Book Bingo Twenty-one – A funny book, A book that scares you and a book of short stories

Book bingo take 2

This week marks my twenty-first post for the year of my Bok Bingo challenge, which has been chugging along well. So well in fact, I’m whipping through my second card quite rapidly, with a few squares to be decided and written up. For this post, all three books are by Australian women, scoring a hattrick for the post and overall Australian women writers challenge. In fact, many of the books for this year could have ticked off the book by an Australian woman over sixty times. At this stage, I have read and reviewed sixty-four books by Australian women, with more to come.

Book bingo take 2

Rows Across:

Row #2

 A book with a yellow cover:

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

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

 Row #3:  –

 A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book:

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1

Row #4

 A forgotten classic:

A book with a one-word title:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title:

Rows Down:

Row #4 –BINGO

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

NJ1802-ETP-Archibald-book-1-pdf-1030x824

First off, is a picture book, and this fills in the square for a funny book. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, published by Elephant Tree Publishing, slots into this category nicely. When Archibald decides to go to the local zoo, he is quickly spotted by the zoo keeper selling tickets and is told to behave himself – poor Archibald tries to be good, but he always seems to be getting into trouble – whatever he tries. At the zoo, all he wants is for the animals to be able to play with each other. What happens next is charming, hilarious and so magical, children will delight in reading this with someone or on their own as they learn to read independently. A story well worth trying to get your hands on.

what the woods keep

Second up is a book that scares me. This one is a debut novel by Katya de Becerra – What the Woods Keep, and for those who embrace the macabre, it is perfect. Filled with hints of science fiction, mythology and dark fantasy, it compels you to read on, lulling you into a false sense of safety until you hit Promise, and quite literally, all hell breaks loose. The woods are a terrifying place, where big bad things happen. People go missing or die. They are swallowed up whole by the environment and never heard from again. It is a chilling, intriguing book that will keep you awake at night, wondering what to expect next. Though you’ll want to set it aside to recover from what has just happened, you will also want to continue reading to see how it plays out for Hayden and to finally feel your heart start beating at a normal rate again. Horrifying and intriguing, this is a great book for those in search of a spooky tale.

crepp

fairytales for feisty girls

Finally, we get to what has to be one of my favourite books of the year, because it combines feisty girls and fairy tales, and my little nerd heart couldn’t have been happier, having studied fairy tales at university, and developing a love for them in their raw, unabridged forms, with the lopping off of limbs, dancing in red hot shoes and thorny punishments, to the various retellings that have sanitised them or taken them to the absolute extremes, to the fairy tale retellings that are coming out in abundance these days in various genres, in particular the fairy tale infused historical fiction written by Kate Forsyth. So for the short story square, Susannah McFarlane’s book, Fairytales for Feisty Girls captures this spot. Susannah has taken well known tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Thumbelina – fairy tale girls who have previously been acted upon, and passive in the original oral tales and Brothers Grimm versions – and allows them to act for themselves. Rapunzel is an inventor, using the things Mother Gothel brings her to create things to help around the house, much to Gothel’s horror. Red Riding Hood and her grandmother outwit a wolf, Thumbelina finds her way home and Cinderella makes her own fortunes with the glass slipper. Each girl does something using the key aspects and symbols of the original tales to save herself, showing girls of all ages that they can be who they want, do what they want and that they don’t need to wait for the prince or woodsman (who, funnily enough in this story, has lost his axe), to save them.

 

Wrapping book bingo 21, and moving onto book bingo 22 in a couple weeks.

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Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

fairytales for feisty girls .jpgTitle: Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Author: Susannah McFarlane

Genre: Fairytales, fantasy, children’s fiction, short stories

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 128

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Renowned girl hero and feisty author Susannah McFarlane presents an illustrated collection of ’tilted’ fairytales featuring girls with smarts.

Feisty: typically describes one who is relatively small, lively, determined and courageous.

Girls can rescue themselves – just watch Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina create their own happily ever afters in this beautiful and emboldening bedtime book.

A glorious treasury for young girls – and boys – featuring artwork from four leading Australian illustrators: Beth Norling, Claire Robertson, Lucinda Gifford and Sher Rill Ng.

~*~

Fairytales for Feisty Girls is my sixty-second book in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. The author, Susannah McFarlane, has taken four well-known fairytales, turned them on their heads, and given the female characters agency and gusto that in the older versions and many sanitised versions, they do not have. Here, we have Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina all acting for themselves, in active and innovative roles. Rapunzel, forever inventing things, works out how to cut off her own hair, and asks a young man to tie one end around a tree so she can come down on a flying fox, Little Red Riding Hood uses her knowledge of plants and tea to trick the wolf, Cinderella makes her own fortunes, and Thumbelina seeks a family of her own.

These girls do not let anyone stop them, they’re bold, brave and where their counterparts wait for someone to save them, it is refreshing and fun to see these girls do it for themselves whilst embracing a form of femininity that works for them, and where they do not give up who they are for their happy ever after, which is still there, but they make their own happy ever after,  and stick to their convictions and beliefs.

Allowing these girls to explore their identities beyond their name, and beyond what people think of them. They are empowered and show all children – all readers of this book, really, that you can be anything and do anything. So instead of passive Cinderella waiting for the prince, she finds a way to up and leave her step-mother and step-sisters, and create a new life for herself, just as Thumbelina journeys alone to find those like her. I am hoping there will be a second volume with different stories to show readers what they can do if they set their minds to it.

AWW-2018-badge-roseFairy-tales and fairy-tale retellings have been a passion of mine for many years. From the oral traditions to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to Disney and all the authors such as Kate Forsyth wo have used fairy tales in their stories, the tradition of the fairy-tale is alive and well. Each retelling reveals something new, a new layer to the story, a new way to see history through the scaffolding of a fairy-tale, or a new way to explore diversity and identity. Each story is empowering and funny, set in a time of magic and wonder, and invention, in a place that is both far away but that could be anywhere.

Each story has been illustrated by a different artist – and yet, they flow seamlessly from one storey to the next in a wonderfully cohesive style that feels as though one person was in charge of the illustrations. They work brilliantly with the short stories that are divided into short chapters, perfect to read with your child or to be read alone.

An excellent book for all ages that defies stereotypes and empowers girls of all ages and backgrounds to be and do what they wish.

The Beast’s Heart by Liefe Shallcross

the beasts heart.jpgTitle: The Beast’s Heart

Author: Leife Shallcross

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Hachette Australia

Published:  24th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 342

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A richly magical retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, from the point of view of the Beast.

A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time – read the Beast’s side of the story at long last.

My beast’s nose scented cold, and earth, and the faintest tang of magic. Not the same magic that pervaded the house, or even the forest. This was something older and wilder, filled with sadness and decay. Yet at its core was something pure and clear, like the peal of a bell or the heat of a burning ember. Or the colour of a crimson rose.

 

I am neither monster nor man – yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

I know why I was cursed; I know the legacy of evil I carry in my tainted blood. So how could she ever love me?

My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart when I was struggling just to be human.

And now I might lose her forever.

~*~

Most retellings of the French fairy tale, written in 1740, by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, and influenced by the literary fairy tales of authors such as Charles Perrault and Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy. Unlike the fairy tales collected by The Brothers Grimm, which include a similar tale known as The Singing, Springing Lark, Beauty and the Beast was one of the first literary fairy tales recorded, though the specific tale that many retellings are based on oral tales over many years beforehand.

Where many retellings of this tale focus on the perspective of the Beauty – the girl who will break the spell, told in first or third person with this focus, Leife Shallcross’s debut novel takes the traditional fairy tale, and gives it new life, writing it from the perspective of the Beast, and how he deals with his situation and the beautiful girl – named Isabeau in this story – living in his house.

AWW-2018-badge-roseAt the start of the story, the Beast, whom we know to be a prince or at least, a noble from the original and previous retellings, is lonely, and losing track of time. He mentions a Fairy and the curse, and the invisible servants – who see to his every need. When Isabeau’s father, Monsieur de la Noue stumbles across his wintry castle, where seasons don’t occur as they do outside the gates, the Beast and his invisible servants extend hospitality towards him – until he plucks a rise from the rose garden for Isabeau – and a deal is struck: Isabeau must come and stay with the Beast for a year in exchange for her father not being killed. Isabeau agrees, and whilst she is at the castle, the Beast watches her family thrive with gifts he sends them magically, and their fortunes change. As the year goes by, the Beast and Isabeau become friends – but the Beast – as in other reincarnations – begins to fall in love, seeking for her to save him from the curse.

But he can’t tell her this – the Fairy warns him against it and is quite malevolent in the few appearances she makes, and even when the Beast refers to her in his private musings. What I did like was that the Beast did not force Isabeau. Rather, he was hopeful and allowed her to come to him, but also, the respect and friendship they had for each other was more important. It was an exquisitely and enchantingly written story, where lessons must be learned by all, and where forgiveness becomes a large part of the plot – forgiveness of self, forgiveness of family and forgiveness of those who appear to have done the wrong thing. Set in France, in what I imagine is the eighteenth century, it has the same magic of the original and the other incarnations but an originality that no other retelling has come close to capturing. In each retelling, we always know the Beast isn’t the horrid monster some characters, such as Gaston in the Disney version – make him out to be – much like Isabeau’s father does in this novel, and her sisters, Claude and Marie, who are inclined to believe him, are the ones who at first believe their father’s claims but then begin to doubt them, hoping that Isabeau is alive – and it is Marie who is the catalyst for this.

Each character is flawed – not one is perfect, and to this end, I think this worked exceptionally well for this novel. It showed that flaws are everywhere, and that even if we see them in others, we don’t see them in ourselves all the time. Isabeau recognises her own flaws when she goes to live with the Beast and is aware of them. She can also see past his flaws. Yet it is her family she must find a way to reassure, with a father whose stubbornness would see her live at home forever, and sisters who once relied on her for everything, must recognise what they are capable of in her absence, and as a result, make their own fortunes with suitors. Each version of the story has a variance on the siblings the Beauty character has – from the six brothers and sisters of the original, to Belle as an only child in the Disney version, and in this version, the two sisters who work to pull the family through in Isabeau’s absence.

As each character begins to recognise their flaws, I could see them grow to accept what they had to deal with in life – except Monsieur de la Noue, whose resistance illustrated that not everyone adapts to change, or wishes to. Where I loved that his daughters made the best of their circumstances, I found myself wishing he would start doing the same.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I adore fairy tale retellings, and this is a really good one. It is up there with The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth, which is more of a fairy tale infused historical fiction, and other novels such as Frogkisserthat incorporate fairy tale elements. Whilst this used the traditional elements and tale, turning it around and telling the Beast’s story gave more of an insight into what it must have been like for him, living as a Beast under a curse that only love, and the promise of marriage can break, and return him to his true form. What I most enjoyed as well was that the mysteries of the castle, and magic, and Marie’s letters to Isabeau weren’t solved immediately – the answers to these and many other questions were given gradually.

The chapters where Isabeau was at home for a time were dealt with well, written from the Beast’s perspective as he watched them in his mirror – his window to the outside world. The mirror and the roses were there, as they always are – key aspects to the fairy tale that has sparked many retellings and interpretations over the years.

A delightful read, and one I hope to be able to revisit one day.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

the belles.jpgTitle: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism, Young Adult

Publisher: Gollancz/Hachette Australia

Published: 13th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 434

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: ‘Looking for the next big ground-breaking event in YA? This is it.’ Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson series Welcome to the dark decadence of Dhonielle Clayton’s sharp tale of beauty, obsession and magic. . . 
I AM A BELLE. I CONTROL BEAUTY.
In the opulent world of Orleans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

‘Sumptuous and original world-building, heart-pounding plot and gorgeous prose.’ Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Season ‘A whip-smart writer with grand, grand talents.’ Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist ‘Breathtakingly beautiful and deeply unsettling.’ Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author

~*~

In the magical world of Orléans, beauty is everything, and people will do anything to attain it and hide the drab features they are all born with. But there is a select group of girls who are born into this world with the power of beauty, who have the power to control beauty, and give people the look that they want” The Belles. Each generation has its own set of Belles, going back as far as Orléans does, an isle-like nation where the Belles are placed either in the palace as the favourite, or in the island tea houses to assist clients and make them beautiful, in the image that they desire, though they must adhere to rules set forth by the queen. In the generation in the books, it is Camellia and her sisters, Ambrosia, Hana, Padma, Edelweiss and Valerie who are competing for the role of the favourite. They’ve been training their whole lives for this chance, and when it comes, the result is not what they expected, nor what each of them desired.

Within the walls of the palace are dark secrets, secrets that nobody is privy to, and that the newsies and tatters can merely speculate at and send hushed whispers throughout the kingdom. The only people who truly know what is going on are at the palace – and unable to leave or disobey an order that they are given by the queen or her daughter, Princess Sophia. What Camellia will see, hear and have to do will be dark, and dangerous, hinting at a much darker power than any of the Belles could ever have imagined existing, and resulting in a climax that hints that there might be a sequel to come, as there are quite a few unanswered questions.

The world of the Belles is lavish and shows the darker side of beauty and fashion obsession and what it can drive people to, how desperate they might become. In a world where changing ones skin tone and entire look can be paid for, the racial tensions we experience in our world do not seem to be there, and relationships between the same sex and opposite sexes appeared to me to be the norm – where people are paired up based on alliances and the desires of a princess at times, and at other times, their own, but where a Belle is forbidden to fall in love with anyone. she must remain loyal to her sisters and the tea house she serves.

On the surface of Orléans, things appear perfect: because people seem free to choose their look – skin tone, features, hair colour, eye colour, and clothing (for a price and only if you can afford it), and be with someone you love, the dark, underbelly seems that much more sinister – it is hidden beneath a layer of perfection, and desire for what one cannot be. In a world where loyalty can be bought, Camellia and her sisters will learn the price they must pay for loyalty and their own safety.

As the favourite, Camellia finds an ally in the Queen, her guard, Rémy, and the various former Belles who mentor her, including Arabella, the favourite from a former generation. As the story goes on, secrets are slowly revealed – ensuring that the interest of the reader is held throughout, even in darker areas where characters are forced into situations that where they fear for their lives. In a few scenes, the tension is raised, and the pacing in these scenes works well for what they portray – the darker side of the world the Belles live in and what they must do to survive Sophia.

It is a novel of many layers and facets that were peeled back slowly, and where things were hinted at that perhaps mean future books – the ending felt more like the climax of a to be continued storyline, where there is more to come about the Belles and their origins, secrets and powers.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this. I went into it not really knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Dhonielle Clayton has created a wonderfully complex world, and I hope we get to find out more about this world and its characters.

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Book Bingo Two: A book with a number in the title, a book based on a true story, a book by an Australian woman

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe next square I managed to fill was the last square in the fourth row a book with a number in the title. This also filled in a book published in 2018 for my other challenge and ticked off another book in the Australian Women Writer’s challenge – I have many books that will fill some categories in book bingo and the other challenge, but I am aiming for a different one for each category if I can.

 

For square twenty, I read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband by Barbara Stoner, which I reviewed on the 29th of January on this blog, and has been linked to this post.

four respectable ladies

 

Sent to me by Penguin Random House, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and its focus on the female characters and their determination to get help where needed but when things went wrong, they banded together to help each other without needing husbands to do it all for them. My previous book bingo book, Rose Rave

nthorpe Investigates, would have fit into this category also, and they would both have fit into a book by an Australian woman, though each square needs its own book, as I will show in my final post when I have hopefully filled the entire square.

 

mr dickensI have managed to check off three other squares as well. For square twenty-two, a book based on a true story, I read Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva, about Charles Dickens journey writing A Christmas Carol, and why he wrote it – more out of economic need than desire to write such a story. And square eleven, a book by an Australian woman, has been filled by The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett, an historical fiction novel using storytelling and fairy tales to capture an arduous journey across the seas.The-Tides-Between-300x450

 

Look out for my next book bingo due in two weeks.

 

book bingo 2018.jpg

The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

The-Tides-Between-300x450.jpgTitle: The Tides Between

Author: Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Publisher: Odyssey Books

Published: 20th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $23.95

Synopsis: In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.

~*~

Bridie Stewart’s life is about to change forever. Aged fifteen, she is about to embark on a journey with her mother and stepfather that will take her half-way across the world to the colonies of Australia, far from what she knows. Adamant she will never forget her father, Bridie smuggles a notebook, her final gift from him on board, where she meets Rhys Bevan and his wife, Siân, and with Rhys, she begins to fill her notebook with Welsh fairy tales. These stories help them on their journey, both of them loved by their families but at the same time, feeling alone. And so, a friendship forms between Rhys, Siân and Bridie, as they write stories together along the arduous journey from England to Port Phillip. Along the way, there will be magic, woven through the words and music of the stories Rhys shares with Bridie, and over time, she will grow up. As they enter the waters of Australia, there is trouble and tragedy to come, that will hit them all and cause immense pain.

Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s novel takes place almost entirely on the fictional emigrant ship, The Lady Sophia, bookended by the departure and destination in the opening and final chapters. Through Bridie and Rhys, in third person, the novel moves easily between their perspectives and has a shroud of mystery about it, where details about the characters and their histories are revealed at exactly the right time. The fairy tale feel of this novel is what makes it unique and magical, and makes what would have been a very arduous journey in the 1840s bearable, at least for a while.

It is a lovely story of friendship and the power of fairy tales during hard times and tragedy, and how stories can shape our world and the way we see it. The stories are what begin to heal Bridie, leading up to the climatic tragedy that brings several surprises to those aboard the ship, and realisations from characters who had once shrugged Bridie and her family, and the other steerage passengers off, such as Doctor Roberts. Each character has flaws that they come to recognise, or not, as the novel progresses, and relationships between some have changed by the end of the novel.

I enjoyed that this novel focussed more on the friendships and family relationships, and Bridie’s individual character than a romantic relationship, something that is quite refreshing in literature and in Young Adult novels, showing that there is more to life than romance – it shows that other relationships can have the same degree of love, but in a different and perhaps more important way to some people. Bridie was a delightful character, full of life, wonder ad kindness towards those around her. The ending was sweet and realistic, showing the impact that the journey and her friendship with Rhys had had on the two of them. A wonderful novel that can be enjoyed beyond the Young Adult age group.

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Sunday Spotlight via Australian Women Writers, interview with Kate Forsyth and Theresa Smith

Welcome to Sunday Spotlight. Today it gives us great pleasure to bring to you a conversation with Kate Forsyth about her exciting new book, Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women. I read on your blog that Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women was born out…

via Sunday Spotlight with Kate Forsyth on Vasilisa the Wise — Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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