When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hardTitle: When the Ground is Hard
Author: Malla Nunn
Genre: Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: This CBCA short-listed book is a stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.
SHORTLISTED: CBCA 2020 Awards, Book of the Year, Older Readers

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learning the true meaning of friendship.

A Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2020 Notable Book, Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, winner of the 2019 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, winner of the Children’s Book Committee’s 2020 Josette Frank Award and shortlisted for the 2020 LA Times Book Prize for Young Adults.

~*~

In apartheid-era Swaziland, Adele Joubert and Lottie Diamond attend Keziah Christian Academy – a boarding school for mixed race students. These are the students who are somewhere in the middle of the racial and social rankings based on the apartheid system but are still separated from white and black communities based on the laws of the time. Adele has been part of the popular crowd. That is, until her slot in the pretties is taken by a richer girl. Adele is relegated to sharing a room with the poor student, Lottie Diamond, and Dead Lorraine’s room.

At first, Adele and Lottie struggle to get along, but find connection in books, specifically Jane Eyre, and a time when you can be cast out and bullied for the slightest difference. As Lottie and Adele’s friendship with each other, and fellow student, Darnell, grows, the two girls face bullies and tragedy together. They fight for their place to belong, and stand up against vindictive and at times, racist teachers.

AWW2020The disappearance of a fellow student brings them closer together, and they learn more about themselves, each other and their heritage than they ever knew, and Adele finds that she can be herself with Lottie. She doesn’t have to pretend like she had to with her former friends. Lottie is a true friend, and she guides Adele through a tricky few weeks as the two girls form a bond that ensures they will always have each other when they face the cruelties of their school, society and the Bosman family.

Set in the 1960s, this book is threaded with the undercurrents and impacts of
racism, oppression and apartheid in a world that isn’t accepting of difference, illustrated through the treatment of students based on wealth, how the Bosman family treats Keziah students through racism, and the power he thinks he should have over them. It is also shown through the teachers – the assumption that the American missionary teachers are better than those they work with, and how Adele is also treated differently to Lottie at times, based on wealth and preconceived ideas.

This book speaks to the heart and difficulties of South Africa and Swaziland under the rule of apartheid. The rules and laws are threaded throughout as Adele tells her story of the first few weeks of the new school year, and her experiences. Some are universal, and some are unique to her and her society. This is what makes the book powerful. The thrum of an African heart beats throughout this novel, and evokes a sense of time, place and character. The land is a strong aspect a strong character. It is perhaps stronger than the Christian religion Adele tries to uphold. It is Lottie who unlocks this power within Adele, the shared Swazi and Zulu identity, and shows her that she can accept all parts of her identity.

I can see why this book has received so many awards, commendations and nominations. It is diverse yet seen through eyes that not many of us have. It is an experience that some readers won’t know much about, but there are universal themes of friendship, class, race, and gender that everyone will find something they can relate to. Adele and Lottie were powerful, diverse and complicated characters, who helped each other grow throughout the novel and found something that connected them more than anything that had ever connected Adele to the popular girls.

As I read this book, I could smell and hear Africa, I could feel Africa. The animals, the grass, the voices and the music. It is woven delicately and subliminally through the narrative, and presents a backdrop that gives When the Ground is Hard a true sense of place and transports the reader to a time and place when things were grim, but where the power of friendship could bring light to people’s lives.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Moonflower MurdersTitle: Moonflower Murders
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 18th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 608
Price: $32.99
Synopsis: Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders. A labyrinth of clues. A mystery novel hiding a deadly secret. A killer with a fiendish plot: a brilliantly intricate and original thriller from the bestselling author of Magpie Murders,
‘A beautiful puzzle: fiendishly clever and hugely entertaining. A masterpiece.’ Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party
Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend. But life isn’t as idyllic as it should be: exhausted by the responsibility of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, Susan is beginning to miss her literary life in London – even though her publishing career once entangled her in a lethal literary murder plot.
So when an English couple come to visit with tales of a murder that took place in a hotel the same day their daughter Cecily was married there, Susan can’t help but find herself fascinated.
And when they tell her that Cecily has gone missing a few short hours after reading Atticus Pund Takes The Case, a crime novel Susan edited some years previously, Susan knows she must return to London to find out what has happened.
The clues to the murder and to Cecily’s disappearance must lie within the pages of this novel.
But to save Cecily, Susan must place her own life in mortal danger…Want to read more Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland? Order a copy of Sunday Times bestseller and the #1 ebook bestseller MAGPIE MURDERS, out now.
~*~

Moonflower Murders brings the mysteries of Magpie Murders back after a four-year interlude. Susan Ryeland is now retired, living in Greece and running a hotel with partner, Andreas. Yet Alan Conway and his final novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, are back to haunt her when the Trehernes come to her to help them find Cecily, their daughter. They’re convinced that the editor of the last book Cecily read can help them, as the events fictionalised in the book happened at the same place Cecily got married. And so the mystery within a mystery begins.

The first third of the book is Susan’s story as she travels from Greece to London to help the Treherne family, where she is drawn back into the world of Alan and his detective. In this novel however, we get a treat. The manuscript referred to in the first book is ‘published’ in this book as part of the story – the novel within a novel that is at the heart of Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders.

This book builds on the cozy crime genre, first with Susan’s story, and second, with the Attius Pünd novel that she reads, and that readers get to read in rea; time, so to speak, with her. The clues to the case are cleverly peppered throughout both Susan’s story and Conway’s novel, which is also set out just like a published novel – a nod to the publishing world and the metafiction aspect of this novel and series that Horowitz has cleverly created, whilst paying homage to the Golden Age of crime fiction – Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and so many others that have shaped the crime fiction genre.

This self-referential work – to the crime genre, the publishing world and writing in general, also uses word play to tell this story. It allows Anthony to explore the story in a unique yet classical way that suits the story and plot, and when read all together, makes sense. The clues are subtle enough for the reveal to be a surprise, yet at the same time, honours and uses the tropes that are well-known in crime fiction yet feels fresh and unique at the same time.

I’d recommend reading Magpie Murders first. Otherwise, you may be confused whilst reading this one, and some aspects won’t fit in nicely. It follows on well from the second, and takes place in a pre-COVID world, around 2015. This ensures the story takes place unhindered by the current pandemic, so the characters can move freely. I really enjoyed this one and think fans of the series and Anthony Horowitz will enjoy it.

 

A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

a clue for claraTitle: A Clue for Clara
Author: Lian Tanner
Genre: Mystery, Humour, Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Can a scruffy chicken crack a crime? Perhaps, if she’s a genius like Clara. An egg-cellent novel about a small chook and a big crime by the highly acclaimed author of Ella and the Ocean
‘GREETINGS. AM LOOKING FOR A MAJOR CRIME TO SOLVE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY RECENT MURDERS, KIDNAPPINGS OR JEWEL HEISTS IN THIS AREA.’

Clara wants to be a famous detective with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore.

There’s just one problem. She’s a small scruffy chook, and no one takes her seriously.

But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal.

A puzzling and hilarious mystery from bestselling author, Lian Tanner.

~*~

Scruffy-looking chook Clara loves solving mysteries and watching detectives on television. The rest of the chooks at the farm she lives on with the Boss aren’t very impressed with Clara or her eggs, so when the local police constable and his daughter stop by to talk about a rash of stock thefts, Clara hops into their car, and heads home with them, where she begins to investigate with Olive’s help, to save their town, Little Dismal. But as Clara and Olive investigate, they will discover that there is more to the case than everyone can see.

Told in alternating perspectives through diary entries by Clara – a day-by-day run down using certain times of the day, and letters from Olive to her mother, the novel is fun and engaging, and gives as much joy and story as a traditional narrative – and for these characters, it works very well to get across who they are, and how they operate in the world, with each other and with everyone around them.

Clara’s diary entries are entertaining – the human world seen through the eyes of a chicken, who needs to find a way to get the humans to believe her. But how can Clara communicate with Olive and Digby, and get them to believe her?

As the story reveals clues and ideas, Clara has her mind set on one suspect – Jubilee Crystal Simpson – and using a phone to communicate with Olive, is determined to solve the case for Olive and her father, and prove her theory correct, whilst Olive finds a way to deal with her mother’s death, and the way she is now treated around town and at school.

 

AWW2020

A Clue for Clara explores crime in an entertaining and light-hearted way for younger readers whilst still managing to communicate how serious the stock thefts are in a small country town. It is a fun read that explores friendship, death, acceptance and secrets in an accessible way through the eyes of a most unlikely hero and her human sidekick. Animals as main characters in books for younger readers is something, I have been noticing a lot of, especially in Australian middle grade and junior fiction – llamas, chickens, pigeons and many more, and others to come. I don’t know what they will be, but the opportunities are endless, and I look forward to seeing what comes up next. Animals make for fun characters, and Clara is no exception.

We mostly heard from Clara, but through her observations that take place hour to hour, and Olive’s letters, we learn about the town, and the people who live there, and what they do to get by. It is a funny, and charming book that is filled with great lines such as ‘You are not a duck,’ (read the book to understand this), and Clara’s love of Inspector Garcia and Amelia X, and many other things that make this a lot of fun, and a joy to read for all ages and readers.

 

July 2020 Wrap Up

In July, I read twenty-two books, and have managed to complete my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – which I am still going with, and my Book Bingo Challenge. All those posts are written and scheduled, as are several others for reviews and my isolation publicity series, which ends on the twenty-first of this month. I’ve been doing a lot of reading since lockdown and restrictions began, and it has allowed me to get on top of my review list finally. Below are my July numbers and reviews.

 

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12

AWW2020 – 78/25

Book Bingo – 12/12

The Nerd Daily Challenge 47/52

Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25

Books and Bites Bingo 19/25

STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12

General Goal –130/165

July – 22

Book Author Challenge
Finding Eadie Caroline Beecham Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Emma Jane Austen Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Beyond Belief

 

Dee White Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Evie and Pog: Party Perfect Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Wild Way Home Sophie Kirtley Reading Challenge
The Schoolmaster’s Daughter Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear Jess Black Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out Jess Black Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Clue for Clara Lian Tanner AWWW2020, Reading Challenge
Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale Dominique Valente Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Tuesday Melina Marchetta Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Battle of Book Week Kate and Jol Temple AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams Emily Rodda AWW2020, Reading Challenge
The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum James Gardner Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo,
The Adventures of Princess Peony Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal Laura Sieveking AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser 

 

Kate Bailey Reading Challenge
Toffle Towers: The Great River Race Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome Katrina Nannestad AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Books and Bites Bingo
Toffle Towers: Order in the Court Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge
The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: A Treasure of poems for young people Compiled by Libby Hathorn Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge
Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze Reading Challenge
 

Reading Log

 

  1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
  2. Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  3. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  4. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
  5. The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
  6. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  7. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  8. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  9. The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
  10. The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
  12. Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
  13. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  14. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  16. Dragon Masters: Future of the Time Dragon by Tracey West
  17. The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s First Serial Murderer by Tanya Bretherton
  18. Dolphin Island: A Daring Rescue by Catherine Hapka
  19. The River Home by Hannah Richell
  20. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  21. Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen App)
  22. Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  23. Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  24. Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  25. The Story Puppy by Holly Webb
  26. Trails of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  27. The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting
  28. The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter
  29. The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller
  30. Captain Marvel Hero Storybook by Steve Behling
  31. Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  32. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  33. The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom by Katrina Charman
  34. Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5) by Jackie French
  35. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley
  36. The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  37. Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor by Holly Webb
  38. Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner
  39. The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning
  40. The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn
  41. Ninjago: Back in Action by Tracey West
  42. Layla and the Bots: Happy Paws by Vicky Fang
  43. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  44. Daring Delly: Going for Gold by Matthew Dellavedova and Zanni Louise
  45. Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach by Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo
  46. Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
  47. The Besties Make A Splash by Felice Arena and Tom Jellett
  48. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling/Newt Scamander
  49. Liberation by Imogen Kealey
  50. The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
  51. The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal
  52. Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian
  53. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  54. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt
  55. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski
  56. The Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates
  57. Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore
  58. Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  59. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  60. The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley
  61. The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke
  62. Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt
  63. Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice-Ross King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft
  64. Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml
  65. Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  66. Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina
  67. Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr
  68. Rescue on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  69. The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  70. The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love
  71. An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip
  72. Daisy Runs Wild by Caz Goodwin and Ashley King
  73. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley
  74. Her Perilous Mansion by Sean Williams
  75. What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  76. Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) by Petra Hunt
  77. The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  78. Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends by Charlotte Barkla
  79. Alice-Miranda at School (10th anniversary edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  80. Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey
  81. The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai
  82. Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman
  83. Orla and the Serpent’s Curse by C.J. Halsam
  84. A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink
  85. Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  86. Eloise and the Bucket of Stars by Janeen Brian
  87. Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  88. Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
  89. On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick
  90. Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  91. Lilies, Lies and Love (Miss Lily #4) by Jackie French
  92. Kid Normal and the Final Five by Greg James and Chris Smith
  93. Toffle Towers: Fully Booked by Tim Harris and James Foley
  94. Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell by Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford
  95. Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell
  96. When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin
  97. League of Llamas: Undercover Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  98. League of Llamas: Rogue Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  99. Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey
  100. The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
  1. The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce
  2. Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up by Angela Woolfe
  3. Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by Monique Mulligan and Kat Fox (Illustrator)
  4. Meet Mia by the Jetty by Janeen Brian and Danny Snell
  5. Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna
  6. Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup
  7. Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla
  8. Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham
  9. Emma by Jane Auste
  10. Beyond Belief by Dee White
  1. Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney
  2. The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
  3. The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by Jackie French
  4. Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black
  5. Kitty is Not a Cat: Lights Out by Jess Black
  6. A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner
  7. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale by Dominique Valente
  8. What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta
  9. The Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie) by Kate and Jol Temple
  1. Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda
  2. The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum by James Gardner
  3. The Adventures of Princess Peony by Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford
  4. Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal by Laura Sieveking
  5. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser by Kate Bailey
  6. Toffle Towers: The Great River Race by Tim Harris and James Foley
  1. The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  2. Toffle Towers: Order in the Court by Tim Harris
  3. The ABC Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Libby Hathorn
  1. Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze
  2. Lapse by Sarah Thornton
  3. A Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

Books and Bites Bingo

 

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

 

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

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

 

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go:

 

Eco-themes: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

A Neil Gaiman book:

Short story collection: Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen app

Published the year you were born:

Makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

 

 

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

 

Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

Someone you love’s fave book:

Made into a TV Series:

A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Fave childhood book:

 

STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge

  1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

  1. An Australian classic
  1. A book by an Indigenous Australian author

Meet Sam by the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna

  1. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction] 

Fiction: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte, The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai

Non-Fiction:

  1. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author

Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner

  1. A #LoveOzYA book

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

  1. A memoir by an Australian woman

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

  1. A poetry collection

The ABC Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Libby Hathorn

 

 

  1. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize

* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.

* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020 –

The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020 –

Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020 –

Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes

  1. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT

Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author

ACT: On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick

NT: An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip, Between Us by Claire Atkins

  1. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr (21st anniversary edition)

  1. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author 

Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

THE MODERN MRS. DARCY

2020 Reading Challenge

a book published the decade you were born:

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

a book recommended by a source you trust: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Amanda Barrett

a book by a local author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim – literary fiction

a book in translation: The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

a book nominated for an award in 2020: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)

a re-read:  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

a classic you didn’t read in school: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

three books by the same author:

  1. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  2. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  3. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt

The Nerd Daily 2020 Challenge

  1. Author Starting with A: Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
  2. Female Author: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  3. Purchased on Holidays: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  4. 2020 Film Adaptation: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. Fantasy or SciFi: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
  6. Recommended by Us: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  7. Under 200 pages: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  8. Six Word Title: The Binder of Doom: Speedah Cheetah by Troy Cummins, Death at the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  9. Written by two authors: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  10. Mystery/thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  11. Green Cover: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  12. Recommended by a friend: Any Ordinary Day be Leigh Sales
  13. Set in the past: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  14. 2019 Goodreads Choice Winner:
  15. A book you never finished: The Louvre by James Gardiner (Never finished in time to review for release date, managed to finish after)
  16. Protagonist starting with H: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally, Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  17. Reread: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  18. Non-fiction: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
  19. Released in February: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking, The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
  20. Part of a duology: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley
  21. New York times best seller:
  22. Recommended by family:
  23. Over 500 pages:
  24. An award-winning book: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award 2019
  25. Orange cover: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  26. Bookstore recommended: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  27. A number in the title: Alice-Miranda at School (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  28. An audiobook: Radio National Fictions (various short stories)
  29. Debut author: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  30. Inspired my mythology/folklore: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr,
  31. A retelling: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  32. A one-word title: Liberation by Imogen Kealey
  33. Bought based on cover: Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  34. Author that starts with M: What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  35. Start a new series: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  36. A book released in 2019: The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom by Katrina Charman
  37. Male author: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  38. 2020 TV Adaptation:
  39. A book gifted to you: Captain Marvel Hero Storybook by Steve Behling
  40. Author with a hyphenated name: Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  41. Released in September: The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
  42. Purchased years ago:
  43. A standalone: The River Home by Hannah Richell
  44. Author with the same initials:
  45. Told from two perspectives: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  46. Romance or thriller: Liberation by Imogen Kealey, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  47. A protagonist starting with S: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell (Stella Montgomery)
  48. Two-word title: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr, Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  49. Set in a foreign country: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn, The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  50. Animal featured in cover: Dolphin Island: A Daring Rescue by Catherine Hapka
  51. Written by your favourite author: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  52. Based or inspired by a true story: Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor by Holly Webb, The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

Dymocks Reading Challenge

  1. A book by an Australian author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  2. A book by an Indigenous author: On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick, Meet Sam by the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna
  3. A book from our Top 101:
  4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell, Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month’:
  6. Re-read your favourite book of all time: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  7. Ask a friend for a recommendation: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
  8. A book featuring your favourite country: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)
  9. A book from your TBR pile: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  10. An award-winning book: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr – CBCA Honour Book, Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2017 – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
    WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
    HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017
  11. A Mystery/Thriller: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One), A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill
  12. A memoir:
  13. A book outside your usual genre: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  14. A book of short stories: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  15. A self-help/motivation: Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  16. A fairytale/fable adaptation: Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  17. Book one in a fantasy series: Trials of Apollo – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  18. A book that teaches you something new: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  19. A book with a red cover: Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  20. A book with a colour in the title: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  21. A book you can read in a day: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell, Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  22. A book about books: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  23. A book that made you laugh: Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian, The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  24. A book published this year: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t: Emma by Jane Austen

Australian Women Writers Challenge – 25

 

  1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
  2. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  3. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
  4. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  5. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  6. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  7. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  8. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  9. The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s First Serial Murderer by Tanya Bretherton
  10. The River Home by Hannah Richell
  11. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  12. Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  13. Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  14. The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller
  15. Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  16. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  17. Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5) by Jackie French
  18. The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  19. Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner
  20. The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning
  21. The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn
  22. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  23. Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach by Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo
  24. Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
  25. The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
  26. The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal
  27. Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian
  28. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  29. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt
  30. The Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates
  31. Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore
  32. Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  33. Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt
  34. Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft
  35. Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)
  36. Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  37. Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina
  38. Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr
  39. Rescue on Nim’s Island
  40. The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  41. An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip
  42. Daisy Runs Wild by Caz Goodwin and Ashley King
  43. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley
  44. What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  45. Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) by Petra Hunt
  46. The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  47. Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends by Charlotte Barkla
  48. Alice-Miranda at School (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  49. Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey
  50. Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman
  51. Eloise and the Bucket of Stars by Janeen Brian
  52. A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink
  53. Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  54. Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
  55. Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  56. Lilies, Lies and Love (Miss Lily #4) Lilies by Jackie French
  57. Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell by Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford
  58. When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin
  59. League of Llamas: Undercover Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  60. League of Llamas: Rogue Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  61. Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey
  62. The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
  63. The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce
  64. Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by Monique Mulligan and Kate Fox (Illustrator)
  65. Meet Mia by the Jetty by Janeen Brian and Danny Snell
  66. Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla
  67. Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham
  68. Beyond Belief by Dee White
  69. Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney
  70. The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by Jackie French
  71. Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black
  72. Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out by Jess Black
  73. A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner
  74. What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta
  75. The Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie) by Kate and Jol Temple
  76. Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda
  77. The Adventures of Princess Peony by Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford
  78. Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal by Laura Sieveking
  79. The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  80. Lapse by Sarah Thornton
  81. A Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

 

Book Bingo – BINGO

 

Themes of culture – The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

Themes of inequality – The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Themes of Crime and Justice – A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Themes of politics and power – The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

About the environment – The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai

Prize winning book – Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award

Friendship, family and love – Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Coming of age – Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

Set in a time of war – The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

Set in a place you dream of visiting – The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)

Set in an era you’d love to travel back in time to – Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (Minoan Times)

A classic you’ve never read before – Emma by Jane Austen

 

 

 

Lapse by Sarah Thornton

LapseTitle: Lapse

Author: Sarah Thornton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: All it took was a lapse…a momentary lapse…to bring Clementine Jones’ world crashing down. Now she’s living like a hermit in small-town Katinga, coaching the local footy club. She’s supposed to be lying low, but here she is, with her team on the cusp of their first premiership in fifty years—and the whole bloody town counting on her, cheering her on.

So why the hell would her star player quit on the eve of the finals?

It’s a question she wishes she’d left alone. Others are starting to ask questions too—questions about her. Clem’s not the only one with a secret, and as tension builds, the dark violence just below the town’s surface threatens to erupt. Pretty soon there’ll be nowhere left for Clem to hide.

~*~

Clementine Jones watched her world crash down months ago, and is now hiding in Katinga, coaching their football team while she grapples with her past, the secrets and the events that led her to this place. As she prepares the team for their biggest win in fifty years, and the finals, her star player quits – and this begins a mystery to find out why, and what the town is hiding. At the same time, Clem must do her best to keep her secrets, and convince people she wants to help. As doubt grows in all minds about everyone in the town, Clementine will soon uncover something that could endanger too many people and feed into a desire to cover something up and let an innocent party take the blame.

I won this book in a Facebook giveaway, in a book lover’s event group I’m part of. It was started by L.J.M Owen, an author I follow, and read, at the start of the pandemic when the literary community realised they’d have to cancel many, many, author events. Australia’s literary community has, since March, found ways to move events online – blog tours, interviews, online launches, and many more, with a few socially distant author appearances in bookstores during the past few weeks in some places as restrictions eased. Yet with some restrictions being tightened, we’re still doing these things online. Not only does it allow those who read and write books to connect, it makes these events accessible to those who might not be able to get to a physical event. It is a trend that I hope continues.

AWW2020In this story, we have a mystery with a difference. The investigator isn’t a cop, but a shamed lawyer, running from her past, and hoping to find solace and safety in this new place. Every detailed is revealed when necessary, and some are cleverly held back to set up for a series – yet as readers we are given enough to get to know the characters and why Clementine is in Katinga and where she has been.

Each character and suspect is cleverly set up too. It got to the point where the only characters I found could trust were Clementine, Rowan, Clancy and Melissa (in terms of named characters who were involved in the major plot). Everyone else had elements of suspicion that follow them around, giving the novel its suspenseful, thriller aspect that drives it along at a good pace, with peaks and troughs. It is slow where it needs to be, fast where it needs to be and a medium pace where it needs to be to create the tension and intrigue that drive the novel.

Overall, it was an intriguing and well-written novel, with many elements of justice and truth, that slowly come out across the story. You must work for these aspects, but you know from the outset where you are, who is who, and what you will need to know to proceed. And the world, the town has been strongly created – the author has given us what we need to make sure we can use what is slowly revealed to fill in the gaps and uncover secrets. This is done in a strong and elegant way. It makes sense, and fits with the genre. It’s not overdone either, nor does it expect too much of the reader. At the same time, the reader is not spoon-fed – the balance in this book between asking the reader to solve the mystery and giving them what they need to know is presented eloquently and accessibly.

This is the first in a series, so I am sure that there are things that will be answered throughout the series as we uncover more about Clementine and what we already know.

 

Isolation Publicity with Andrew McDonald

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Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Andrew MacDonald is the author of many books for younger readers but is perhaps most well-known for his Real Pigeons series about crime fighting pigeons. Because this is what most people associate with him, he has become known as ‘the pigeon man’. Below, he discusses writing, where the idea for Real Pigeons came from, other crime fighting animals and gets to answer a question from the son of a friend who is a big fan of the books.

Hi Andrew, and welcome to The Book Muse!

  1. Your series Real Pigeons looks and sounds like fun – where did the idea for crime solving pigeons come from?

The idea first occurred to me when I was travelling overseas and realised that pigeons are one of the constants that you see, from country to country. They’re everywhere!

I started wondering what hidden agenda pigeons might have and it made sense that they would be selfless creatures protecting the world from evil. Plus, pigeons look hilarious. The way they waddle around always makes me laugh. The idea for a series of stories about funny, loveable and brave crime-fighting pigeons really took hold from there.

And it all came together when illustrator Ben Wood began drawing the world of the Real Pigeons.

  1. How many books do you have planned for the series?

We initially signed up to do six books in the series – and we’ve just agreed to do a further four with our publisher, Hardie Grant Egmont. As long as kids are reading and enjoying the books, I’m very happy to stay in that wacky pigeon world and keep telling birdie stories.

  1. Have you written other work, or do you find that people mostly recognise you as the author of real pigeons?

 

I wrote a couple of middle-grade novels a few years ago, but I’m definitely best known for Real Pigeons now. Some people now call me ‘Pigeon Man’ and ‘That Pigeon Guy’ and ‘Why does he like pigeons so much?’ I don’t mind though. At this stage, I find being associated with pigeons is a positive thing. They’re a lot smarter than people give them credit for.

  1. Anthropomorphic animals are always fun to read and write – what other animals do you think would be crime solvers like your pigeons?

Animals are ideal for crime-fighting and mystery solving because we – the human race – tend to overlook them so frequently.

I’ll bet cats are online trying to solve cold murder cases when their owners aren’t home.

I’ll bet the flying foxes that zoom over Melbourne at night know exactly where the crime is happening below (I assume crime has a distinct sonar-y feeling they pick up on).

And who knows how many dirt-level crimes are being stopped by cicadas beneath our feet. Unless the cicadas themselves are committing the crimes. I’ve never been sure about cicadas. They could go either way.

  1. With book five out in May 2020, did you have to cancel any launches or events due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

Yes, everything we had planned to celebrate the new book – Real Pigeons Peck Punches – got cancelled. Bookshop events, library workshops, bookseller visits – and an appearance at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Ben and I still wanted to do something special to mark the release of the new book. Something that would also let us connect with readers. So we’ve worked with Hardie Grant Egmont and launched a special YouTube series called The Super Coo Club.

Basically, The Super Coo Club features weekly videos of Ben and I chatting about Real Pigeons, talking about our creative processes and sharing some writing and drawing tips – while also mucking around and making complete fools of ourselves. That’s what we normally do at events, so that’s what we have done in these videos.

We’ve also asked Real Pigeons fans to send video questions to us. We’ll be answering those questions in the Super Coo Club videos. It’s going to be awesome having some interactivity with young readers, despite everyone being stuck at home

Oh – and each episode comes with writing ideas, drawing prompts and downloadable activity sheets so that kids can get creative themselves after watching the videos. We’re really hoping they enjoy what we’ve made and have fun – from the safety of home!

  1. Which of these events, or appearances were you the keenest for, and why? (It’s okay if you want to talk about all of them)

 

We did have a special event lined up for our appearance at the Sydney Writers Festival – a Real Pigeons Live Mystery with live storytelling, drawing and a mystery for the audience to solve. That would have been really fun. But it’s always about the kids. When you meet a young reader who has connected with something you’ve written, it doesn’t matter if you’re at a big festival or at a library in a town most people have never heard of. What matters is that you get to be a part of a child’s reading journey. And that’s the best thing in the world.

  1. What made you choose the age group you write for, and what are the challenges and joys in writing for this age group?

 

I don’t think I ever consciously chose an age group to write for – the humour and silliness that you see in the Real Pigeons books is just me. That’s what I’m like. Some might say I haven’t evolved much since I was at primary school. But I like to think that I’ve just retained – or at least remembered – the feeling of being that age.

The challenge is that you have strict parameters to work within when writing for a young reader, depending on their age. For example, the language and vocabulary need to be perfectly pitched and the stories can’t be too simple nor too complex. It’s a balancing act. But when it works, it’s so rewarding. Because kids can be very discerning readers – they’ll throw away a book quickly if it doesn’t click for them. But if they take to a book, they’ll often take to it passionately. And you can’t have passionate adult readers without first having passionate kid readers.

 

  1. You do many school visits – what kind of questions do the kids ask, and what is it like presenting to a junior school audience?

 

Presenting to a young audience isn’t without its challenges, but I find it really fun and rewarding.

If you’ve got a good story to tell and you can speak to kids on their level, then you’re bound to have a good time. Personally, I make lots of dumb jokes to get to ‘their level’. But there are lots of ways to do it.

And kids always ask smart questions. They want to know where you get your ideas from, which is essentially a question about how to facilitate and control creativity. They ask about characters and story choices. And they ask about the business of writing.

One question I get all the time is, ‘How much money do you make?’ That question can sound rude, at first, but it’s actually a great way to talk about how making books is a team effort. Authors are important but so are illustrators and editors and publishers and agents and printers and designers and marketing staff – among many others. It’s important that everyone gets paid for their work on a book.

  1. When on a school visit, what sort of things do you plan to include in your presentations and book talks?

 

I’ll always explain what drives me to write stories, how I went from being a kid who really loved writing stories to a published author as an adult. And I’ll explain my creative process. You can never tell anyone the best way to write their story with 100% authority. It’s different for everyone. What works for one person will not work for another. But I can model a creative process by demonstrating mine.

And, of course, I want to inspire kids to write and draw and read and be interested in the world around them. I love demonstrating how passionate I am about stories and reading, so they can see the effect these things have had on my life. A book can tell a great story. But it can also change your life. That’s a very powerful messag.

 

10. What sparked your love for the written word, and when did you decide you wanted to write books?

 

The spark came when I was a kid. I was so young I don’t even remember a sparky moment. I just always loved writing stories, drawing pictures and reading books. I often hung out in my school library just to help the librarian shelve books and sort book orders. What a book nerd!

As I got older, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I studied journalism at university, but around the same time I (re)started writing fiction. And so after I’d completed my degree, instead of getting a cadetship somewhere, I enrolled in RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing course. That course was amazing and it showed me how to write a book and how to go about the business of books too.

 

  1. How were you paired with illustrator, Ben Wood?

 

Ben and I didn’t know each other until Real Pigeons. I had already sold the manuscript to Hardie Grant Egmont, and they set out to find an illustrator. They had a pre-existing relationship with Ben, who had been illustrating Ailsa Wild’s very excellent Squishy Taylor series.

While I wasn’t actually involved in selecting an illustrator for the series, I remember saying to Hardie Grant Egmont that whoever they choose must be able to draw a hilarious-looking pigeon. Ben met that criterion straight away – and has since gone way beyond, illustrating an amazing universe of birds, animals and other absurdities.

 

12. Do you have any other series planned, or are you focused on Real Pigeons right now?

 

Right now we’re very much focused on Real Pigeons. We’ve just signed up to do books 7, 8, 9 and 10 in the series with Hardie Grant Egmont, which is really exciting. I still love spending time in our ridiculous pigeon world and I’m so honoured that kids are enjoying that world too.

 

13. I have a question from a young friend, Jarvis, who adores your books. He has asked if there will be a bin chicken and a wolf who will be best friends in future books?

 

Hello Jarvis! Nice to hear from you in the middle of this interview! Thanks for asking such a great question.

Have you met Straw Neck yet? She’s an ibis who makes her first appearance in the second book, Real Pigeons Eat Danger, when the pigeons meet her in a dumpster as she’s making inventions out of rubbish. I can imagine that Straw Neck would get along quite well with a wolf. She’s a straight talker and wouldn’t put up with any hijinks a wolf might try on.

You’ll definitely be seeing more of Straw Neck in the future. As for a wolf … you’ll have to wait and see, hehe!

 

14. Following on from that, would the pigeons ever team up with a cassowary or a kangaroo?

I especially like the thought of the Real Pigeons coming across a cassowary. Cassowaries are such beautiful, strong and dangerous birds. They’re like ninja emus that have dressed up in colourful party clothes. And I can just imagine the pigeons talking to a kangaroo who is convinced that hopping is better than flying. Who knows, maybe one of these ideas will show up in future books!

15. Working in the arts, you provide great entertainment for kids. For you, what does working in the arts sector mean, and what more can be done to support it?

 

It’s quite simply a privilege to write for kids and make a living working in the arts in this country. Being a white, middle-class man definitely put me in a good position to attempt a creative freelance career. I’m lucky. I think about that all the time. And it makes me determined to work hard and try to make the best art I possibly can, while I’m in this position.

But the arts industry in Australia is seriously underfunded. The industry is worth $15 billion yet federal arts funding keeps being reduced. And writers and literature organisations traditionally get a pretty small cut of whatever funding there is anyway. That makes it very hard for book writers and creators to establish themselves and maintain a career once they’re established. Australians are great readers. We buy lots of books, we read heaps. But there needs to be more support for emerging and established book creators, so that Australian readers can read Australian books. I don’t think that point can be overstated.

 

16. Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and which one do you find yourself always going back to?

 

I worked at Readings for many years, and they will always be one of my favourites. Their kids’ shop in Carlton is heavenly. But we’re lucky to have so many great bookshops in Australia.

The Little Bookroom in Carlton North is great. Avid Reader in Brisbane is awesome (as is its kids’ shop, Where the Wild Things Are). The Avenue bookshops are all amazing. And I actually think we’re lucky to have lots of bookshops in shopping centres, thanks to the likes of Robinsons, Dymocks, QBD and Harry Hartog. And I haven’t even mentioned some of the great regional bookshops like Squishy Minnie in Kyneton and Blarney Books in Port Fairy.

I could go on but if I wrote about every bookshop in Australia that I like, I’d use up all of the internet’s storage space.

 

  1. Did working as a bookseller help you work out what you wanted to write?

 

Working in bookshops reinforced my love for children’s literature more than anything. But it also exposed me to lot that has helped me on my author journey.

You’re obviously exposed to a lot of reading material when you’re in a bookshop every day. There are always ARCs to read. You get a good taste of what customers like (and don’t like). It’s interesting to chat to publishers who walk in to see how their books – and their competitors’ books – are tracking.

One of the things that I always think about, having worked in a couple of bookshops, is: how is a bookseller going to recommend a book to a customer?

In my experience as a bookseller, you get less than 30 seconds to pitch a book to a customer who has asked for help. That might not sound like much, but whenever I was asked for a kids’ book recommendations, I would throw a handful of books at the customer – with a few lines of recommendations for each one – then let the customer choose.

I think about this all the time because it reinforces just how straightforward the initial pitch for a book needs to be. Because if a bookseller can’t quickly summarise a book – or speak to a cultural reference point to help explain it – then there might be a problem.

 

18. What do you love about children’s and Young Adult literature?

 

I love that the books I read when I was young are the ones that mean the most to me today. I recently read and adored Normal People by Sally Rooney, but I’m not going to carry that book in my heart forever the way I carry Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harriet the Spy. I loved those books as a kid and they’re part of who I am in a very deep and integral way. That’s the power of children’s literature.

 

19. What is it like judging for an award such as the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award?

 

 

It was an amazing experience actually. I was judging the Young Adult category of the prize. There was a lot of reading involved, as you can imagine, but getting paid to read YA books and debate them with other people was a total joy.

It was also interesting reading an entire year’s worth of YA publishing in a small amount of time. It gave me a great overview of Australian YA that year. You could see the trends of that year – in terms of the styles and genres of books getting published. But it also impressed on me the quality and depth of local YA publishing programs.

 

20. Finally, do you have recommendations for good reads during isolation?

 

I struggled to read books when the pandemic first took hold. It was a stressful time and my brain was busy on other matters (reading the Guardian live blog compulsively, looking up value-for-money casserole recipes, etc).

But after a few weeks, things settled down and I resumed reading again. I’ve been reading Comet in Moominland as the Moomins are always a calming read in anxious times.

I’ve also been rereading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (in preparation to read the new Book of Dust volumes) and am about to read Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Clearly, I’m taking comfort in fantasy that takes me far away from my #isolife.

Any further comments?

 

Nothing except to say thank you for having me. And please say hi to Jarvis for me and thank him for the questions!

Thanks Andrew, and good luck with Real Pigeons!

 

Book Bingo Six 2020 Themes of Crime and Justice

Book Bingo 2020 clean

Welcome to the June edition of Book Bingo with Theresa Smith Writes and Mrs B’S Book Reviews. This time around, I am checking off Themes of Crime and Justice with the tenth book in the Rowland Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill, A Testament of Character.

Book bingo 2020

Rowly and his friends take a detour on their way home from China and find themselves in America looking into the death of an old friend of Rowly’s. As the story progresses, Rowly and his friends fall deeper into a mystery of deaths, and who killed Daniel, as well as who Otis Norcross is, and where he is. In terms of justice, it has more to it than just solving the crime. The justice system that gives certain people preferential treatment or deems certain proclivities criminal – and how Rowly and his friends help those they are working with deal with these issues in 1930s America. These issues are not always overt, but they are bubbling there and hinting at what is to come and why things are the way they are.

ATOC_3D

I’m finding this book bingo a bit easier. It means that there is the chance that all books will be read, reviewed and scheduled long before December, which is a bonus in trying to get through it all easily.

 

Isolation Publicity with Sonya Bates

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

My next interview is with Sonya Bates, author of The Inheritance of Secrets, one of the shortlisted authors of the inaugural Banjo Prize with HarperCollins Australia – in 2018. I reviewed it here on the 20th of April, it’s review date. Sonya, like many authors who have appeared, has had events, launches and appearances cancelled due to COVID-19. She agreed to participate in my Isolation Publicity series – there are more to come, and I am waiting for some answers to pop back, so be on the lookout over the next few weeks.

Inheritance of Secrets

Hi Sonya, and welcome to The Book Muse,

  1. Where did the idea for your novel, Inheritance of Secrets, come from?

The idea for Inheritance of Secrets came from a character – the character of Karl from the historical thread of the novel. Karl is a fictional character who was inspired by my dad, who grew up in Germany in the same era, when Hitler was in power. Like Karl, he was drafted at the age of eighteen and sent to war. My dad was such a quiet, peace-loving person and I couldn’t imagine him being involved in such a terrible part of history. It made me want to write something that involved an ordinary person caught up in terrible times.

  1. What was it like growing up being aware of what your father went through?

It wasn’t something I thought about a lot. It’s not something he talked about. He was just my dad. But every once in a while, something would trigger thoughts about it. Like around Remembrance Day when the teacher would ask if anyone’s father or grandfather had fought in either of the World Wars. I never said anything, because he’d fought on the side of the enemy (we were living in Canada).  I needn’t have been embarrassed about that. He was an ordinary man fighting for his country like so many thousands of men on both sides of the conflict were doing.

  1. Do you think novels like yours with basis on real events and experiences, and presented in a fictional way, can help people understand the grey areas of history and people?

That’s an interesting question. I know, from a reader’s perspective, I love historical fiction because it makes history personal. It puts the reader in a character’s head as they deal with the issues of the time, and gives history a sense of reality. It humanises it. It may also give readers a glimpse of the times of their ancestors, and allow them to connect with their own history. How factual it is depends on the author’s research and their understanding of the time, so in that sense it is, as is all history, one person’s perspective on the time period. But it can put a new slant on history, allow the reader to look at it from a new perspective and consider it in a different way. Novelists have been doing that for quite some time – think Jane Eyre, The Color Purple or The Book Thief. The stories of individual people behind the big events of history. And it’s becoming more prevalent in recent times, especially the telling of stories from the female perspective, which has traditionally been largely ignored in history. Hannah Kent’s novels are a great example, as is Molly Murn’s Heart of the Grass Tree. Inheritance of Secrets isn’t purely a historical novel, and the historical thread is deliberately linked to the contemporary story and designed to provide clues to the mystery. But early readers have said how interesting they’ve found it, and I love that they’ve connected with it.

  1. Roughly how long did it take you to write this novel?

From the first spark of an idea to publication? Probably ten years! But I wasn’t working on it all that time. The idea mulled around in my head for years before I started working on it. I was writing children’s fiction at the time as well as working in Speech Pathology. I dabbled around doing a bit of research and writing a couple of scenes. Ideas were building in my head, but I couldn’t seem to get them down. Finally I concluded that if I really wanted to tackle this, then I needed some dedicated time to write it. I took some time off and did just that. It took me about ten months to write the first draft. Then another couple of years editing before I thought it was close to ready for submission. I signed the contract with HarperCollins late in 2018.

  1. What sort of research beyond your father’s experiences did you undertake whilst working on Inheritance of Secrets?

 

Most of the research was done either online or in libraries and museums. I did talk to my dad some on the phone and when I visited him in Canada, but it wasn’t something he ever wanted to talk about, and so I didn’t pry about his own experiences. He shared a portion of his private memoirs with me while I was researching, and we spoke more in general terms, about the character Karl and what he might or might not have experienced. I relied more on reading memoirs and personal accounts, letters and diaries I found at the State Library or online. As well as scholarly texts on the time periods and the war years both in Germany and Australia. In 2018 I went to Germany and visited many of the museums dealing with the time before, during and after WWII, and also went to Halle (Saale) where Karl and Grete grew up, to walk the streets they would have walked and see the river park where they said their good-byes.

  1. What inspired you to enter the Banjo prize, and do you think it’s a good step for first time authors to take?

The Banjo Prize came at the perfect time for me. I’d done a number of edits on the manuscript, had feedback from beta readers, and felt I was almost ready to send it out to look for a publisher. I’d actually sent it off to a couple of agents, and while they weren’t prepared to offer me representation, they gave me detailed feedback that was immensely helpful. It was about that time that HarperCollins announced the launch of the Banjo Prize. I still wasn’t sure that the manuscript was ready, but basically thought, ‘You’ve gotta be in it to win it.’ So I did one last edit and sent it off with fingers crossed.

I think competitions like the Banjo Prize are a brilliant way for first time authors to get noticed. You can guarantee your manuscript will be read within a timely period for one, and if it does catch the attention of the publishers, even if you don’t win, being shortlisted for a competition looks great on your resume. And you never know, shortlisted manuscripts may be picked up, like mine was.

  1. After your manuscript was acquired, what did you have to do to get your work ready for publication?

The editing process can be a daunting one, especially the structural edit, but I knew that it would be the final step to making the book the best that it could be. For me, it involved fleshing out some of the characters, delving more into their relationships and expanding on the historical thread so that the character of Grete was more real to the reader. I think, coming from writing children’s fiction, my writing is quite spare. I’ve learned to say as much as I need to in as few words as possible, which is something I appreciate as a reader as well. I don’t like things spelled out too clearly. But going this step further with Inheritance of Secrets has made the book so much better. The editors at HarperCollins were brilliant. They didn’t tell me what to do, just pointed things out, asked questions and made suggestions, and then let me consider what was the best thing to do for the book. I think the changes will help the reader to form a stronger connection with the characters.

  1. A debut novel is an exciting event – what events did you have planned for the launch of your novel prior to the current crisis?

The release of Inheritance of Secrets was still a couple of months away when COVID-19 reared its ugly head and things started shutting down. So while my publicist had all sorts of events in mind, not many had been booked. The official book launch at Dymocks Adelaide was cancelled, as well as a collaborative author event that some writer friends and I had booked at a local library. I was able to get around to meet booksellers in Adelaide and Brisbane in January, which was really nice. Everyone was very welcoming and enthusiastic about the book.

  1. When did you decide you wanted to write books and explore stories?

I’ve always liked to write. I wrote stories as a child, although I never showed them to anyone. And after university, I wrote stories to use in therapy when I was working in Speech Pathology. It was when my girls were small and I was taking time off from work that I started to consider writing with the intent of being published. I saw an ad in the newspaper for a correspondence course in writing for children. I needed something for myself, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was great fun, and rekindled my desire to write more. Soon after, I had my first chapter book accepted for publication, so that was very encouraging and the start of an ongoing pursuit of writing and being published.

  1. What was the book that made you fall in love with reading? Any particular reason that book stands out for you?

I don’t remember one particular book. I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. The whole family loved to read. Some favourites were Anne of Green Gables and the Little House on the Prairie series, so even then I loved historical fiction.

  1. War seems to be a common theme in lots of historical fiction at the moment – what is it about war that you think lends itself so well to telling a multitude of stories for a modern audience?

Another great question! I think times of extreme circumstances bring out the best and the worst in people, and can be a catalyst for strong human emotion. And war is definitely one of those extreme situations – especially a world war. People were fighting to survive, and when your family and your life is at stake, you may do things you wouldn’t do under ordinary circumstances. Both good and bad. It’s not something many of us growing up in the modern western world have experienced. Historical novels about war and desperate times put the reader into the head of the character and allow them to experience second-hand what they hope they never will see in real life. War stories may also give readers a different perspective on a period of history. They can put a face to the ‘enemy’, and provide a glimpse of them as a person, possibly provide some insight into their mind and motivation. Every story needs conflict and an antagonist, but no antagonist is completely evil, and revealing those layers of humanity is what makes a story compelling.

  1. What are you currently reading, and do you have a favourite author?

I’m currently reading The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams and also Silver by Chris Hammer. I don’t often read two at once, but it demonstrates my love for the two genres of historical fiction and crime. I also read contemporary fiction and recently finished Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. I have many favourite authors. Hannah Kent and Jane Harper are probably the two that come to mind as stand-outs.

  1. You’ve previously written for children – what have you written, and which one do you think you enjoyed writing the most?

I’ve written ten books for children and young adults, chapter books and high-interest low-reading-level books for reluctant readers. Most of them have been published by Orca Book Publishers in Canada. To be honest, the children’s novel I enjoyed writing most hasn’t yet found a publisher. It’s a science fiction adventure for middle-grade readers and was just so much fun to write – creating a whole new world and writing from an entirely different perspective. And great fun consulting with my brother on the technical aspects of it too.

  1. Has your career as a speech pathologist helped you understand story and language differently in any way?

I’ve worked in speech pathology for most of my life, so it’s hard to say how it’s influenced my understanding of story and language. Certainly my study of linguistics and speech pathology gave me a good grasp of grammar and the nuances of dialect and colloquial speech. And an understanding of basic story structure. But that’s something that all writers develop at one point or another. I think what working in this field has given me is an appreciation of the difficulties some people have with language and reading and the need to make story accessible to everyone, whether it’s through hi/lo books, audiobooks, graphic novels or even music.

  1. What do you think you’ll be working on for future stories, and will these be for adults or children?

I’m currently working on another adult crime novel. As with Inheritance of Secrets, it explores family dynamics, relationships and trust issues. That seems to be a recurrent theme in a lot of my writing, both for children and adults. Beyond that, I don’t have anything planned. I’ll work with the ideas that present themselves, whether for children or adults.

Anything that you think I have missed?

No, this has been very comprehensive and given me some interesting food for thought.

Thank you Sonya, and best of luck with your novel.  Thank you!

March 2020 Round Up

March was a strange month – it started out as normal as could be, though we knew about the coronavirus, and then a few weeks into March, everything changed, and by the end of it, they had changed again with strict social distancing rules. Despite this, I got a lot of reading done. My stats are:

20 books read overall
11 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge
8 for the Nerd Daily Challenge
1 for the Dymocks Reading Challenge
1 for the STFU Reading Challenge
1 for Book Bingo
1 for Books and Bites Bingo

Overall stats so far:

The Modern Mrs Darcy 9/12
AWW2020 -26/25
Book Bingo – 10/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 40/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 12/25
STFU Reading Society 5/12
Books and Bites Bingo 11/25
General Goal – 51/165

Most of these books have been reviewed on my blog.

 

March – 20

Book Author Challenge
Esme’s Gift Elizabeth Foster AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective R.A. Spratt AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom

 

Katrina Charman The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5)

 

Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow Natasha Pulley The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Paris Secret Natasha Lester The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, AWW2020
Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor Holly Webb The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix Kelly Gardiner Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Challenge
The Lost Jewels Kirsty Manning The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl She Was Rebecca Freeborn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Bingo
Ninjago: Back in Action Tracey West Reading Challenge,
Layla and the Bots: Happy Paws Vicky Fang Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion R.A. Spratt Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daring Delly: Going for Gold

 

Matthew Dellavedova and Zanni Louise Reading Challenge,
Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach 

 

Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback 

 

Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair  Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Besties Make A Splash Felice Arena and Tom Jellett Reading Challenge
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them JK Rowling/Newt Scamander Reading Challenge
Liberation 

 

Imogen Kealey The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Year the Maps Changed

 

 Danielle Binks Reading Challenge, AWW2020

 

Onto April and hopefully lots of reading during these trying times.

A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

ATOC_3DTitle: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 3rd March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: In fear for his life, American millionaire Daniel Cartwright changes his will, appointing his old friend Rowland Sinclair as his executor.

Soon murder proves that fear well founded.

When Rowland receives word of Cartwright’s death, he sets out immediately for Boston, Massachusetts, to bury his friend and honour his last wishes. He is met with the outrage and anguish of Cartwright’s family, who have been spurned in favour of a man they claim does not exist.

Artists and gangsters, movie stars and tycoons all gather to the fray as elite society closes in to protect its own, and family secrets haunt the living. Rowland Sinclair must confront a world in which insanity is relative, greed is understood, and love is dictated; where the only people he can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a passionate sculptress.

~*~

Rowland Sinclair is back with his companions – Milt, the Jewish, Communist poet, Clyde Watson Jones, the painter, and Edna Higgins, the beautiful sculptress who adores the three men she travels with. At this point, Rowly and his friends have been travelling for several months outside the British Empire – in China and America so far, and has previously spent time in Germany – about a year before this story. Along the way, Rowly has met many historical characters and seen what the encroaching Fascist forces are doing in Europe. The rise of the Nazis is bubbling near the surface of this book, even though Nazi Germany feels far away, there is no doubt that the ongoing political tensions impact how this story occurs.

Rowland is on his way back to Australia – summoned home by brother Wilfred, when he finds himself in America and discovers an old friend, Daniel Cartwright has been murdered, and Rowly is the executor of Daniel’s will. Instead of Nazis or ruthless political parties, Rowly and his friends find themselves confronted by Irish and Italian gangs in Boston and New York, and they encounter the 1930s racism when they head into the Carolinas in pursuit of someone known as Otis Norcross.

AWW2020As with the previous nine books, historical and cultural figures of the time such as F. Scott Fitzgerald are woven into the narrative, and the Australians are met with various ideas in America that are foreign and bewildering to them – such as the detective who seems to confuse Australia and Austria which gave me a little chuckle. Rowly is as ever a gentleman – ready to defend his friends and help those in need even at great risk to his own life. America seems safer in some ways after Germany and China, yet as always, there are people who wish harm upon Rowly and his companions and will do whatever they can to gain the upper hand, even though at the end of the day, Rowly will overcome these threats.

This book is a turning point in several ways – and it is mainly in the second half that most of the shocks come out – but in this way, they work very well with the storyline and show, as the other nine books have done, what kind of people Rowly, Ed, Milt and Clyde are – and what they are willing to sacrifice to help people who need their help. Their actions and words link back delightfully to the title, A Testament of Character, and prove what kind of people they are. There are many other ways the title makes sense – but I will let you read that to find out what it is!

Overall, I think it fits nicely in the series, and Sulari has delivered a spectacular story again. High stakes in many ways, but also, at times, sedate enough to allow the heroes to breathe. Yet it does not meander, and nor does it shy away from the realities of the 1930s and impending war. As readers in 2020, we know what is coming. Hitler gaining further power in Germany. More anti-Jewish Laws. The abdication of Edward the VIII, which led to the current Royal Line we have today. Kristallnacht, World War Two and The Final Solution. All are to come, and with that knowledge, it makes me wonder what Rowly will do in the coming books and years – how he will cope with it, what he will do, and what the growing political unrest will do to his family and friends. This is a part of history that seems to be repeating itself today – and books like this are a stark and much needed reminder not to turn away, and Sulari is doing this exceptionally well, and her research gives such great authenticity to the period, and I love the inclusion of the newpaper articles of the times.