Book Bingo Eighteen – A Book with Themes of Culture

Book bingo take 2

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

Book bingo take 2

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

relic of the blue dragon

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

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

Across:

Row #2 –

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

Down:

Row #5

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

Booktopia

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

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

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: November, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 512

Price: $22.99

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

The Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim

relic of the blue dragon.jpgTitle: The Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1)

Author: Rebecca Lim

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:When Harley Spark accidentally releases Qing, one of five dragon sisters, from the ancient vase she’s been trapped in for centuries, he is soon on a dangerous international mission with Qing to find and free her four sisters.

Harley gave a little shiver as he peered at the mysterious girl’s message. She’d written: DRAGON KING RETURNS 

Harley Spark is just an ordinary thirteen-year-old kid who lives with his mum, Delia.

Rumour has it that his dad, Ray, is an international crime figure with a talent for nicking old, valuable things.

So when Harley finds an antique Chinese vase on the footpath, something compels him to stuff it under his school jumper and run for home. Little does he know he’s about to reignite a centuries-old war between two ancient, supernatural families…

Featuring magic, mystery and martial arts, The Relic of the Blue Dragon is the first book in the action-packed Children of the Dragon series.

~*~

Thirteen-year-old Harley Quinn lives with his Mum, Delia in Australia, and his father, Ray, a supposed removalist, lives abroad, and is constantly in and out of his life. If the rumours are true, then Harley’s dad is an international underworld crime figure – whose talents include stealing antiques and smuggling them into different places – a rumour that has rumbled around since a police raid on their house when Harley was five.

One day, Harley stumbles across an antique Chinese vase on the footpath that has been seemingly abandoned, he feels the need to pick it up and take it home – yet he has no idea that doing so will bring a centuries old war back to life and invoke two ancient and supernatural families – the children of dragons.

Harley’s vase releases the first of five daughters of a dragon trapped in a vase – Qing. With his mother, Delia, they piece together where Qing is from, and who she is, and Delia is able to use some Chinese she knows to communicate – bringing together two cultures and nations, centuries apart yet occupying the same space and time in the novel – they form an understanding based on what each other knows and what they find out together as they run from people who wish to harm Qing and Ray, and anyone involved with them. So Ray and his assistant whisk Qing and Harley off to China, to track down the people trying to destroy them, and Qing’s sisters. Despite warnings from people trying to stop them, they proceed with their mission – and head off on a private jet, into a world of mystery, intrigue and magic that will continue through the series.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThis #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseVoices offering for #LoveOzYA and middle grade readers is quite simply put, a most immersive and mesmerising story. I was quickly caught up in Harley’s life, and the peppering of Chinese language, tradition, and culture ensures an authenticity that encapsulates the characters wonderfully – and sparks an interest in the culture, mythologies, and the history of China – imagined for Qing’s story, and real. Qing is definitely a favourite character – she’s clever, and capable as well as fun and surprising. We were only introduced to her and Harley in this novel, but already, they are characters that I want to revisit and journey with, to see if they achieve the goal that they have set out to achieve and defeat the threat against Qing and her sisters.I don’t know what Harley and Qing will find, but together, I hope they will be able to solve the mystery and end the war – this introduction is exquisitely written, and also, is a very quick read – so quick, that I didn’t realise how fast I was reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Reading books about people and cultures outside of one’s own experience is enriching and makes things much more interesting, as you can learn new things, and discover new worlds. The war to come in this series looks to be exciting and diverse, as well as interesting, where I hope I will have the opportunity to learn more – or at least have a doorway opened to learn more about China and its history, culture and the significance of dragons through this novel, which is filled with diversity and that special flicker of magic that will capture the imaginations of many readers of this book.

A great read!

Booktopia

Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson

Jorie 1.pngTitle: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Author: A.H. Richardson

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Serano Press

Published: 26th December 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 263

Price: $31.99 (Australian) $14.99 (US)

Synopsis: When Marjorie went to live with her frosty maiden aunt, she couldn’t imagine the adventures she would have with dragons — good and bad — and all the strange creatures that live in a mysterious land beneath the Tarn. The spunky 9-year-old redhead forges an unlikely friendship with an insecure young boy named Rufus who lives with his crusty grandfather next door. When Jorie — for that is what she prefers to be called — finds a dusty ancient book about dragons, she learns four strange words that will send the two of them into a mysterious land beneath the Tarn, riddled with enchantment and danger. Hungry for adventure, the children take the plunge, quite literally, and find themselves in the magic land of Cabrynthius.

Upon meeting the good dragon, the Great Grootmonya, Jorie and Rufus are given a quest to find the three Stones of Maalog — stones of enormous power — and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Their mission is neither easy nor safe, and is peppered with perils in the form of the evil black half-dragon who rules the shadowy side of the land. They have to deal with a wicked and greedy professor, the tragic daughter of the bad dragon, caves of fire, rocky mountainous climbs, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

Jorie must rely on her wits and courage to win the day? Can she do this? Can she find all three Stones? Can she save Rufus when disaster befalls him? Can she emerge victorious? She and Rufus have some hair-raising challenges, in which they learn valuable lessons about loyalty, bravery, and friendship.

~*~

*I was contacted to review this book through my blog.

The story starts with Jorie waiting to be taken to Mortimer Manor, where she is to live with her aunt, after leaving a convent school. She is an orphan and is being sent to live with her only living relative. Set in a village that could be either English or Scottish, Jorie’s days are quiet, despite her imagination, until she meets the grandson of neighbour, Colonel Hercules, and a strange white cat who lives by the Tarn outside the Manor. One day she discovers an entrance to another world through the Tarn, where she is known as the Child with Hair of Fire, destined to find three magic stones and keep them from falling into the hands of those who want to do harm to Cabrynthius. Contending with an evil Lord, a psycho tutor with an interest in the stones and Tarn, Jorie and her friend Rufus must find the two remaining stones after discovering one on the necklace Jorie’s mother left to her. And so, begins a journey down into the Tarn, and through an unknown world, full of unknown dangers, dragons and strange looking creatures, and those who want the stones for good, and those who wish to exploit them, to find the remaining two stones and reunite them for the Great Grootmonya.

The Magic Stones in the title are called the Stones of Maalog, said to be an ancestor of Jorie’s, and founder of the village they live in. This history is revealed in the first few chapters, with a little bit too much telling, and could have used a little bit more showing, but it gave background to the novel whilst introducing Jorie to the mystery she’d be solving. Though perhaps this could have been spread out a little more, to add to the discoveries Jorie made along the way.

The premise of Jorie and the Magic Stones is interesting and caught my interest and curiosity when I was contacted through my blog to review it, and I adored that it was set in England, and had a female lead who did not need to rely on Rufus to save her, but rather, assist her and make sure she could do what she needed to do. What the story did well was encapsulate a feeling of magic, albeit a tiny bit too slowly – the action could have happened a bit sooner than it did, though when it did happen, the story started to pick up pace a little bit, which was good.

As the story moved on, the journey was fun and magical. My favourite character was Chook, the baby dragon. I did like that Jorie was the hero and was allowed to be herself with Rufus. Like many children’s stories over the decades, Jorie is an orphan with an indifferent guardian – not so indifferent that she hates her, just absentee, like Colonel Hercules. The trope of the orphaned child or absentee guardian used here acts as a catalyst to start Jorie and Rufus on their journey.  As this is the beginning of a series, there are a few unanswered questions that will hopefully be answered for readers in later books, as sometimes there were holes and questions that needed to be filled and answered.

Overall though, it was a cute story about friendship, against a backdrop of prophecy and destiny, something used often but with varying plots and takes on the idea of a destined child. It was light hearted and not too dark, so it would suit any readership who enjoys these sorts of stories,  and children aged nine and older looking for adventure and new places to visit.

About the Author:

 

A.H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an author.

She has written a series of children’s chapter books, the Jorie series, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire.

In addition to the Jorie series, she is also the author of the Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder mysteries. Murder in Little Shendon is the first book in the series. It’s a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick, Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. And she has more ‘who-dun-its’ with this clever and interesting duo… Act One, Scene One – Murder and Murder at Serenity Farm.

 

A.H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

 

Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/

A. H. Richardson.jpg

Booktopia

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

the last namsara.jpgTitle: The Last Namsara

Author: Kristen Ciccarelli

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 3rd October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A gripping YA crossover series from a spectacular new voice in the genre Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.

But protecting her father’s kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she’s wicked.

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . .

THE LAST NAMSARA is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.

~*~

Asha’s story begins on a dragon hunt, where the identity she has been given her whole life is made obvious from the beginning of the novel. The Old Stories that have been outlawed draw the dragons to her, and, following the name she has ben given, Iskari, she kills them in an attempt to atone for a crime she committed as a child. Asha’s scars tell her story, and cause the people of her city to fear her. Asha has been the stories of her destiny and what killed her mother for years and believed them – without anyone to tell her otherwise, she believes them. Until the day a young dragon prevents her from killing the First Dragon, Kozu, and awakens questions within that will lead her to do wicked and dangerous things to prevent more tragedy from befalling her family, and to prevent events that she has been desperately trying to avoid with the help of someone she never thought she would become close to. As what I hope is the beginning of an intriguing series, it has a little bit of everything, including a touch of romance that does not overtake the rest of the story and overshadow what Asha and those who gather around her eventually to help uncover the truth will have to do.

First and foremost, this fantasy novel is about Asha finding her identity, and uncovering secrets that have been kept from her so that those who wish to harm her can control her and ensure she does what they want, when they want it, and without question. Along the way, Asha’s worldview is shattered, and she befriends a slave, a skral, and learns his name: Torwin, going against centuries of tradition, and connecting with him in a way that puts them both at risk, and that mirrors the Old Stories, told in between sections of the first half of the novel, showing how they have shaped the world and how people like Asha’s father and Jarek, the man her father wants her to wed, fear what does not need to be feared – including the dragons that Asha has been made to hunt and must now protect.

The Last Namsara explores trust, family and identity, and illustrates how those we least expect can become the only ones we can trust. Asha is scarred – and has a paralysed arm from the events at the beginning of the novel, but she does not let this stop her, especially when everything comes to a head and she does what she never thought she would do, and puts herself in danger. It is these dangerous events that lead to the final events of the novel, and presents the reader with more questions than answers during the final chapters, that will hopefully be answered in a future novel, to wrap up the strands that felt they had more of a story to be told.

It is a gripping story that didn’t take me long to read, as it had a decent pace, not too fast or too slow, and intrigue that had me wanting to know what was going to happen next. A great read for fans of Young Adult, and Fantasy Literature.

Booktopia

The Erth Dragons: The Wearle by Chris D’Lacey

Title: The Erth Dragons: The Wearle

the-wearle

Author: Chris D’Lacey

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Orchard (an imprint of Hachette)

Published: 29th September 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $15.95

Synopsis: The Wearle came to Erth to find out what happened to their previous group, who never returned. Gabrial, a young blue dragon, is desperate to prove his worth. But the dragons aren’t alone in the mountains.

 

 

Down beyond the scorch line, Ren, a young hom boy, is fascinated by the ‘skalers’. But when he creeps into their territory, he sneaks out again with a wriggling baby wearling…

 

 

Dragon and boy’s fates combine in this stunning new fantasy series.

 

~*~

 

The world of the Erth Dragons is introduced to young readers in this first book of a new series by New York Times best-selling author, Chris D’Lacey. Set in a fantasy world that appears to mirror an early version of the known Earth, The Erth Dragons opens with the wyng of dragons preparing to find out who will be a companion to the laying mother, Grystina. Gabrial, a young blue dragon, is preparing for his turn to prove himself, but when tragedy strikes the wyng, things are altered for everyone, dragon and the Hom, the early human race that lives nearby, and danger begins to seep into the world as they collide.

Aimed at ages nine years and up, The Erth Dragons: The Wearle presents dragon and human characters who are both good and bad, and in between. Gabrial and Ren, the Hom boy who sneaks out with the wearling during the chaos that opens the novel, drive the narrative, their stories travelling alongside each other. They are different to those around them in the dragon and human worlds. It is through these two characters that we see the flaws in each world, and how each world wishes to think the worst of the other.

D’Lacey’s dragon world, and community has been well thought out, from what a dragon’s colour signifies to the importance of names starting with the letter G, and how taking this away can affect a dragon and their sense of self. As the story unfolds, the two communities begin to collide, and their worlds will never be the same again.

Best suited for ages nine and older, this dragon story uses new and old aspects of dragons to create the world in this story. An intriguing read, and well thought out fantasy world.