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.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling/Newt Scamander

fantastic beasts paperbackTitle: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: JK Rowling/Newt Scamander

Genre: Fantasy Text Book

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Published: 31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 160

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: This glorious paperback edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is considered a classic throughout the wizarding world. It features an extraordinary array of magical creatures, from Acromantula to Yeti via ten different breeds of dragon – all beautifully illustrated in full colour by the brilliantly inventive, Greenaway Medal shortlisted Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander’s years of adventure and exploration have yielded a work of unparalleled importance, admired by scholars, devoured by young witches and wizards, and even made available to Muggles in the early years of this century. With this dazzling illustrated edition, readers can explore the magical fauna of five continents from the comfort of their own armchairs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is essential reading at Hogwarts.

Now available in a stunning paperback edition with French flaps, this edition contains all of the mesmerising illustrations from the original edition and features the fully updated 2017 text including a foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.

hplogo

~*~

Bloomsbury has released the much-loved Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a paperback using the expanded, illustrated text from the hardcover edition published in 2017. Usually, only wizards and witches have access to this book, yet now Muggles are able to read about these creatures and learn about them, even if they may not be able to see them or interact with them.

The ratings for the beasts haven’t changed – and the introduction, foreword and introductory notes are written by Newt Scamander are still included, though this time I felt with a few flourishes that make the book interactive and feel as though someone has interacted with the book.

Below are the ratings given to each beast:

X- Boring

XX – Harmless/may be domesticated

XXX – Competent wizards should cope

XXXX – Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle

XXXXX – Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate

One thing missing is the delightfully fun notes from Ron, Harry and Hermione from the original edition, yet this exquisite one is less a school text and more a guide for wizards at home and abroad.

I’ve written about this one a few times before, and each edition brings something new to the book and I notice something new. In this one, I spent a lot more time taking in the gorgeous colour illustrations of each beast, and the various ways they interact with their environment and wizards. It is a delightful edition, and one I am adding to my collection – I may have multiple editions of some books yet each different edition expands on the world and gives a new scope to the original series and editions. It is something I always look forward too, and with many house and new editions coming out this year, I cannot wait to see how they all come together in the series, and to share my views on how they add to the original magic for readers new and old.

I have enjoyed Harry Potter for almost twenty years – and reading it always reminds me of my best friend and her mum who introduced me to the wizarding world. It is something we will always share, and that is what makes it special to me.

Willow Moss and the Lost Day (Starfell #1) by Dominique Valente

Starfell 1Title: Willow Moss and the Lost Day (Starfell #1)

Author: Dominique Valente

Genre: Fantasu

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2nd May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The first book in the most spellbinding children’s fantasy series of the year, now in paperback, with beautiful black-and-white inside illustrations by Sarah Warburton. Perfect for fans of Cressida Cowell and Nevermoor.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, has a magical ability for finding lost things – like keys, or socks, or spectacles. Useful, but not exactly exciting…

Then the most powerful witch in the world of Starfell turns up at Willow’s door and asks for her help. A whole day – last Tuesday to be precise – has gone missing. Completely. And without it the whole universe could unravel.

Now Willow holds the fate of Starfell in her rather unremarkable hands… Can she save the day – by finding the lost one?

Step into Starfell, a world crackling with warmth, wit and magic, perfect for readers aged 8–12. Book 2 coming in April 2020!

~*~

Willow Moss is supposed to have magic like her sisters, but she’s not as powerful as the rest of her family. However, she does have a magical talent that is probably more precious than any other gift. She can find things.

One day Moreg Vaine, Starfell’s most powerful witch asks for Willow’s help to find Tuesday – an entire day from the preceding week has disappeared and without it, Starfell could meet a very dark fate that nobody wants to experience.

Willow’s journey takes her across the land of Starfell, accompanied by a rather irate kobold named Oswin, who berates her and offers advice throughout the novel. Willow’s journey is not easy though, and she must face many dangers, including the Brothers of Wol who do not like witches or anything that goes against what they believe in – reminiscent of the witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is this conflict that drives the novel, and Willow is a character who will grow and learn across the series. At the same time, she will prove that she can do the things that everyone says she can’t do or shouldn’t do. Yet only Willow can find the missing Tuesday and set the world right and ensure that she still has a family and place to live at the end of her journey.

Girls being front and centre in books is taking off, and these days, they are occupying a myriad of role and personalities to appeal to all readers – they’re not just stereotypes or strong female characters who occupy a specific time and place in their story. Here, we have characters like Willow who are reluctant and unsure of what to do, they’ve been told things that are not true and are forced to confront these memories  and through doing this, they grow and learn that they are more than what everyone has been telling them they are.

Middle grade is an age group that is gaining a lot of traction, and this book is aimed at readers aged eight and older – and I think will appeal to readers of all genders. It is a wonderful book, and a really good start to a series that I am very keen to follow as each book is released. This is one of those books I picked up on a whim, because the story looked interesting, and I think it is one that many will enjoy regardless of age, and one that will be fun to read out loud as well.

Books and Bites Book Bingo – A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

books and bites game card

In my tenth post for Books and Bites Book Bingo, I chose to mark off the square for a book with bad reviews. This was always going to be a subjective square – as all books are going to have good and bad reviews, so any book could really fit in here.

dark prophecy

Usually, the more popular books are more likely to have bad reviews, and this could be for many reasons – from simplistic writing, to the way the author handles the plot or issues of representation. Last year I was sent book four in the Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan – after the publication date and decided I had better read the first three first. For this category, I read Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy.

I’ve read the first two, and this is one of those series that will always have bad reviews for a variety of reasons – and sometimes, these will be a very individual reason, and might not make sense. From people feeling it is too much of one thing, or too little of another, or they simply do not like the way the Greek mythology has been dealt with, the bad reviews can be expansive, they can be brief and they might even be reviews that miss the point of the book – perhaps a commonality amongst bad reviews.

I’m getting a good pace going through this challenge – some squares have books planned in my mind, and some I’m letting fall as they come, so that lets some of the stress off me to find things all the time. With my aim to post at least once a fortnight, hopefully I will fill the card by the end of the year, but will probably post as often as possible at some point.

Cover Reveal for Quidditch Through the Ages

illustrated quidditch

As part of the new editions of the Harry Potter books, there is a new illustrated edition of Quidditch Through the Ages, with illustrations by Emily Gravett. The full press release and cover image from Bloomsbury is below.

I love the colour in this cover – the teal background, the golden lettering and the colourful images of the quaffle, the bludgers, the snitch, and a broomstick, as well as various quidditch players zooming around and team colours and emblems. It brings the book to life and it will be lovely to see what is inside.

BLOOMSBURY REVEALS COVER FOR NEW ILLUSTRATED EDITION OFQUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES

‘Oh, you wait, it’s the best game in the world.’ Ron Weasley

Bloomsbury Children’s Books has revealed the cover of the full-colour illustrated edition of J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch Through the Ages illustrated by Emily Gravett. The cover showcases some of the key elements of Harry Potter’s favourite sport – including players, team badges and a hovering Golden Snitch waiting to be caught. Devoured by Harry Potter in his first year, Quidditch Through the Ages is consulted on a daily basis by the young witches and wizards at Hogwarts, and this beautifully illustrated edition is set to become a firm favourite for readers of all ages who dream of grabbing a broomstick and taking to the skies.

Publishing in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA on 6th October 2020, Quidditch Through the Ages Illustrated Edition features showstopping artwork from Emily Gravett, twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. Emily’s wildly creative imagination has conjured a cornucopia of sporting memorabilia to surprise and delight. With some items lovingly created in a dazzling range of media and infused with her trademark visual wit, these charming and funny artworks are the perfect pairing for J.K. Rowling’s humorous insights into the magical, airborne sport.

Quidditch Through the Ages invites readers to take a whistle-stop tour through wizarding history, reliving epic matches and great moments along the way. Accessible at any point in the Harry Potter reading journey, it is packed with trivia, tales of on-pitch antics, and Quidditch stars past and present. The sports almanac also contains comprehensive profiles of teams loved by readers of the Harry Potter novels.

Quidditch Through the Ages first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After catching Harry Potter with a copy, it is also the reason that Professor Snape invents the rule that no library books are allowed outside of Hogwarts School. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone continues to mesmerise readers and, in 2019, was the number three bestselling children’s book in Australia overall and the number two children’s novel.

A percentage of proceeds from the sale of this edition will go to J.K. Rowling’s own international charity Lumos, which helps some of the world’s most vulnerable children and young people to have a better life; and to Comic Relief.

Wizarding World Digital has exclusively revealed examples of artwork from Quidditch Through the Ages Illustrated Edition. See Emily Gravett’s astonishing art at the below link.
https://www.wizardingworld.com/news/bloomsbury-reveal-cover-for-new-illustrated-edition-of-quidditch-through-the-ages

Books and Bites Bingo Eco Themes:  The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

books and bites game card

Eco themes was one I thought I would struggle with – I haven’t read a lot of climate fiction, and also, haven’t read many books about sustainability – many are simply not in a genre I enjoy, such as cookbooks or lifestyle books, and as a result, they do not cross my path very often. So this marks the eighth square I have marked off for this challenge.

 

the vanishing deep

I found this square I may have had very few options – as I am aiming on filling my challenge categories with books I own or have access to for as many as possible. When this book, The Vanishing Deep dropped into my hands from Allen and Unwin for review, I knew it would fill several challenge categories and was very thrilled to see that it also managed to fit into Eco themes here, even though it might seem to be at first, quite a subversive fit. In the world of The Vanishing Deep, the world has been engulfed by the Great Waves, and people talk about the Old World and the old ways as warnings and stories to try and avoid those things happening again, hinting at a suggestion that climate change and ecological destruction has led to this new world of Reefs, islands and Palindromena, the facility that seems to control everything and as a result, this book also deals with issues of politics and power, discussed in another book bingo post later this year.

Whilst this is a fantasy world, it was easy to see that this world could easily have been our world, and that the Great Waves were what ended it. It does not explicitly talk about climate change, but points to overpopulation as well and lack of resources as issues that will never go away amidst all the other struggles related to ecology. Of course, I could have put Dark Emu in here, but that is reserved for other challenges when I get to it. I chose this one because I thought it was an interesting take on eco themes in literature, and hope that others enjoy it too.

 

The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

republic of birdsTitle: The Republic of Birds
Author: Jessica Miller
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Text Publishing
Published: 3rd March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Olga loves the stories of the old cartographers and pores over their ancient books and maps, trying to unlock their secrets. Sometimes, she thinks she can even feel through the maps— almost see into them—as if by magic.
But magic is banned in Tsaretsvo, ever since the war with the birds that divided the kingdom, and the powerful magic wielding yagas have long been banished. Now, any young girl who shows signs of being a yaga is whisked away to Bleak Steppe—to a life, so the story goes, of unspeakable punishment.
When the bird army kidnaps Olga’s sister in a surprise attack on the human kingdom, Olga realises she has to venture into the Republic of Birds to bring her back. But first, she must learn to unlock her magical ability. As her journey takes her into the hidden world of the yagas and the wilds of the Unmappable Blank, Olga discovers the truth about the war with the birds—and learns just how much is at stake.
Inspired by Russian folklore, The Republic of Birds is a rich middle-grade fantasy adventure for readers of Karen Foxlee, Jessica Townsend and Philip Pullman.
~*~

Set in a fantasy world with Russian influences, The Republic of Birds revolves around Olga and her family. Olga is twelve, and on the verge of turning thirteen – the year she will take part in the Spring Blossom festival. Yet Olga fears what will happen if and when she starts showing signs of magic – of being a yaga. With magic banned in Stolitsa, Olga knows that once she starts exhibiting signs of magic she will be sent away to a place known as Bleak Steppe – where stories of girls being punished abound.

Yet as Olga prepares for the Spring Blossom celebration, she inadvertently sends something dear to her away with the birds – and must summon all her talents – innate and magical – to reunite her family.

AWW2020Wow, what a book! This was very different to what I have read in the past, yet using fantasy, fairy tale, and folk tale elements combined with elements of real world Russia, and feels like its set in the early decades of the twentieth century, but in a fantasy setting, the events and technology that exist in this world could be vastly different to what we know. This is what makes it even more inviting and intriguing and allows the reader to be immersed within a fantastical world that has elements of darkness yet also is a story of female empowerment and courage. And of course, maps.

Maps marry magic and birds, and feminine power to create a world that is exciting and highly driven by women’s stories and lives – which is thoroughly enjoyable. I loved that the beginning had a slower feel to the latter half of the book and reflected those days of innocence before everything started to become real and dangerous for Olga and her family. Once the action got going, I found that the pages that flew by – and I think that Jessica got a really good balance between the slow bits and the fast bits to make an exciting and engaging story for all readers aged nine and over to enjoy.

Rich with folklore, it is a great next read for fans of His Dark Materials, Nevermoor and many other books that have been influenced by folklore and fairy tales within their plots. It is a captivating story that evokes many emotions – courage, love and fear, as well as wonder as you explore the world with Olga as she navigates the reality of her world, and discovers the truth behind the lies that she has been told throughout her life about yagas and Bleak Steppe.

Books that read like a folktale are always a favourite of mine – they allow the reader to uncover familiar tropes and characters, but wearing different outfits and within a different context, and this is what makes it magical. These sorts of novels expand on the traditional fairy and folk tales that are known aroind the world, and in doing so, bring them to life in a new and fantastic way. These are books that I would have loved as a kid, and continue to enjoy reading to this day.

With many thanks to Text publishing for the review copy I received this week.