Books and Bites Bingo Update Two

In the past four months, I have managed to fill in twenty out of twenty-five categories in Books and Bites Bingo with Monique Mulligan. I have a few of the others planned, and others I need to decide. I have three months to complete this and my other challenges and hope that I can make it through and get as many as possible read by the thirty-first of December!

It’s been a slow process at times – especially with the specific categories, as finding these books has sometimes been a challenge. Especially during a pandemic when we can’t all get to libraries or bookstores, there are times when I have read what I have and sometimes found ways to make the book fit into my challenges where possible.

Looking forward to reading the others I have, but for now, here are the ones I have completed!

Books and Bites Bingo

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

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

Wherever you go: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

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

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

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

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

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie

HavocTitle: Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Author: Rebecca McRitchie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: From the talented author of Whimsy & Woe comes a series about Cora Bell, who is magical – but could she also be a Havoc?

When magic darkens …

Cora Bell has discovered she is full of magic. But without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake.

When Cora begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

~*~

We last saw Cora, Tick and Tock meeting King Clang in the fairy world. With the revelation that Cora is a syphon, the fairies must find a way to help her stay away from Archibald Drake, and keep her from falling into his clutches. They set off on a journey to keep Cora away from Archibald, but also to find a cure for the nightmares and cracks in her skin, while they search the magical world for Cora’s family – if they’re still alive.

Cora must fight to control her magic, and a chance meeting with a half-troll, Ogg, will lead Cora, Tick and Tock towards an unforeseen battle and uniting with someone least expected. As with the first book, Havoc! ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the read wanting more.

The second book in the Jinxed series delivers another exciting page turner for readers aged eight and older, especially confident readers. It is filled with magic and adventure, and a rollicking fantasy adventure, led by a wonderful girl character, who is at times brave, but also, a reluctant hero who just wants friends, a family and for things to go back to normal. To be with Dot and Scratch. These characters are rich and fulfilling and grow with each book.

AWW2020This fantastic new series from Rebecca McRitchie pulls the reader along on an adventure with Cora and the fairies, Tick and Tock through the fantasy world, and the various towns and places they visit are rich in detail and unique characters drawn from what we know about various fantasy and fairy tale tropes. At the same time, these tropes are spun on their heads into unique and imaginative characters who fill the world with fun and whimsy whilst on a journey of discovery and friendship.

Cora at times feels alone – but Tick and Tock stick with her through thick and thin, proving that friendship is one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against evil, or those forces that want to destroy Cora. The syphon world is still a bit of a secret, and I hope, and think, we will learn more as the series goes on. It is a series that is best read in order, as the first two books end with a to be continued, and book two picks up immediately where book one leaves off. This gives the books a sense of urgency and immediacy: the characters need to act, and they need to act NOW!

The Jinxed series is one that is timeless. It’s not set in a specific time, and so, is a welcome escape from current events. We all need this kind of book right now, where we can just escape into another time and place, or somewhere distant and imagined. A world where what we’re facing now doesn’t exist. I gobbled Jinxed and Havoc up back to back within three or four days collectively, and I am very eager for the next book to find out what happens next!

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford

the-wolves-of-greycoat-hallTitle: The Wolves of Greycoat Hall

Author: Lucinda Gifford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A deliciously funny tale, with equally amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who, you are.

When Boris and his parents learn that Scotland is re-introducing wolves, they leave their mansion in Morovia for their Scottish homeland. But these wolves aren’t planning to settle in the wild, oh no! Instead, they book into the exclusive Highland Hotel, from where they plan to enjoy Scotland’s best tourist spots and cuisine. But is Scotland ready for holidaying wolves? Especially such hungry ones? And why are certain people so unhappy to see them? From spooky dungeons to scheming developers, the Greycoats’ new adventure is full of surprising discoveries.

  • A deliciously funny tale, packed with amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who you are.
  • The lively, heavily-illustrated text will appeal to fans of Alex T. Smith (Claude series) and Chris Riddell – making this a must-read junior fiction novel, with engaging pictures and jokes for all ages.
  • Important theme: At its heart, this is a story about our very refined wolves being judged for what they are, rather than who they are.

~*~

What happens when Scotland decides they want to reintroduce wolves? The Greycoats of Morovia find out and they plan to head off on a new adventure, where they will make new friends and where the humans of Portlessie  welcome the wolves amidst a fight against a developer, who wants to turn a local castle into an exclusive resort, cutting the residents off from their beloved beach.

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Boris and his parents, Leonora and Randall, soon find themselves embroiled in a fight for Drommuir Castle, and a fight to be accepted. Some people in Scotland barely bat an eyelid at the presence of the Greycoat family, in a delightful reminiscence of Paddington Bear, whose presence as a bear in London is delightfully accepted and never questioned as well. There are those determined though, to see the wolves driven from Portlessie, especially when Boris starts digging around in the history of the town and castle, both of which are linked to his family.

The story is lavishly illustrated by Lucinda, whose words and images work together in an energetic and immersive way, pulling readers into the story and into Scotland, a world of thistle and tartan, bannocks and Scottish tablet.

Boris and his family face discrimination on their trip to Scotland, and this forms the crux of the novel. It is a story about acceptance, and not judging based on one’s appearance, but the content of character, and accepting people for who they are and how they identify, especially geared towards readers aged seven and older.  It is a powerful story about community, and pulling together to resolve conflict, and find a way to defeat the big wigs who are always trying to take advantage of the society and destroy what is most precious to them.

This story appealed to me because of its setting first, and the idea of wolves s the characters, which made it unique. History-loving Boris shows children that being true to yourself, being a good person and standing up for what you believe in are all very powerful characteristics to have. He also makes history cool, and I am currently loving this wave of characters who are promoting a love of words, books and history, rather than making these characters seem like they must change to suit popular ideas.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall is a delightful novel that works exquisitely as a stand-alone novel and brings wolves and Scotland to life in an imaginative and beautiful way that allows readers to immerse themselves in a world that is real and fantastical at the same time. Confident readers will enjoy this book, and the ending will leave you wanting more from the Greycoats and their adventures.

 

The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) by A.L. Tait

the fire starTitle: The Fire Star (A Maven and Reeve Mystery)

Author: A.L. Tait

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘I was up past midnight finishing this book! The mystery kept me turning the pages, and I felt like I’d known Maven and Reeve forever.’ – Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Ice Wolves

A maid with a plan. A squire with a secret. A missing jewel. A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star. If they don’t, they’ll lose everything.

This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a friendship.

Bestselling author A. L. Tait is back with the intriguing story of two unlikely allies and a mystery to solve that could change their lives.

~*~

A new series from the fabulous and energetic A.L. Tait! Enter a world of knights and ladies, maids and witches, where a magical jewel is handed down from youngest daughter to youngest daughter on the day of her wedding and goes with her to her new home. Lady Cassandra is set to marry Sir Garrick, and has arrived at the castle with her maid, Maven, when the precious stone goes missing. Maven is thrown together with squire, Reeve, to solve the mystery of the missing jewel before Lady Cassandra and Sir Garrick get married.

Taking place across three days, Maven and Reeve must find the Firestar in time, and meet up with witches, and find out who don’t want to see this happen or see the unlikely pair succeed. Who is behind the missing stone, and why did they steal it? Only Maven and Reeve can find out!

AWW2020Maven and Reeve tell the story in alternating chapters–Maven in first person, and Reeve in second person. This moves the novel along nicely, setting the pace and characters up for the rest of the series to come. The world is fantastical, with a sensory medieval feel to it, seen through the eyes of two children from vastly different positions in life and who have very different roles in their new home. A.L. Tait has woven a wonderful mystery around the magic and knights, lords and ladies, in this story, and encapsulated the essence of what a mystery has at its core: something missing, a villain and a whole lot of red herrings along the way as the two key detective characters–Maven and Reeve–investigate the theft, or crime at hand. This intriguing mystery draws the reader in and captures their imagination as they explore this wild new world that is both known from other fantasy books, yet a completely new world that works exquisitely well for this series.

What a bang to begin with. This introduction cements the ongoing characters, settings, and Maven and Reeve’s friendship and investigative skills powerfully and ensures that these themes and characteristics will be central to the rest of the series. Red herrings in this series are sure to be imaginative yet recognisable within the crime genre, and that work within the fantasy world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am very eager for the next one in the series, which I am sure will deliver with just as much oomph and gusto. A spectacular read for all readers aged nine and older.

Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie, Illustrated by Sharon O’Connor

JinxedTitle: Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell
Author: Rebecca McRitchie
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 19th August 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Magic awaits around every corner …
Cora is eleven years old and missing one eye. She lives with an elderly lady named Dot in a room hidden behind a wall. In a crowded, industrial city, where everyone looks out for themselves, Cora and Dot hunt and sell rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish. Until one day, Cora finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper.
She takes it home and says the words aloud. Then two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx. Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. But Cora isn’t a magical being . . . is she?
Quickly, Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants.
Richly illustrated throughout by Sharon O’Connor, this is a very exciting magical new series from the talented author of Whimsy & Woe.

AWARDS
Shortlisted – 2019 Aurealis Awards (Best Children’s Fiction)
~*~

Cora Bell has lived with Dot for years. She has one eye, is eleven years old and unless she is collecting with Dot, lives behind a wall. She’s out collecting one day when she stumbles across a strange piece of paper. It seems harmless enough, yet when she reads it out loud, two fairies – Tick and Tock – appear with a warning and whisk her away on an adventure to find out what magic she has. Tick and Tock take her across the magical land that Urt is part of as they try to outrun the Jinx.

Along the way, Cora meets witches, wizards, hobgoblins, giants and fairies, as well as enchantresses and nightwalkers and many more as she seeks to uncover her identity.

Jinxed is the start of a magical, energetic series about Cora Bell, whose life has been quiet and normal for eleven years, until everything changes. The world she lives in is filled with dangers, from Jinxes to the warlock, Drake, to those who fear anything they don’t know, or want to know about. Cora sits within this latter category. For years, she’s only had Dot and her cat, Scratch. But Tick and Tock stick with her, and never give up.

AWW2020They’re determined to help her and find the Jinx. In this rollicking fantasy adventure, combined with an industrial feel to the world, which is fresh, unique and at the same time familiar to fans of fantasy. It pulls together well-known tropes present in many fantasy novels and fairy tales, such as magical gateways, and fairy kingdoms, but puts a unique twist on them, pulling together a story that is filled with light and dark moments, and examines what it truly means to be a friend.

Cora is alone, apart from Tick and Tock as she journeys through the various fairy and magical worlds. Her identity has been a secret for years. But will this series of events finally reveal who, and what she is, and how will the world respond to her when they find out what she is capable of?

Starting a new series is always exciting, and as the second book comes out at the beginning of September, I have that to read next. Following Cora’s journey is going to be fun, thrilling and engaging, and I am keen to see where she goes next with Tick and Tock.

A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

 

AWW2020

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

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

 

Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal by Laura Sieveking

ella at eden 2Title: Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal
Author: Laura Sieveking
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Ella has settled in to life at Eden College. She loves her friends and exploring her new school. When she accidentally uncovers a hidden diary, Ella’s curiosity is sparked. As she follows the clues in the diary, Ella discovers there is more to Eden College than meets the eye. Can she work out who wrote the secret journal?

Join Ella in the second book of this fabulous new series!

~*~
As Ella settles into Eden, and makes friends, the history of the school starts to come out, and in the lead up to the Alumni Luncheon, Ella and her friends are dared by Saskia to get them in trouble. During one of these pranks, Ella finds an old diary, and as she reads it, she discovers the story of Elena, an Eden girl from 1940. But what is her link to the Alumni Luncheon?

Returning to Ella and Eden is like returning to a great group of friends who are always there for you and will always be there for you. Eden is a place you want to return to, and the characters are the same, yet they grow and change across the stories, and we’re only two books in. After reading the first book for review from Scholastic, I wanted to find out what happened next, and got this book as soon as I could, and finally managed to read it after having it on my shelf for a while.

AWW2020

In these books has a mystery at its heart, as well as themes of friendship and cooperation with each other and uniting when your friend feels like they don’t matter. Told through Ella’s eyes, it is a beautiful series that is set in a familiar school setting and manages to get rid of the parents – as is common in kids’ books – but without killing them! Sending the girls off to boarding school and voila!

Ellas determined to find out who wrote the diary and what happened to the author of the diary – and the secrets intrigue her friends – who are always there for her. This book evokes a sense of self, of curiosity and showcases a love of words through Ella that so many readers will adore and come to love and identify with as they read about her adventures at Eden.

Another wonderful story from Laura Sieveking, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

June 2020 Wrap Up

 

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12

AWW2020 – 67/25

Book Bingo – 12/12

The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52

Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25

Books and Bites Bingo 15/25

STFU Reading Challenge: 9/12

General Goal –110/165

 

In June, I managed to read eighteen books in total, fourteen by Australian authors, and all but one of those were Australian women authors. Fifteen of the eighteen were by women authors from Australia and the United Kingdom, and my reading crossed all kinds of genres and audiences this month as I work towards my yearly reading goals.

Towards the end of the month, I participated in an Emma versus Pride and Prejudice read-along with some blogger friends – it seemed several of us went with Emma- perhaps because we had not read it yet and had already read Pride and Prejudice – and two of us found we could use it for a classics book bingo square.

I’m moving slowly through my stacks of books to read, and will hopefully be on top of all of them soon.

June – 18

Book Author Challenge
Elementals: Battle Born Amie Kaufman Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Lilies, Lies and Love Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kid Normal and the Final Five Greg James and Chris Smith Reading Challenge
Toffle Towers: Fully Booked Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge
Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Wonderscape Jennifer Bell Reading Challenge
When Rain Turns to Snow Jane Godwin Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Undercover Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Rogue Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kensy and Max: Freefall Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Silk House 

 

Kayte Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle

 

Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up Angela Woolfe Reading Challenge
Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by

 

Monique Mulligan and Kate Fox (Illustrator) Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Mia by the Jetty Janeen Brian and Danny Snell Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts  Kathryn Harkup Reading Challenge
Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020

 

 

 

 

 

Edie’s Experiments #2: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla

Edies Experiments 2Title: Edie’s Experiments #2: How to Be the Best
Author: Charlotte Barkla
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Edie’s experiments in how to win at life continue . . . but how will she cope with a new rival?
I’m Edie and I’m obsessed with science.
So I was sure that Annie B and I would win the Eco Fair competition.
Then Dean Starlight arrived and started sabotaging our project.
Now the competition has become an epic science battle of robotic spider attacks, exploding foam and sneaky spying.
Dean thinks he’s the best scientist of Class 5Z, but we’ll show him …
~*~

Edie is settling into school at Cedar Road Primary in 5Z, with her friend Annie B, whilst still competing with Emily James, who feels the need to win everything and is very over the top when she does. Just as Mr Zhu, their teacher has announced a science competition for years five and six, former student, Dean Starlight arrives from a stint at a school dedicated to science, and begins to enthral the class, as well as sabotaging Edie and Annie’s project – but his reasons why are a lot more complex than anyone knows. As the pranks and experiments get bigger and more competitive, Edie will find out why Dean is under pressure – and hopefully, they can beat Emily James!

Friendship is front and centre again in this book, as is science, and environmentalism – we get more insight into Edie and her family, her friends and the other things they enjoy, and the challenges that they face throughout their lives and at school. Dealing with a new student that everyone else knows and who seems too perfect is threaded throughout the narrative – Dean comes across as annoying but there is more to his story – and it is fun and interesting unfolding this with Edie, as tings become clearer and clearer throughout the novel in the lead up to the science fair.

AWW2020Environmentalism is a strong theme throughout this book, from Edie’s shower experiment to the final projects for the science competition and is a theme that is very on topic at the moment. It is a theme and conversation that is relevant to everyone, whether we are scientists or not, and something that everyone can do something about, even if it’s not as big as Edie’s grand plans. But we can all do something small within our abilities and what is available to us.

Again, this book has something for everyone – about the power of friendship and support from those around us, about how high expectations can fail, and what it means to come together and solve problems as a team, even when that person has been mean to you – finding out what is behind Dean’s behaviour is eye opening for everyone, and he seems to be a pretty cool character by the end. Maybe in future books he will team up with Edie!

The universality of the themes of family, friendship, cooperation and environmentalism ensure that all readers will enjoy this book and series, and the scientific experiments give it an element that makes science look fun for kids and allows kids who like science to engage with the story and the characters. It is a charming addition to this series, and it will be interesting to see where this series goes in the future.

The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby, Nellé May Pierce (Illustrator)

Mummy SmugglersTitle: The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle
Author: Pamela Rushby, Nellé May Pierce (Illustrator)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 1st July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: A crumbling castle, a moat full of crocodiles, a catastrophe of kittens, and let’s not forget the villains and the mummies! This rambunctious story has it all.
England 1873
Orphaned twelve-year-old Hattie travels to the remote and mist-shrouded Fens to live with her great uncle Sisyphus and great aunt Iphigenia: Egypt-obsessed relatives she has never met.
Iphigenia, desperate to save their castle home from ruin, hosts ancient Egyptian mummy-unwrapping parties in London, aided by the mysterious and sinister Ravens.
When the mummy supply unexpectedly runs out, the family embarks on a perilous (and illegal) search for more, a thousand miles up the Nile. But Hattie is haunted by the wandering souls of long-gone Egyptians. And soon she makes an audacious dash to free them – with very unexpected consequences.

• A potent blend of fantasy and historical happenings are at the core of this extraordinary interface between fact and fiction. ·
• From an author who has experienced the remnants of the ancient world first-hand by going on a number of archaeological digs.
~*~

Hattie – or Hatshepsut – was just a baby when she was found outside of Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple. Since then, she has spent some of her life at Howling Hall, and the past few years at boarding school – Miss Fractious’ Boarding Establishment for Young Ladies. That is, until she hears her Uncle Heracles has been eaten by a crocodile. So Hattie now has to go live with her great uncle Sisyphus and great aunt Iphigenia – and becomes caught up in their fascination with ancient Egypt.

Their journey in Egypt with the Ravens is perilous. There to illegally procure mummies, Hattie and her family are escorted by Omar Shaydi, and his daughter, Amal – who is there to be a companion to Hattie. Yet when Hattie finds out what the Ravens are up to, she must use all her wits and ideas to find out how to prove they’re doing the wrong thing and save her new home.

Victorian England and Egypt – two worlds in great contrast, but in this novel, brought together delightfully for this story, and again, ancient and modern are contrasted in both settings, which sets up the story for the events and timeline that make the story so compelling. From the first line about hearing about the demise of one’s relative at the jaws of a crocodile, to the mummy-unwrapping parties that the author notes say were common during the time the novel was set, and then into Egypt, where ancient and modern are contrasted, the novel centres Hattie and Amal within their worlds of what is expected of girls their age and what these two girls want to do. Amal lives in a world where tradition dictates what she should be doing, yet her desire to learn maths and science drives her to make her own choices and fight, and Hattie, frustrated with the schooling she has received so far would rather learn about ancient Egypt, history and mythology. Thrown together on the illegal search led by Amal’s father, the two soon find out that they have more in common than they thought – and one of those things is that they both suspect the Ravens. Together, when Hattie begins to feel the spirits of those they’re disturbing, Amal notices.

AWW2020Yet it is the Ravens who cast a shadowy threat over the trip – their ability to influence Sisyphus and Iphigenia is not lost on Amal and Hattie, and the two decide to work out what the two are up to…if they can. But Hattie might not be able to reveal the truth until she is back in England – and to do that, she’ll need to come up with a very clever plan to find out what the Ravens are up to and save her new home. The Ravens are the kind of characters who set off alarm bells from their first appearance. They give the book its unsettled feeling. It is as though nothing will feel right until Hattie finds out what they are up to and finds a way to reveal the truth about their scheming.

This book combined Victorian England, Ancient Egypt and strong female characters in an exciting way. Amal, Iphigenia and Hattie drive the story, and Sisyphus and Omar have their role too, and I quite found great uncle Sisyphus a lot of fun – he quite enjoyed letting Iphigenia and Hattie explore their interests, so he was a really good character to have in there. Pamela Rushby has also researched this very well and explains what she had to research and the liberties she took in her author notes about each separate topic in the back of the book – which will spark further interest and research for readers.

It is cleverly put together and the history and fantasy elements in a way that makes it feel seamless and entirely possible – and makes the reader want to find out what happens next – it was one that I did not want to put down. It is clear that Pamela’s research and experience has informed much of what she has written, and this brings a sense of authenticity to the book that makes it come alive on the page and in the imagination of the reader. There is a sense of place and time in this novel – as though the modern and ancient converge and bring about a story that is evocative and intriguing that works as a stand alone, yet would also be delightful with a sequel.

A wonderful read for all readers aged eight and older.