Books and Bites Bingo debut novel – The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

 

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Ticking off my fourth square this time, the debut novel, I went with The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One). This is Meg Keneally’s debut novel, though it is written with her father, Tom Keneally, who wrote Schindler’s Ark. This is the start of a series, set during colonial times in Port Macquarie, around 1825, and explores not only a crime, but also the history of the convict era and implications of being a convict, as well as the interactions with the local Indigenous people and ideas about how these interactions could have occurred and what they meant for different people – so it is an interesting look at how this may have happened.

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It is a complicated, and lengthy mystery, but finding out what happens at the end is very satisfying, and so the meandering road it takes to get to the resolution and main death is very well executed, and satisfying as you dig through the layers and uncover who the characters are. The true nature of the crime and those involved is also quietly bubbling away in the background as suspects are mentioned and dismissed until the true killer is uncovered. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I’m hoping to read the rest of the series this year, and it is going to be one that hits many categories in my reading challenges, some multiple times!

Onto the next square – I’m not sure what it will be but I can’t wait to fill it and reveal it to you!

The Soldier’s Curse (The Monsarrat Series Book One) by Meg and Tom Keneally

soldiers curseTitle: The Soldier’s Curse (The Monsarrat Series Book One)

Author: Meg and Tom Keneally

Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime

Publisher: Vintage/Penguin Random House

Published: 27th February 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A fast-paced, witty and gripping historical crime series from Tom Keneally and his eldest daughter Meg.

In the Port Macquarie penal settlement for second offenders, at the edge of the known world, gentleman convict Hugh Monsarrat hungers for freedom. Originally transported for forging documents passing himself off as a lawyer, he is now the trusted clerk of the settlement’s commandant.

His position has certain advantages, such as being able to spend time in the Government House kitchen, being supplied with outstanding cups of tea by housekeeper Hannah Mulrooney, who, despite being illiterate, is his most intelligent companion.

Not long after the commandant heads off in search of a rumoured river, his beautiful wife, Honora, falls ill with a sickness the doctor is unable to identify. When Honora dies, it becomes clear she has been slowly poisoned.

Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney suspect the commandant’s second-in-command, Captain Diamond, a cruel man who shares history with Honora. Then Diamond has Mrs Mulrooney arrested for the murder. Knowing his friend will hang if she is tried, Monsarrat knows he must find the real killer. And so begins The Monsarrat Series, a fast-paced, witty and gripping series from Tom Keneally and his eldest daughter, Meg.

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This is another series that I have had on my shelf for years and have only just started reading. All the books in this series are out, so hopefully I can get through them over the next few weeks or months. The first book introduces us to Hugh Llewellyn Monsarrat, a gentleman convict who is towards the end of his sentence in 1825. He is friendly with a local housekeeper, Hannah Mulrooney, and Hugh now works as the clerk for the commandant of the Port Macquarie settlement in 1825.

It is around this time that the commandant heads off – and his wife, Honora starts getting ill, and eventually dies. When Hannah is accused, Monsarrat sets out to uncover the real killer.

The mystery within The Soldier’s Curse starts out slowly – as an illness that the doctors have several ideas as to what it might be – but poisoning does not cross their minds until it is too late, and this is where it is clever, as once Honora dies, the investigation Hugh conducts ramps up – whereas  before he is an observer, and finds himself reflecting on the events that led him to where he is at the stage of the novel. As a result, there is a lot of backstory and build up, yet I think it helps contribute to the setting and feelings of the characters and mystery. Hugh is determined to prove Hannah Mulrooney is not guilty – the presumption that she is guilty because those in charge of finding out what happens ignore the access that others had to what may have to Honora and her home.

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Whilst Hugh navigates his position between the world of convicts, education and freedom, he also observes how the Indigenous people of the area the settlers named Port Macquarie – the Birpai – interact with the newcomers to their land, and the intersections of these communities in different ways – from those who do not come into contact, to the Birpai returning absconding convicts and to those mentioned who are said to have relationships (though this is not expanded on) with the settlers – of which, knowing history, there would have been negative ones as well as the positive ones hinted at in this book. As these stories are not always told, having them mentioned brings them to light at least, and readers can, from there, explore this area of history further to gain a better understanding of what happened in those early colonial days. It will be interesting to see how this is further explored in future books. There are complexities of relationships between convicts, jailers and free settlers, between the Indigenous people and the Europeans, and indeed, between the men and women, as well as between Englishmen and Irish or Scottish folk dealt with in this novel throughout. It felt as though these were carefully considered through the lens of Hugh, and based on his personality, and ways of understanding the world. Inequality is highlighted in many ways here – as is the hierarchy of everyone there. The way this is navigated throughout is consistently there, even if not mentioned on every page: there is a constant feeling that this is all going on at the time. It reflects a world where nobody quite understands each other and struggles to find a way to collaborate.

As the start of a series, it is very dense in establishing the character and his history,  yet as with any series with a key character, there is always more to come in subsequent books – the little things that have not come to the surface yet, and questions about the character that were not answered in the first book. I have the four that are already out on my shelf and hope to get through them all soon. It is an intriguing read about colonial history, and colonies other than Sydney Cove as well as the various interactions between the original inhabitants and those brought here for punishment, and the attitudes towards those two groups from the people who south to enforce their authority. A great start to a series.

2019 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Completed,

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At the start of the year, I pledged to read fifteen books across the year, and ended up reading one hundred, and reviewing about ninety-seven of those – as some were read for my job as a quiz writer and I didn’t get a chance to review them all.

Of the one hundred, it is hard to choose a favourite, however one highlight was meeting the author of the Ella and Olivia books, and the Puppy Diaries books, Yvette Poshoglian, and getting to read and review a book I edited earlier this year. I read quite broadly, in various genres, as well as kids, young adult and adult books.

I completed the Matilda Saga this year – and hope to reread the entire series back to back soon. It was a journey of one hundred years of the people of Gibber’s Creek, and has to be one of the most well written and well-researched series I’ve ever read. Below is my list, and linked reviews.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed

  1. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  2. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  3. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  4. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne– Reviewed
  6. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed/Revisited post
  7. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  8. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  9. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  10. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  11. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  12. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  13. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer– Reviewed
  14. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor– Reviewed
  15. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte– Reviewed
  16. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  17. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  18. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  19. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  20. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career Began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  21. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  22. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  23. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton– Reviewed, Interview
  24. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  25. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  26. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip– Reviewed
  29. Life Before by Carmel Reilly– Reviewed
  30. The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green – Reviewed
  31. The Monster Who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley – Reviewed
  32. The Lost Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  33. Lintang and The Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss– Reviewed
  34. The Great Toy Rescue (Puppy Diaries #1) by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  35. As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin – Reviewed
  36. Women to the Front: The Extraordinary Australian Women Doctors of the Great War by Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee – Reviewed
  37. Deltora Quest: The Shifting Sands by Emily Rodda– Reviewed
  38. Deltora Quest: Dread Mountain by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  39. Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  40. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers– Reviewed
  41. Eco Warriors: Microbat Mayhem by Candice Lemon-Scott – Work book, not reviewed.
  42. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer – Reviewed
  43. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  44. Fled by Meg Keneally – Reviewed
  45. The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8)– Reviewed
  46. The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins– Reviewed
  47. Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #6)– Reviewed
  48. Deltora Quest: The Maze of the Beast by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  49. Deltora Quest: The Valley of the Lost by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  50. Deltora Quest: Return to Del by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  51. Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  52. Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – Reviewed
  53. Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail– Reviewed
  54. Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey– Reviewed
  55. Firewatcher #1: Brimstone by Kelly Gardiner – Reviewed
  56. The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades– Reviewed
  57. The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus– Reviewed
  58. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  59. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  60. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  61. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  62. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  63. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson– Reviewed
  64. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  65. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed
  66. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  67. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan– Reviewed
  69. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett– Reviewed
  70. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – Reviewed
  71. Whisper by Lynette Noni– Reviewed
  72. The Glimme by Emily Rodda-Reviewed
  73. The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch – Reviewed
  74. Weapon by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  75. Total Quack Up Again by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  76. The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  77. With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story) – Reviewed
  78. The Lily in the Snow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  79. Christmas Lilies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  80. The Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  81. The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  82. Clancy of the Overflow by Jackie French – Reviewed
  83. Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  84. The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  85. The Drowned Kingdom (Impossible Quest #4) by Kate Forsyth– Reviewed
  86. Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  87. Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed
  88. Ella and Olivia: Reef Explorers by Yvette Poshoglian – Work book, not reviewed
  89. Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  90. Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  91. Gom’s Gold by S.L. Mills– Reviewed
  92. Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  93. Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming by Belinda Murrell– Reviewed
  94. Mermaid Holidays #4: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas – Reviewed
  95. Ask Hercules Quick by Ursula Dubosarsky – quiz book, not reviewed
  96. Isle of Illusion (Deltora Quest: Shadowlands #2) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  97. The Shadowlands (Deltora Quest Shadowlands #3) by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  98. Deltora Quest Shadowlands Omnibus by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  99. Pippa’s Island: Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell – Reviewed

Next year, I am aiming to read twenty-five – and will post my official sign up post soon.

Book Bingo 2019 Round Up and Intro to 2020

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As 2019 comes to an end, I am starting to wrap up my reading challenges and getting my wrap-up posts done. First cab off the rank is for #BookBingo with Amanda and Theresa, wrapping up just before Christmas, with the rest to follow shortly or early in the new year.

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This year, I completed the following Bingo Card by September – where we had to double up a few times to make the card fit the year – some categories proved to be tougher than others, and there were a few I stretched for my needs but in the end it all worked. Next year, in 2020, we’re back with a glittery card with fewer squares and less restrictive categories to make finding books easier – something we all struggled with this year in various ways. Chances are, we may pick the same books again, as so often we do, but this is half the fun, and we get a good laugh out of it. Below is my text bingo card, with all the reviews linked.

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A link to this post itself will be included in my year-round round-up as well, which will hopefully capture all my links and roundups neatly. As for the 2020 card, I already have a few ideas but will also be hoping to find some new reads as the year goes on, so I will not be choosing any yet, but will still have these ideas in the back of my mind just in case I need them.

Book Bingo

Rows Across:

Row One: BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

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

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

 

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

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 Four: – BINGO

 

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

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

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: BINGO

 

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

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

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

 

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: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

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

Row three: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

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

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

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

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five: BINGO

 

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

I have provided the links once, but the images twice as they appear in different rows and columns, and hopefully, this has captured it all as a snapshot of what I have done this year for my Book Bingo challenge. Until next year, when my book bingo posts will appear on the second Saturday of each month.

Best books of 2010 to 2019

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In compiling this list, I had to go back to all my reading log lists – which I began in about 2006, and to date have over 1300 on my combined list. But in doing this, I discovered it was quite difficult to narrow things down to just a handful of ten or fifteen like Theresa did. In fact, there was one series that had one book a year from 2010 to 2019 that could have made up my entire list – but instead, it has comprised one entry as a series.

So, in no particular order:

The Matilda Saga (2010 – 2019)

The Matilda Saga began with A Waltz for Matilda in 2010 and ended this year with the ninth and final book, Clancy of the Overflow. It tells history from a different side – the voices often silenced based on race, gender, class or a combination of these, and other factors such as disability, and other experiences that are not always recorded in the history books. From 1894 to the 1980s, the series spans nearly one hundred years of changes in Australian society – from cars to Federation, to war and the social movements of the sixties and seventies. This is a series well-deserving of a place on this list.

Miss Lily series (2017-2019)

Miss Lily begins just before the outbreak of World War One and has taken us so far to the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression that would lead into Nazi Germany and another war that would see millions killed in concentration camps, and on the battlefield. With book four due out in 2020, this is a series I am watching keenly to see where it takes us and our beloved Sophie. The Miss Lily series also has three e-books set at Christmas, one of which I am yet to read.

Medoran Chronicles (2014-2019)

This has a place as a whole series because this is the series that got my blogging journey started seriously – when the publisher was looking for reviewers for the first book, Akarnae. I said I would, and from there, the blog grew, as did my love for the series, reviewing each subsequent book for Pantera Press over the years until the final one earlier this year, Vardaesia. From wonder to heartbreak, and everything in between, this series has it all, and the way certain aspects are executed are exceptional and done in a way that is heart-warming, heartbreaking, and very, very fitting for the characters.

Rowland Sinclair Mysteries (2010 – 2019)

Ahh, Rowly. I was introduced to Rowland Sinclair by the NSW Writer’s Centre when they were seeking reviewers with book two, and since then, have read the entire series and sent the reviews to Pantera Press. I am looking forward to reading more of these books as they come out. Poor Rowly has been through many beatings and been caught up in investigating many murders, attacks and with politics that are quite the opposite to his brother, Wilfred. Accompanied by sculptress, Edna, fellow artist, Clyde, and communist Jewish poet, Milton, Rowly travels the world and Australia during the turbulent 1930s as Europe hurtles towards yet another war, twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars.

Kensy and Max (2018-2019)

I have read all four available Kensy and Max books, and love them all. They’re fun, and engaging, and filled with danger, wonder, intrigue and friends. As spy kids, Kensy and Max – twins – are training with fellow students at Pharos, whilst trying to keep the kids who aren’t spies at school from discovering what they are up to, and travelling across the world on various missions. From London to Sydney, Rome and Paris, it seems trouble will always find Kensy and Max – but they will always manage to find a way out of it and get back to their family.

2010

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Now by Morris Gleitzman

2011

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

2012

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

2013

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

2014

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The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

2015

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The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

2016

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

2017

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Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

2018

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Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

2019

488 Rules

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan

Again, many of these are Australian authors, some with multiple entries but their books just stayed with me and wouldn’t let me rest, for a variety of reasons. Of course, some appeared on my list for this year – as the books for the year, but these are the ones that made deep impacts on me, and the ones I can actually remember being published in these years – some I wanted to include I wasn’t sure but I loved them anyway and may need to write something about other books I have enjoyed at some point when things calm down. As for the ones with entries in both – these were ones that had such impact, it was difficult to choose which book from the series to include.

So rather than one per year, I probably now have closer to up to five for each year, and many are fairly heavy in what they deal with, but some are lighter, and filled with humour. It was very hard to decide – I wanted to include everything possible! Okay, 2016 has two entries – but for very different reasons. Upon reading the reviews you will see why. So there you have it. The books that made the biggest impressions on me for many, many reasons over the past ten years. Some authors get multiple mentions – because they wrote books that had many impacts on me and they created worlds I never want to leave, and worlds I will have to revisit.

 

Book Bingo Twenty-Five – A Novel over 500 pages, and BINGO – Card completed.’

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December already, and I have completed my bingo card for the year – BINGO! Over the past twelve months, with Theresa and Amanda, and several others, I have taken part in several challenges, including Book Bingo. This post will focus on my final square – a novel (or book) of over 500 pages, and in my next and final post for the year, I will do my final wrap up of the challenge, to link into an overall 2019 wrap-up in the new year.

 

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My final square was the 500-page book – which I always felt this year would be difficult as not many books had come across my desk that were 500 or more pages. However, on #LoveYourBookshopDay, I bought a book called Rebel Women Who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, and then received a review copy of The Book of Dust Volume Two: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, and decided that would work too – as it was well over 500 pages. In fact, it was well over 600 pages!

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First, The Secret Commonwealth. Fans of His Dark Materials and La Belle Sauvage have been waiting a long time for this one. Taking place ten years after we leave Lyra in Oxford after her adventures, and twenty years after La Belle Sauvage, where Lyra is delivered by Alice and Malcolm to the safety of Jordan College, we are back with Lyra and Pan. But something is different. Readers have known something has changed with Lyra and Pan since The Amber Spyglass, but for a time, we’re not sure what – until a series of events sets Lyra and Pan off on a journey across Europe and Asia, in search of a secret city for daemons! Filled with adventure, thrills and mystery interspersed with the fantasy themes, this is a wonderful addition to the series, and very much deserves the lengthy review I gave it, especially after the way it ended and I hope we get a resolution to it soon. Some books need 500 or more pages – and this is one of them, as there is so much going on with Lyra, Pan, Malcolm, Hannah, Alice and the Magisterium, as well as old friends, Ma Costa and Farder Coram, that no word was wasted, and there was action and intrigue on every page and it slowed down where it needed to, and sped up where it needed to as well.

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The second book that I read for this square was Rebel Women Who Changed Australia, a biography that included the stories of women throughout Australian history from a variety of backgrounds who made ground-breaking changes in the industries they went into, even though many would doubt them. Many overlapped as well, and knew each other, which made it more interesting. Many of these stories were ones that I did not know initially, and nor did I know many of the names. I feel knowing these stories of these women, like not knowing our Indigenous history, is a huge oversight in our education system, where many accounts we read and learn about are from white men, even if these other, more diverse accounts were available. Knowing them is the exception, rather than the rule, and I believe there is room for all to be told, starting with books like this, which are really interesting and filled with the stories we should know.

BINGO!

Rows Across:

Row One: BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row three: BINGO

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

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

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Well, that’s it for the year! I’ll be writing my final wrap up post for the twenty-first in the next week or so, and all the reviews will be collected there.

Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Updated-CTL-2018.pngTitle: Crossing the Lines

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Literary Fiction, Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Winner of the Ned Kelly Best Crime Fiction Award 2018

When Madeleine d’Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who’d never lower himself to read the story in which he stars, amuses her.

When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d’Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled.

As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other’s story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

This is a story about two people trying to hold onto each other beyond reality.

“…a pure delight, a swift yet psychologically complex read, cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed.” – Dean Koontz

“A tour de force!…a brilliant blend of mystery, gut-wrenching psychological suspense and literary storytelling… a shining (and refreshing) example of meta-fiction at its best – witty and wry, stylish and a joy to read.” – Jeffery Deaver

~*~

What happens when author and character write about each other, each thinking that the other is their own creation? Sulari Gentill explores this in Crossing the Lines, as Madeleine d’Leon contemplates writing something so different to what she usually writes, the limb she goes out on with Ned McGinnity begins to bleed into her life – and Ned begins to write about her. Leaving behind her much-loved and sought-after private detective, Madeleine delves into the world of Ned McGinnity, a serious novelist writing about Madeleine the crime novelist, who writes quirky, whimsical mysteries.

Yet as Ned and Madeleine write about each other – a crime novelist writing about a serious novelist, and a serious novelist writing about a crime novelist – the lines between reality and fiction, writer and character begin to blur, and their worlds begin to meld. Madeleine seems to fall into Ned’s world more than him into hers, but there is a feeling of connection beyond creation between the two – where the author becomes the character and the character becomes the author, and two worlds begin to collide.

2019 BadgeSulari Gentill has stepped away from Rowland Sinclair here – yet as she also as the Young Adult Hero Trilogy, it is interesting and fun to see the different things she can do with her characters and how they each remain faithful to their own books and works. Here, she has cleverly explored the relationship between character and author, and the act of writing and where it can take the author – sometimes to places that the author least expects, as happens to Madeleine in this book.

Filled with the complexities of the relationship of character and writing, this book has a feeling of meta-fiction to it – where the author character is writing about her character, and vice versa. It can be a confusing concept to try and understand, it is in essence, a piece of work of fiction, where the author uses parody, or departs from the traditional conventions of the novel. In this case, using the fictional author’s character to tell story as well as the fictional author, in an attempt to look at the various ways genre can be explored and how authors respond to genre.

This was a fun read – a few people Sulari knows make cameos, adding to the metafiction feeling, and showing that there are many ways to tell a good story, and many ways to write a story. It is an intriguing read for all, and one that I managed to read in one sitting, and now I must wait for my next taste of Sulari’s work with the tenth Rowland Sinclair next year.