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.

2019 Badge

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.

The Valley of the Lost (Deltora Quest #7) by Emily Rodda

valley of the lost.jpgTitle: The Valley of the Lost (Deltora Quest #7)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st October 2001

Format: Paperback

Pages: 132

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Lief, Barda and Jasmine, searching for the seven lost gems of the magic Belt of Deltora, have almost reached their goal.

Six gems now gleam in the Belt, but the last must be found before Deltora can be freed from the tyranny of the evil Shadow Lord.

The companions have faced many terrors with strength and courage. Now they are about to meet dark mysteries that strength and courage alone cannot defeat.

If they fail, their quest will be lost, and they will remain forever trapped in the swirling mists of the Valley of the Lost.

~*~

2019 BadgeOnwards the intrepid trio venture, towards Tora as they uncover more secrets about the fate of Endon, his queen and the heir to the throne of Deltora, whose presence will unite the lands and be revealed once they have fitted the final stone, the diamond, to complete the belt and unlock the powers that have for many years been hidden and kept from the one person who can reunite the kingdom.

Lief, Jasmine and Barda have come so far – and now they face their final trial – gaining the diamond from the Guardian. To do this, they must be honest and fair in the game they must play with him and try to keep others from thwarting them in their quest to reunite the gems with the belt. And this is where the plot twists come in – two – that evolve throughout the rest of this book and then in the final book that at first, will have readers cheering and breathing a sigh of relief before yanking the carpet out from underneath you.

In doing so, it gives the adventure more energy and a sense that all is not what it seems for Lief, Barda and Jasmine – whose bond has never broken throughout the series. When a new threat rears itself over the three companions, they must work with the people of the seven tribes of Deltora to find a way to keep themselves safe so they can finally defeat the Shadow Lord.

In the penultimate book, Emily Rodda has started to bring all the threads of the previous six books together as Lief, Jasmine and Barda start to discover secrets linked to the stones and those they have met. It is all cleverly done, so not everything is revealed at once, and like a treasure hunter, the reader gets to discover new and exciting facts as they read on throughout the series. The series has danger, adventure and excitement in equal measures, with enough variance to each story thus far to keep readers interested yet at the same time, with the familiar plot thread running through to connect them all.

Once the final stone has been found, and placed in the belt, it is the start of the journey home to Deltora, to finally defeat the Shadow Lord. There are more challenges to come, and more puzzles to solve on their journey home. In this one, the stakes get higher as they get closer to reuniting the stones – creating an exciting story that seems to just fly by as you read it.

Another great book in the Deltora Quest series, which is perfect for any aged eight and over, because it is filled with adventure and friendship, games and puzzles to solve as the series starts to come to an end. It has been really fun reading these books and discovering a new adventure with the characters. I’ll be reviewing the final book and doing a wrap-up post for the omnibus here soon.

When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll

when we were warriors.jpgTitle: When We Were Warriors

Author: Emma Carroll

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Faber

Published: 3rd June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: An irresistible return to World War Two for the Queen of Historical Fiction.

A body washed up on the beach…
Evacuation to an old house with forbidden rooms and dark secrets…
An animal rescue service…

Set in World War Two, Emma Carroll explores the resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness of children when their lives fall to pieces. Introducing some compelling new characters, as well as revisiting some familiar settings, these adventures are sure to win over new readers, as well as fans of old favourites such as Letters from the Lighthouse and Frost Hollow Hall.

Air raids, rationing, the threat of invasion: everyday life in wartime Britain is pretty grim, and often pretty dull.

That’s what Stanley thinks, anyway – until his home is bombed and he’s evacuated to a remote old house with the mysterious name Frost Hollow Hall…

It’s what Olive thinks too – until she finds a body washed up at Budmouth Point…

Velvet just wishes she could be useful – and when the air-raid warden brings in a ban that puts all the pets in peril. she grabs her chance.

Three thrilling stories about three different children, who find adventure, courage, untrainable dogs and an impossibly tall American GI where they least expect it.

~*~

Literature and stories set in World War Two for children don’t shy away from the fear and horrors of the war years. Instead, they tell the stories through the eyes of the children, and in a way that younger readers can grasp and relate to without going too far into the darkness of the war or making it too happy. They have a really good balance, and Emma Carroll’s latest, When We Were Warriors does not disappoint.

Here are three separate novellas, about three different children during the war, connected by displacement, air raids and places of isolation, and the presence of Americans in Britain during the days of the war following America’s entry in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

In The Night Visitors, Stanley and his sisters are evacuated to Frost Hollow Hall, and are told not to go near the lake. And not to disturb the mistress of the house. There seems to be a mystery surrounding everything there, and when an American GI turns up, secrets start to come out with revelations that change them all. Here, Emma shows what the reality of evacuees was, and how they adapted to their surroundings in days when fear drove so many things.

In the second story, Olive’s Army, the children and young people of Budmouth Point discover a body on the beach – the body of a German soldier, whose identity becomes confused with Ephraim, the lighthouse keeper. Ephraim is arrested, and the children must prove he is innocent and stop a German invasion. Also present in this novel, is the shadow of the Nazi concentration camps, and the Kindertransport that one character, Esther, was on. Carroll relays this part of the war simply, within a few sentences but still conveys the reality of what Jewish people went through during the war. Again, the American GI shows up to help solve the mystery.

Finally, in Operation Velvet, Velvet sets out to save the animals of her friends and family, after an air raid warden puts forward rules that put them in danger. when she discovers a dog with puppies, together with her friends and the help of an American GI, she saves all the pets and finds homes for the puppies.

With several things connecting these stories, this is a great book, and I really enjoyed the way the connections were at first, surface: the war, seen through the eyes of children, invasion, evacuation and threats. Astute readers will notice the less obvious, or at least more subtle link as they read, and get to the end where things become clearer. It is cleverly put together and shows how war affected people differently through three very unique experiences.