, Lief is able to begin his journey home, after reuniting the gems with the belt. His journey home is a little easier than his journey to find the gems but is not without its challenges either. In this one, the threats coming after him are determined, but also, it seems, desperate to stop him.

Reading this series through to its end was a wonderful joy. It is a wonderful example of Australian fantasy for kids, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading over the past few months. Following Lief’s journey has been fun, and enjoyable, and one that I hope to revisit and also read the further books in the subsequent series. It concludes the series nicely and neatly, with a good lead in to the next set of books, that will continue the adventures of Lief, Jasmine and Barda, that I am looking forward to reading.

Pulling together seven books worth of story succinctly, and all the clues that have been dropped throughout the previous seven books, Emily Rodda has connected each element together in a really good way, and intriguing way for readers of all ages. A good read, and a good conclusion to the series.