Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia_3D-Cover.pngTitle: Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: “When Day and Night combine and fight against one Enemy, then Dark and Light shall meet mid-strike and set the Captives free.”

In the wake of loss and devastation, Alex must cast aside her grief to seek aid from those who banished the Meyarins long ago. But the proud Tia Aurans care little for the woes of mortals and demand that Alex—and her friends—undergo the Gates of Testing to prove their world is worth saving.

With an ancient prophecy looming, Alex must confront the secrets of her past if she is to survive long enough to see the future. For if she returns to Medora without the Tia Aurans by her side, all hope will be lost.

In this explosive conclusion to The Medoran Chronicles, the fate of Medora hangs in the balance as Alex readies herself to face Aven one final time.

Who will survive, and who will fall?

“If, however, darkness wins, there is no strategy to keep from all that will be lost, and so will always be.”

~*~

Alex’s journey to save Medora from Aven Dalmarta is about to conclude, and the question of whether or not she will succeed hangs in the air as she faces yet more challenges and tragedies. Within days after the final events of Graevale, Alex and her friends are thrust into the Tia Auran world, where they must face the Gates of Testing together over a week. In undergoing these tests, Alex hopes to prove to the Tia Aurans that the humans and other mortal races of Medora are worthy of assistance from the Tia Aurans in their fight against Aven – which at the opening of the novel, feels as futile as it has for the past four books and the recent novella. As they venture through each of the gates, tested beyond their individual and collective limits, they are unaware of what is happening back home with everyone that they love and hold dear. Throughout the series, there has been a foreboding and trepidation with what is to come, and the prophecy has always lingered in the back of Alex’s mind. And finally, we are going to get our answers – will Alex and her friend succeed, or will Aven rule over all?

2019 Badge

I’ve been with this series since the beginning, way back in 2015 when I undertook an internship with the publisher, Pantera Press, and it is to this series, its author, Lynette Noni, and Ali and the gang at Pantera Press I have to thank for getting me wholeheartedly into my book blogging journey, which keeps me pretty busy these days. Anyway, back to the book! I was expecting it to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for some of those chapter cliff-hangers that cropped up – and that kept me reading to make sure everyone would be okay – if only for a chapter or two until the next time. There are many heart-pounding moments, and many moments that had me staring at the page hoping the worst would not happen. During one of the trials, one of my favourite lines in the whole series cropped up, spoken by Alex in defiance of the Tia Aurans:

“The surest way to become a monster is to follow in their footsteps.”

 

 

At this point, Alex reveals her strength and vulnerability – her strength of resisting the adhere to sadistic, cold desires of an immortal race, who seem to care little about the world they are part of, and her human vulnerability of love for those she holds dear, even someone she has known for a mere week whilst in Tia Auras. This is what I love about her – that she has flaws and she even embraces them at times, and jokes about them with her friends. Yet she knows that there is strength within love – and it is her love for her family, friends and Medora that will spur her on to the end, even when all seems lost.

The final climactic chapters are so fast paced, it feels like they are flying past, and to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, I flicked back once or twice – worried I had missed an important aspect of the battle or a move Aven had made – or even just to make sure I had read something correctly, as the next lines sometimes came as a  huge shock – in more ways than one. There’s laughing, tears, and everything in between – with moments of momentary peace between the trials and battles as friends and family regroup and come to terms with the changes in their world, the changes to come. It is a perfect ending to the series, where all the threads from the rest of the series are all brought together in a finale that ensures wrapping up the series gives closure for readers and will always be a favourite.

Vardaesia is out on the 18th of February in paperback and e-book from Pantera Press.

Booktopia

Challenge Check-in: January 2019 

In an effort to keep on top of my check in posts this year, I’m hoping to do monthly wrap ups, and break downs every fifteen books where possible. These Challenge check-ins will allow me to track my progress and determine how many books I read each month to make my end of year posts easier to write.

2019 Badge

#AWW2019 – Australian Women Writers: six books so far

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  2. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  3. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  4. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  5. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  6. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Reviewed

General challenge: Fourteen books completed.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge: Fourteen books read so far.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

 

PopSugar Challenge: Nine categories ticked off so far.

 

A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes

A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North

A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West

A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash

Book Bingo: Seven read, and four squares ticked off.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

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

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

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

January Round Up

Book Author Challenge
All the Tears in China Sulari Gentill #AWW2019, Book Bingo, overall, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Bella Donna: Coven Road Ruth Symes PopSugar, general, #Dymocks52Challenge
Seven Little Australians Ethel Turner #AWW2019, Book Bingo, general
Bella Donna: Too Many Spells Ruth Symes general, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon Tracey West general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Vardaesia Lynette Noni #AWW2019, general, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo, PopSugar
Best Foot Forward Adam Hills Book Bingo, general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Saving You Charlotte Nash #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, general, Book Bingo, PopSugar
Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch Nikki Greenberg general, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,
Australia’s Sweetheart Michael Adams General, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power Ryan North General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
99 Percent Mine Sally Thorne General, PopSugar, #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) Nancy Springer General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) Nancy Springer General, #Dymocks52Challenge

Bella Donna: Too Many Spells (Bella Donna #2) by Ruth Symes

bella donna 2.jpgTitle: Bella Donna: Too Many Spells (Bella Donna #2)

Author: Ruth Symes

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Piccadilly/Allen and Unwin

Published: 7th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Be who you really are . . . whoever that may be!

Half the time Bella Donna is a regular girl at a regular school with her regular friends – animal-mad Sam, and pink fan Angela. The rest of the time she’s a young witch learning to cast spells and living with her adoptive mum Lilith, and Lilith’s niece Verity. Bella is working very hard at learning her spells, as she’s desperate to win the Spell Casting Contest. But a new teacher at school, Miss Rowan, is making her nervous. Witchlike things are happening in the classroom, and Bella knows it isn’t her.

Beautifully illustrated throughout by winner of the Egmont Best New Talent award, Marion Lindsay.

~*~

The second in the Bella Donna series picks up soon after she has found her Forever Family with Lilith, and new friend at school, Angela. This time, Bella Donna has decided to enter the Spell-Casting Contest, but just as she receives the invitation, strange things begin happening at school. They start with the disappearance of her teacher, Mrs Pearce, and the arrival of Miss Rowan – whom everyone but Sam – Bella’s best friend – seems to like.

As Bella spends her time going to school, and learning spell-casting, as well as working towards winning the Spell-Casting Contest, she begins to notice strange things happening. Animals behaving strangely, and odd spells happening around school. Is Bella Donna responsible for this, or is there another cause?

This was another fun novel in a series that is starting to come out in Australia on the seventh of January. Bella Donna is such a fun character, who is allowed to make mistakes, and be scared. Her coven show understanding and care towards her – she is still a very young witchling who has only recently found out she is a witch. Aimed at children and young adults, I think this is a series that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a fun and quick read, told using language that neither intimidates nor talks down to the reader – it finds that happy medium that works well for a vast majority of readers.

This is a series that shows readers of all types that it is okay to be who you want to be and shows readers that they can achieve their dreams and goals – even if they have to take a different path to other people achieving their goals.

Hopefully I can read the rest of this series, as I really like the characters and want to see where they go.

Booktopia

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

One of the challenges I did during 2019 was the PopSugar Challenge. It had forty categories, plus an additional ten advanced ones – a couple of which I managed to check off, and I filled most of the main categories, some with multiple books. It was a good challenge, but one thing I think lets it down is that it is overly prescriptive – and I think this made it too hard to fill in – almost impossible for some, in fact.

One was an author with the same first or last name as you – and this could let many people down, as there will be many names, not just mine, that do not appear as any part of an author’s name. Some I didn’t fill due to lack of time, but there were some that relied on accessibility as well – being able to get the book, or something being available in a library, bookstore or your collection. The point of a challenge is to challenge you and your reading – but perhaps not in a way that lets you down when you find you can’t fill a category.

Still, it was a fun challenge and I’ll be doing it again this year – but I feel that the categories get too prescriptive and specific each year, and rely too much on the accessibility of books – just because you can find a title in a Google search does not mean that book will be readily available for you – and my plan is to fill as many as I can with what I have.

Challenge #1

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu Victoria and Abdul (2017)

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

The next book in a series you started: Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen, The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book involving a heist: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait, Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #2)

Nordic Noir:

A novel based on a real person: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

Country: England
Book: The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book with the time of day in the title: early – Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

A book about a villain or anti-hero: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay

A book about death or grief: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

A book with your favourite colour in the title: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles

A book with alliteration in the title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

A book about time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass

A book with a weather element in the title: Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie, Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West

A book set at sea: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Bluebottle by Belinda Castles, Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with an animal in the title: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book set on a different planet: Graevale by Lynette Noni

A book with song lyrics in the title: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence (Last Train Out of Sydney)

A book about or set on Halloween: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

A book with characters who are twins: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan

A book about feminism: Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

A book about mental health: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson (mental disabilities, dealing with grief and loneliness)

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite

A book by two authors: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book about or involving sport: Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk

A book by a local author: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier (AU author), Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen, Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A book mentioned in another book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, mentioned in Little Gods.

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

A childhood classic you’ve never read: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

A book that’s published in 2018: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Talking as Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A book set in the decade you were born: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French

A book with an ugly cover: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges:

2015: A book with a one-word title: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Lovesome by Sally Seltmann.

2016: A book based on a fairy tale: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

2017: A novel set during wartime: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

A bestseller from the year you graduated high school (2004):

A cyberpunk book:

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place:

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you:

A microhistory: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A book about a problem facing society today: When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth – poaching. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Racism.

A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge:

TOTAL READ: 5

As you can see, some categories were easier to fill than others, some I didn’t manage to find anything for aforementioned reasons, and some had multiple entries. Some were filled in with a stretch – perhaps this is why I like looser themes, rather than ones that dictate what must be in a title or part of the authors name – you still get the challenge of finding a book that fills it, without causing panic because nothing fits in – this takes the fun out of it. So in 2019, my goal is to fill whatever categories I can. And if there are some where I don’t find a book, or a book does not appeal to me, I will give it a miss – and just let it happen as it happens.

In my mind, a challenge like this whilst fun, can also be inhibiting, which is why in the group that does this challenge, I’ve suggested a list of other challenges in case others want to take those on as well as this one or instead of – something I might do, or tweak them for my individual needs.

So ends another year of reading challenges.

Booktopia

The Books That Stayed with Me In 2018

Every year, I try to think about the books that have stuck with me – whether happy or sad, fun or informative, or any combination of these things and more that can and do make a book good. In past years, working this out has left me at the end of the year without a post like this, because reading so many books, it was hard to narrow it down. This year, of the over one hundred and fifty books I have read, I managed to find twelve that stick with me. But first, my year in review:

At the time of posting this, I read 157 books, with the hopes I will get another one or two done by the thirty-first of December. I participated in several challenges: my own reading challenge, where I challenged myself to read 120 books – I have bypassed that by over thirty. My wrap up post for this will appear early in the new year.

My second challenge, which is wrapped up here was the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – I pledged to read 15 books and ended up reading seventy-nine – I was unsure of how many I would get for review purposes or how many of my non-review ones I would get to read, so my estimate was conservative.

In an online reading group, I participated in the Pop Sugar challenge – where some of the categories were too tight, prescriptive and difficult to fill – I managed most categories and some advanced ones, but some, such as an author with the same first or last name as me had to be thrown out as it is incredibly difficult to find this for some names. Whilst I will be giving this a go i 2019 again, I think the more specific categories will need to be ignored or at least, not worried about – if I can’t access a decent book for a category, it may not be filled and I will have to be okay with that, as my focus will be on review and quiz books, and not categories I struggle to find something for. Or where I may be cornered into reading something terrible and wasting time.

Finally, I participated in a book bingo, and completed two cards – my final wrap post will be out next week, but the card wraps are here and here – both part of a general book bingo post throughout the year. I filled both and will be doing it again next year but will aim to only fill one card, as Theresa, Amanda and I now have thirty squares we need to fill.

The upcoming wrap up posts will include lists and links for each challenge.

It was very hard choice to narrow it down to twelve, but to help me, I decided the book had to be a 2018 release, it had to be by an Australian woman, and it had to have entertained, informed or made a significant impact on me. This list is written in the order I scribbled it down in, so there’s no ranking involved, as these all stuck out in my mind as really good books people should try to read if they appeal to them.

Lennys book of everything Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

This little book came as a surprise in a big delivery a couple of months ago. It tells the story of Lenny Spink, whose brother, Davey, is born with a condition where he keeps growing – he just doesn’t stop, and the doctors don’t know what is wrong with him. The darkness that Lenny’s mother felt in her heart when her son was born has stayed and her instincts were not wrong – this is a heart-breaking book with an outcome I was not prepared for. Throughout the novel, each section is divided into a letter or group of letters as the kids construct the encyclopedia and Davey forms an attachment to one letter. It is heartbreaking throughout, but it is the end that will truly get to you. Aimed at kids aged ten and older, I think anyone can read this book. It is one that will shatter your heart and leave with a book hangover you might take ages to recover from.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend   

Last year, Morrigan Crow burst into our lives in Nevermoor. This year, her adventures Wundersmithcontinue with the second book in the series, Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow– where Morrigan, or Mog as Jupiter North calls her, finds out what her knack is. There is something unique and special about this series – it has all the magic we got with Harry Potter, but there are whole dimensions to this that are entirely different and work really well together. It has amazing characters, and nods to our world, and more. I loved this book because I love fantasy stories, and it provided an escape from reality. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series to see where Morrigan takes us.

Graevale and We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni

This list wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Medora, and we got two this year – the main book in the series, Graevale and a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of Alex’s friends, based on the first four books, so reading those first is a must. Graevale is filled with foreboding – and when the gut punch happens, all it takes it four words: Graevale is under attack – and as a reader, you know the worst is coming. The events that follow are heart-breaking and are mirrored in Bear’s story in We Three Heroes – and they are just as heart-breaking seeing them through Bear’s eyes. The other two stories from Jordan and Dix allow us insight into the two and why they are who they are when we first meet them – why Dix is so isolated and why she hopes she can meet Alex first. This series will end in February next year with the release of Vardaesia, which us currently on my review stack.

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

 

9780733640001I had lots of books set during World War Two that I enjoyed and stuck out, but this one seemed to be the one of the two that screamed out to be placed here because it has spies, fashion, twins, resistance and a family story that needs to be uncovered slowly, thread by thread using a dual storyline – one of my favourite devices because it allows the past and present to intersect through the discovery of clues and evidence, whilst still holding back in each section until the climax and the threads start to be tied together. The Paris Seamstress also has a touch of romance. What I liked was that the mystery of the past was the focus, as well as the war, family and the identity of the main character. All these threads made it a very good read.

Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen

egyptian enigma

The third book in this series, Dr Pimms is Australia’s answer to Doctor Temperance Brennan, an archaeologist and librarian who seems to get involved in solving very cold cases – thousands of years old, in fact. Another series that utilises the dual time line – to show how Elizabeth solves the crime, and her family life, and what happened in antiquity – in this case, Ancient Egypt – and the murder of a royal family member, and betrayal in the household. It is up to Elizabeth and her team of librarians, historians and archaeologists and scientists to uncover what happened a world away in Canberra. Another great series that I am keen for the next book to come out – hopefully in 2019.

Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan

burning bridges

This one is here simply because it amused and delighted me. Kitty Flanagan is one of my favourite comedians – and reading her book was like attending one of her comedy shows – full of fun, laughter and wishing I could actually see her live. But the book is a pretty good compromise. So Kitty earns herself a place on my list this year for being unapologetically awesome and herself in writing, and for a very entertaining read that I hope to read again soon.

Kensy and Max: Breaking News and Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

Kids who are spies, missing parents and a secret spy school? What more could we want? Twins Kensy and Max are thrust into the world of spies when their parents go missing – and together with their friends, butlers and instructors, embark on adventures across London and Rome, to uncover plots and find out where their parents are. Each twin has their own unique skill set, and what I like about Kensy is that she’s not a typical girly girl – she likes taking things apart and tinkering, she rushes head first into things, but she also shows vulnerability. She is a character that I would have loved to read about as a kid.

The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

the desert nurse

This one makes my list because the main character refuses to let gender roles and norms of the early twentieth century and the demands of her father, define her. It also has a disabled character, who is shown as capable and strong, and survives – he is not pitied, but Evelyn cares about him and shows him this attention when he needs it – and he is able to be who he is when he doesn’t need help. Their romance and friendship is woven throughout the treacherous years of the First World War, then known as The Great War, or the war to end all wars, and the history and settings are rich and intense, and the narrative complex and filled with compassion. Another great historical fiction read.

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

fairytales for feisty girls

The current trend in kids’ books has been to move towards diversity and what some people might refer to as unconventional roles for male and female characters – however, I’m quite enjoying this trend of empowered fairy tale princesses and stories of historical figures that show people doing all kinds of things, not just what we learn about at school. In these four fairy tales, the girls take charge of their own fate, much as Merida does in Brave. This is the kind of book I needed as a kid – I do love the ones I had but being able to see how these girls tackled things without a man would have been awesome.

No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

no country woman

The only other non-fiction book and memoir, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel. A story of what it is to be a third culture kid – whose ancestors came from India to Fiji, and then her own family moved to Australia – in a world where homogeny is accepted more, and where she had to work out what her identity was straddling her Indian-Fijian identity and her Australian identity – the latter being the country she has spent most of her life, and how the attitudes of others she encountered affected her. It is a story that resonates with many – especially people of colour, but it helped me understand how they feel, and what they might be going through. Anyone can be a third culture kid, but some third culture kids might find it easier to fit in than others.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

the clockmakers daughter

A mixed genre book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter touches on history, crime and family secrets, and told through the perspectives of several people over time, with the story of Birdie, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, woven throughout. It is one of those books you need to pay close attention to and absorb, because of all the intricacies. It weaves between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and hints at the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through the collective of artists at the heart of the novel. The threads of the plot trail off at times, but eventually come together, and it is one of those books that stays with you.

The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

the jade lily

A World War Two novel with a difference. Like many dual timeline books, it delves into the past and present to reveal the secrets of a family, b ut this time, instead of being centred in the usual theatres of war, looks at the life of a Jewish refugee family escaping to China, and their years spent there during the war, and the war between China and Japan that happened concurrently to the Second World War. It opens up a new avenue of this time in history, with a fresh angle on what was a terrible time in history for many.

And so, those are the reads that made an impact on me this year, and my brief summary of the year. I am aiming to do write-ups for my other challenges as well, including the lists of the books I read.

Booktopia

Check in #5: Australian Women #60 to #78

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn what is likely my final Check in for 2018 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m making my list a little longer as it did not make sense to make another post for one or two books, given I did this in blocks of fifteen – and am debating whether to do monthly, or blocks of ten for next year to increase my content output. Most books are already out, but the seventy-sixth book is only out in January, and based on challenge rules and discussions with a fellow participant, counts in both years – as the review goes up in 2019. This is one of my wrap up posts for the year – still to come, my overall challenge, my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, my overall reading log and number books read over the past twelve months, and my wrap up post for book bingo, which in theory, should include the intro for next year and that means I need to pick a book to read for the first square I’ll be marking off on the fifth of January, 2019 for book bingo with Theresa and Amanda.

My past check-ins have each had fifteen books – but given how close to the end of the year we are, I did the final seventeen in one post. Over the year, I have read a wide variety of books by Australian Women, but mainly Young Adult, Fantasy, Kids, and Historical Fiction or Crime. Of these books, Graevale, We Three Heroes, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls have been amongst my favourites, for various reasons.

Graevaleis the fourth book in the Medoran Chronicles and sees Alex and her friends trying to prevent their visions of the future coming true, now that Aven Dalmarta sits on the Meyarin throne. He is a threat to all Medora, and Alex must find a way to unite all the kingdoms and species. Despite resistance, for the most part, she succeeds. Until it comes to Graevale and the Shadow Walkers – whose indifference to the message she has been delivering around Medora will lead to a series of catastrophic events with devastating consequences.

In the same series, is We Three Heroes – a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of D.C., Bear and Jordan across the series, based around key events that affected them as well as Alex. Chronicling their lives before, and after they met Alex and became the group of friends we love, as they navigate Akarnae and the ups and downs of life as their world heads into a war that they may not be able to win.

Taking quite a different turn, is Lenny’s Book of Everything.  A story about a family, a brother and sister whose lives revolve around building an encyclopedia letter by letter, and a rare genetic disease that makes Lenny’s brother Davey keep growing. With a bittersweet storyline told through Lenny’s eyes about these years and her search for her father and his family, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal amounts and stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Finally, for everyone who always wanted to be the princess but be more than the girl waiting to be rescued – the girl who can take care of herself and where sometimes, the prince changes his fate for her, we have Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls. Filled with four fairy tales where the girl traditionally must wait for the male to come, these tales show Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood taking charge of their own fate, as inventors and activists, adventurers and scientists within a fairy tale word frame. A wonderful addition to a growing fairy tale collection of traditional and reimagined ones.

The Final Seventeen:

My stats and final comments will appear in my wrap up post in the coming days – but to finish off the year, I am looking forward heading into the 2019 challenge as the YA editor for the AWW blog as well as everything else. This has been a great challenge and I have had some excellent crossover with other challenges, that I hope to continue into next year.

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Book Bingo Twenty-Four – the PENULTIMATE BINGO POST! Featuring A Book with A Number in the Title and A Non-Fiction Book.

Book bingo take 2

That time has come around again, and I am ticking off two in this post, with the final three to come in a fortnight! I again have a few bingos – Row Two Across gains the bingo with the non-fiction square finally being ticked off, as well as row three and row five down. I have one more book to read, and a review to write for the next book bingo, as well as several others so keep an eye out for all that coming out in the coming weeks, and finally, at the end of the year, my wrap up posts for each challenge and my reading for the year overall.

Book bingo take 2

Across

Row #2 – BINGO

 

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

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

A non-fiction book: Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – AWW2018

 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 #4

 

A forgotten classic:

A book with a one-word title: Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – AWW2018

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: We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – AWW2018

Down

Row #3: – BINGO

 

A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – AWW2018

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – aWW2018

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

A book everyone is talking about: Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – AWW2018

Row #5 – BINGO

 

A Foreign Translated Novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

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

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

A book with a number in the title: We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

3D-WTH

The first book I’ve ticked off for this post is a book with a number in the title – We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni. Part of the Medoran Chronicles series, it is three novellas, told from the perspectives of Alex’s three best friends, Jordan, D.C. and Bear, and is linked to the previous four books – so if you wish to avoid spoilers, make sure you read Akarnae, Raelia, Draekora and Graevale. It is a well-written book, delving into the lives of three heroes who help Alex in her battle against Aven. Seeing what has happened through the eyes of D.C., Bear and Jordan fills in the gaps in the stories we see through the eyes of Alex, and what they mean to her and what she means to them. It gives the series a new insight and delves into the secrets of Alex’s friends that are hinted at in the other books and gives readers a deeper understanding of D.C. and why when we first meet her, she comes across as prickly and off-putting, and what caused this attitude.

A great book for those who love the Medoran Chronicles.

amazing australian women

The second, and final book on this post, is a non-fiction picture book that tells the stories of remarkable women in Australia and what they did to contribute to our history and nation as it stands today. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer is a non-fiction picture book, women who were involved in arts, politics, activism and resistance, business owners, singers, teachers and politicians, whose achievements and roles in society had a great impact on Australia but are perhaps not as well-known as some. The book does explore a few well-known women, such as Dame Nellie Melba, Sister Elizabeth Kenny, and Edith Cowan, yet the others were ones that I had not previously heard about or come across in my history studies. In bringing them out of the archives, and into the light and to life, for readers young and old. Learning about new historical figures is always interesting and important to reshape our thinking of how we view history and the people who built it – those who were once hidden but are not anymore – and these are figures that I would have enjoyed writing assignments on during my history studies.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

This has been my penultimate post for the book bingo I’ve been participating in with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett for the past year, and hope to do so again next year. This is one challenge I have managed to complete, whereas my other one was trickier, as there were some very difficult categories to fill. Until next fortnight!

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